POS Terminal Review


As its name implies, the point of sale terminal is where a credit card transaction actually occurs. Whether you call it POS, POP (point of purchase) or checkout, it remains the location where the hardware and software required to process a payment card sales transaction are found. There are a wide variety of POS terminals on the market, and an experienced merchant services provider like TransFirst® can help you determine which best suits your needs.

The POS terminal is the equivalent of the cash register that merchants relied on from the late 1880s until fairly recently when the checkout process went electronic. Today’s computerized terminals are the basis of traditional, card-present retail transactions and offer a wide variety of features, the most basic of which are a magnetic stripe or EMV® card reader, a PIN keypad, an Internet or phone connection to the credit card processor, and a receipt printer. Terminals are also used to process debit cards, gift and loyalty cards, prepaid cards, EBT and checks.

A POS terminal is basically a personal computer that’s equipped with applications and devices specifically selected to meet the requirements of the face-to-face transaction environment. It can record and track customer orders, manage inventory and interface with other systems in the same network. While the retail industry is the predominant user of POS terminals, they can be customized to function in a variety of business sectors, including restaurant, lodging and entertainment.

Once dependent on a phone line to transmit payment card data, today’s POS terminals are more likely to rely on the Internet. Delivering high tech performance, speedy transactions and state-of-the-art security to protect payment card data, these terminals have become the workhorse of American business.

In a POS terminal transaction, the customer swipes their payment card through the terminal. The internal cardreader captures the cardholder and account data contained in the card’s magnetic stripe or EMV microchip and transmits it to the credit card processor, who relays the information to the issuing bank for authorization. In the case of a PIN debit card transaction, the customer must enter their personal identification number to complete the process. Once the transaction is authorized, the receipt is printed out for or emailed to the customer, completing the sale.

Current high tech POS terminals have certainly come a long way from the cash registers and “knucklebuster” flatbed credit card imprinters of the past. Fully-equipped and PCI-compliant terminals simplify the authorization process, settlement and management phases of payment card transactions, benefitting both the merchant and cardholders.

As a reputable merchant services provider, TransFirst can advise you on the best POS terminal for your business situation, whether it’s traditional retail, hospitality, services related or something else. If you’re new to credit card processing, we can get you started on the right track. If you already accept credit cards and are interested in upgrading your terminals, we can help, too.

EMV is a registered trademark or trademark of EMVCO LLC in the United States and other countries.


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federally-registered U.S. service marks of Total System Services, Inc. TransFirst is a registered ISO/MSP of: Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA; Synovus Bank, Columbus, GA; and Deutsche Bank, New York, NY; for Visa® and MasterCard® transactions only. TSYS Merchant Solutions is a registered ISO/MSP of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Walnut Creek, CA and Synovus Bank, Columbus, GA.