For as long as most of us can remember, customers have had a variety of choices in how they pay for their purchases. They can hand over straight cash, write a check or pay with some sort of credit or debit card. What has changed in recent years, however, is the variety of choices available to the retailer, particularly when it comes to accepting credit and debit card payments. These developments in the payment industry have enabled businesses to make the checkout process even faster and more seamless than ever. Here are the top three trends in the way that are credit card terminals processing transactions:

  1. Credit cards are wearing many hats. Gone forever are the days of only the single purpose credit card that linked to just one account. Today’s multifunctional credit cards offer a great deal more, depending on which type a customer has. Some can work as both credit or debit cards; others can carry multiple accounts such as personal and corporate simultaneously on one card. Many have fraud protection built into them. Finally, an increasing amount of American plastic is getting a total makeover and will soon become what is known as chip and pin. This technology will replace the flawed magnetic stripes that were left behind years ago by more security-conscious European countries. Once this new technology rolls out completely here in the U.S., customer information will be much more secure and the likelihood of massive data breaches such as the ones we have seen in recent years will be markedly reduced.
  2. Payments are becoming mobile. With each passing month, more businesses are leaving behind their stationary point of sale terminals in favor of mobile processing. With just a smartphone or tablet, a card reader and some inexpensive or free software, merchants can now take payments from anywhere in the store – or the country – with speed and simplicity. In turn, customers enjoy the ability to pay instantaneously, often also preferring to get their receipt sent to them via email for easier storage and retrieval at a later date. Business owners have also recognized another benefit of wireless processing: It enables them to gradually develop a list of customers and their email contact information. This data can be used in numerous ways, enabling a savvy entrepreneur to stay in touch with people who have already demonstrated their willingness to buy the store’s products.
  3. Contactless credit card processing. For the past decade or so, this mode of payment has been growing by leaps and bounds. It works by having a chip imbedded into a plastic credit card, transportation pass or even a key fob. The data on the chip can be interpreted by a contactless reader from up to four inches away, eliminating the need for actual physical contact between the card and the POS device. Thanks to this technology, customers do not need to be so concerned about a sales clerk stealing their card number, expiration date and PIN number. There are also advantages for the merchant. An American Express study found contactless payments to be 63 percent faster than cash and 53 percent quicker than using an “old school” credit card. Seamless payments mean more productivity and happy customers, both of which are high on any business owner’s priority list.

As our technology and customer needs continue to evolve, it is a virtual certainty that credit card payment protocols will also undergo modifications. No matter what form credit cards and payment terminals may take, however, it seems to be a sure bet that cash and check payments will become even less popular with the majority of customers. Innovations such as multifunction credit cards, mobile payments and contactless payments are here to stay.

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