Can I Use a Credit Card Machine Over My VoIP Connection?

By Steve Hane

  • Overview

    You may not be able to use your credit-card machine on a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) connection; it depends on the capabilities of your VoIP service and your credit-card machine. However, there are other options available if your credit-card machine will not work on VoIP.
    • Step 1

      Understand the limitations of VoIP technology. VoIP entails digitizing an analog voice signal from your telephone into a digital signal that can be sent in data packets over the Internet, then converted back into an analog signal sent to a conventional telephone number. Data-sending devices like credit-card and fax machines require a more consistent signal that VoIP was designed to handle. If a small packet of information is dropped during a voice call, you may not notice it. However, if a small packet of data is lost during a credit-card transmission, it could mean that one or more numbers will not be received, resulting in a failed transmission. This means that VoIP may not be a reliable connection for your credit-card machine--but technology is always evolving, so you may find a service provider that can provide a reliable connection for your credit-card machine or a credit-card machine that will work with VoIP.
    • Step 2

      Call or email the manufacturer of your credit-card machine and ask if the device you have will work with a VoIP provider. They may know of specific providers it is compatible with, or be able to suggest alternatives for you. If you do not yet have a credit-card machine, contact the manufacturers of the devices you are considering to find out which may work with VoIP.

    • Step 3

      Call or email your VoIP provider and ask if your credit-card machine will work on their service. They may have a work-around that will enable you to reliably use your credit-card machine. If you do not yet have a VoIP provider contact those you are considering to determine if they support your machine.
    • Step 4

      Choose to either use VoIP for your credit-card machine or find an alternative solution. One alternative is to keep an analog telephone line on which to run your credit-card machine while switching your voice lines over to VoIP. This analog line may also be useful for running your business fax machine, as fax machines, too, can have trouble operating on VoIP connections. A second alternative is to use a cell-phone-based credit-card machine. This gives you the added benefit of a mobile unit that you can use for sales in a remote location, such as a trade show. A third alternative is to use an Internet-based credit-card-processing solution. Your existing merchant service provider that processes your credit-card transactions may have a "virtual terminal" you can use to enter and process credit-card transactions. A number of companies offer this solution. It pays to shop around to find the best-priced service that meets your needs. QuickBooks offers a merchant-services account that can be integrated with their bookkeeping software. Godaddy offers several options for web-based merchant accounts (see Resources).
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Tip: Research your options fully before signing up for new services.

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