Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Virtual Terminal Payment Processing Facts

Virtual Terminal Payment Processing FactsHaving recently reviewed Authorize.Net, the world's most widely used payment gateway, I thought I should do the same for virtual terminal, which is the primary tool for direct marketers and all other businesses accepting payments over the phone or in the mail. Of course, it is a service that comes as part of each major payment gateway's package, Authorize.Net very much included.

The Virtual Terminal Basics

Virtual terminal is a web-based platform used by MO / TO businesses and non-profit organizations to access their merchant processing services provider's payment system and manually enter transaction information. It works very much like the online payment tools run by utilities, telecoms and other service providers that allow customers to pay their bills online. You have no doubt made such payments. The difference of course is that the virtual terminal enables you to enter your customers' account information, not your own.

Payment Types Supported by Virtual Terminals

All virtual terminals support credit and debit cards, so that is a given. Additionally, just as your cell phone provider allows you to make payments by online checks, so do some virtual terminals. Yet, not all of them support this option, so if you need ACH acceptance, you will have to explicitly verify that with your prospective processor.

Customer Profile Management Features

Some virtual terminals can enable you to set up and manage recurring and installment payment plans, where customer accounts are charged at pre-defined intervals and for pre-defined amounts. This billing is done through managed billing and customer profile management add-on services. The customer profile management allows you to save your customers' credit card account information on your processor's server. The managed billing service then allows you to access the stored customer profiles and manage various operations, including processing regular payments, setting-up recurring, deferred and installment payments, etc. Such features are mostly needed by merchants selling subscriptions, insurance packages, and other services and merchandise that are provided over time.

Pricing Guidelines

When it comes to pricing, your virtual terminal's will be similar, if not identical, to what you'd be paying for a payment gateway. Still, you may be able to get it cheaper at some providers. Then again, if you get a payment gateway, you will also get a virtual terminal by default, so keep that in mind.

Having said that, let me give you some pricing guidelines. First of all, there may be a set-up fee, but you should be able to get a service set up for free. Then you should not be paying a monthly fee in excess of $10.00. Thirdly, there will be a per-transaction authorization fee, which should not be in excess of $0.10. Then you will have the merchant account fees.

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