Credit Card Terminal Instructions

By Keith Evans

  • Overview

    The ubiquity of credit cards in today's economic environment means that virtually every merchant must accept plastic payments in order to stay profitable. With the exception of esoteric, specialized and computer-integrated processing systems, most credit card terminals operate in a somewhat similar manner. This article will address common usage for processing sales, voids and return transactions.
  • Processing a Sale

    • Step 1

      Press the button labeled "Sale." On most credit card terminals, the sale button is also the number one ("1"), though some more advanced machines may have a dedicated button labeled sale. Since sale transactions are normally the default transaction type, a sale may also be initiated by simply swiping the customer's credit card through the terminal's magnetic stripe reader.
    • Step 2

      Follow the on-screen prompts. Credit card terminals will ask for a series of information which may consist of the customer's zip code (simply ask the customer for this information, then key it in using the numeric keys), the transaction amount (enter this amount as numbers only) and the tip amount (common in restaurant environments, this number is also entered as only numbers). Other items the machine may request include the server ID (the number identification code assigned to servers in a restaurant), the CCV number from the back of the card or any other number relevant to the business being conducted.
  • Step 3

    Have the customer sign the receipt when it prints. After the terminal finishes processing the transaction, it will either display a decline message--in which case you should secure alternative payment--or display an approval message. It will print a receipt. Credit card receipts will contain a signature line across the bottom of the receipt, and the customer should be asked to affix her signature on this line.
  • Processing a Return

    • Step 1

      Press the button labeled "Return." On some credit card terminals, this key may also be labeled "Refund," but it is usually located on the number two ("2").
    • Step 2

      When the machine prompts for the account number, swipe the customer's credit card. If the customer is not present, you may also simply enter the account number using the terminal's numeric keypad, though you will also be prompted for other information such as expiration date and CCV number.
    • Step 3

      Follow the machine's on-screen prompts, entering the requested information using the terminal's numeric keypad. The terminal will certainly ask for the return or refund amount to be processed, and it may also ask for other information like tax amount, invoice number, purchase ID, or customer code. After all information is entered, the machine will begin processing the refund transaction.
    • Step 4

      When the transaction processes and is complete, the terminal will print a return/refund receipt using an attached printer. One copy of the receipt should be provided to the customer, and another copy should be retained for record-keeping purposes.
  • Processing a Void

    • Step 1

      Press the button labeled "Void." On many common credit card terminals, the void transaction is started by pressing the number four ("4").


    • Step 2

      Enter the item or transaction number (from the receipt) for the transaction to be voided. Some machines, such as the Tranz 330, may default to the last transaction by simply pressing "Enter."
    • Step 3

      Confirm the transaction by hitting "Enter" again. Because void transactions simply remove an existing transaction from the credit card terminal's existing batch of data, no external authorization is necessary. When the void transaction is completed, the terminal may or may not print a receipt. It depends on the terminal's configuration.
  • Connection and Configuration

    • Step 1

      Find a place for your terminal where it will be easy to access and is within reasonable proximity to electrical and telephone connections. Except for wireless, battery-operated terminals, most credit card machines require these connections to properly function.
    • Step 2

      If your credit card machine came with an external printer, a special printer cable should have also been included. Locate this cable. Plug one end into the printer, and plug the other end into an available port on your credit card terminal. The printer cable should be designed so that only the appropriate end will fit into the printer, and the terminal end will be keyed so that it only fits into a printer-compatible port on the terminal.
    • Step 3

      Connect your credit card terminal to a nearby telephone jack using a standard RJ-11 modular telephone wire. A telephone cord should have been included with your terminal, but they are readily (and inexpensively) available from most discount retail chains.
    • Step 4

      Connect your credit card terminal and printer to electrical power using the included power adapter. When you receive your new credit card terminal, it should already be loaded with the appropriate software and merchant configuration, making it ready to plug in and begin conducting business. If you receive an error message, you may need to contact your credit card merchant account processor and alert them to the issue.
  • Batch Processing

    • Step 1

      At the end of each business day, it is important to "batch out" (or settle) your credit card terminal. In most machines, this process must be started manually, and the process for settling a batch varies according to your merchant account processor's configuration and the terminal type in use. On many terminals, a batch settlement may be instigated by selecting the "Batch Out" option under the administrative menu, though the terminal's owner's manual and merchant account documentation should be consulted for proper batching practices.
    • Step 2

      Once the batch is started, allow the terminal to process uninterrupted. If a lot of transactions have been conducted during the day, a batch process may take as long as 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, do not press any buttons on the terminal. Ensure no one inadvertently uses the connected telephone line.
    • Step 3

      When the terminal finishes processing the batch transaction, it will print an audit receipt of the day's business through an attached printer. Collect this receipt and retain it for your files.
    • Step 4

      If the terminal or credit card network detect mismatched data, the terminal may return an error message that the batch is "Out of Balance." If this message is received, a manual audit of the day's activity must be performed by reviewing receipts collected throughout the day. This condition means that the credit card network was expecting a different total amount for the day than it actually received. After auditing the day's business, correct the balance condition by completing any unfinished processes or voiding errant transactions.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Tip: While the most common transaction types are listed here, more transaction types (such as "Authorize Only") may be available. It depends on the credit card terminal's configuration.
    • Warning:
    • Occasionally, unexpected issues like power outages and electrical surges may corrupt your terminal's operating software. In this event, your terminal will display a message to "Call Help Desk" or otherwise indicate an out-of-service condition. If this message is displayed, promptly contact your merchant account provider for a software download. Reset of your terminal.

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