At their very basic level virtual terminals are nothing more than online versions of traditional credit card swipe machines as used in stores around the world. The benefit of using a virtual terminal is the simple fact that they increase sales by expanding your business beyond simply the Internet or a physical location, while at the same time saving money because there is no need to invest in the expensive card swiping equipment that is necessary for traditional physical locations. Customers can place their orders via phone, fax, debit or credit card, and all you have to do is enter your order into the virtual terminal and the transaction is processed and allows you to receive payment. It is not an automated service; rather, a virtual terminal allows you to manually process credit cards and check transactions from any location in the world, as long as you have an Internet connection. The only thing required by you is the ability to login to a secure website with your own unique username and password, where you can then charge cards, perform the authorizations, and process credit transactions if necessary. Virtual terminals are the most useful method of doing business for individuals who accept credit cards over the phone, through e-mail or by fax.
Virtual terminals are offered at a variety of third-party websites around the world, with PayPal being one of the more well-known. Regardless of which company you use, a virtual terminal is set up using a unique merchant account ID in conjunction with your username and password, and once you have credit card information from a customer, you can manually log in and input the information. It is ideal for mail order businesses, call centers, insurance companies, newspapers and magazines, or any sort of business at all that deals with credit cards over the phone, e-mail or fax. When using a virtual terminal you can perform a variety of actions ranging from automatically billing customers for recurring charges, to refunding the money to a customer’s credit card in the case of disputed transactions. You can also check the status of transactions on a day-to-day basis and depending upon the company you are signed up with, run a variety of reports to track exactly which transactions are taking place, which ones have already completed, and which ones are still pending.
But perhaps the best aspect of a virtual terminal for merchants like you is the simple fact that there is no expensive equipment necessary. Credit card swipe machines can range upwards of thousands of dollars, and even mini swipe machines that tie into your PDA can cost several hundred, whereas the cost of using a virtual terminal from a third-party company is simply a matter of a monthly fee, in addition to a percentage of each transaction, all of which depends on the company you are using to set up your virtual terminal. No matter which type of business you run, the ability to process real-time online transactions directly from your website, regardless of your location, is vital to remaining competitive in today’s business market.