FAQ for Buying an EMV Chip Card Terminal
After the recent EMV liability shift, you’re probably finding yourself staring at your old credit card machine, wondering if it will make a good paper weight, and worrying about the cost of buying a new machine. Lucky for you, the transition doesn’t have to be an expensive one, but it pays to be educated as you consider this important upgrade. Here’s what you need to know in the form of a brief FAQ.
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Where Can I Buy an EMV Credit Card Terminal?
- All the same places you can buy or rent a non-EMV terminal, for the most part. While some merchant services providers are telling merchants that “for security reasons” all EMV purchases must come directly from your processing company, this isn’t exactly true. The vast majority of the time supported EMV machines can be reprogramed just like their non-EMV predecessors. While credit card terminal tampering has occurred in the past, it is not common and is even less easily achieved with new EMV terminals.Terminals have built-in anti-tampering features to prevent this. Of course you should buy from a reputable seller, just as you would for any important electronics purchase. But that said, your provider is free to either (a) charge a high reprograming fee, or (b) simply refuse to reprogram outside machines. While they can reprogram, there’s no law saying that they have to. So you may be stuck having to purchase the machine directly, unless you switch providers. Personally, I think refusal to reprogram and over-charging for machines is a mark of a dishonest provider, and they may be overcharging you elsewhere as well.
Do I Need NFC to Have an EMV-Compliant Credit Card Machine?
- Absolutely not! And if you don’t think you’ll need NFC, then don’t bother getting a machine with NFC built in. NFC (Near Field Communication) is the technology used by Apple Pay and other digital wallets for contactless payments. It could be a godsend for fast-paced business as adoption increases among consumers. But a ton of businesses really won’t have any use for it in the foreseeable future. That won’t stop merchant services providers from trying to upsell you on NFC, though. NFC EMV terminals can be considerably more expensive than standard EMV terminals, so if you don’t need it don’t get it. You should at the very least compare prices. Also, if it turns out in a year or two that Apple Pay has taken over the world, that’s no problem. You can buy a separate NFC reader without replacing your existing EMV terminal.
How Much Does an EMV Chip Card Reader Cost?
- Not very much! These terminals are really not more expensive that the old terminals. It will probably set you back $200 or so. You can find them as cheap as $150, especially if it’s refurbished. There’s no reason to sign on to an expensive non-cancellable lease. If you’d rather rent than own, at least look for inexpensive rental options, preferably less than $100 per year. If you want a wireless terminal or an NFC-capable terminal, the prices will be a little bit higher. But for baseline EMV-compatible chip card readers, it’s a pretty minor investment even for a very small business.
Do I Really Need to Upgrade to an EMV Terminal?
- Technically? No. Practically? You probably should. If you stick with your old non-chip credit card terminal, you will still be able to run transactions. All chip cards are also equipped with the same magnetic stripe used previously, so you can still swipe them. The difference is that if one of those chip cards that you swipe is used fraudulently, you will now be liable. The rationale behind this is that if you had upgraded your terminal, the fraud could have been prevented. Therefore you are held accountable. You might be tempted to think that your small businesses is unlikely to be a victim of such fraud because it hasn’t happened in the past. But consider that all of the big retailers will be upgrading to the EMV terminals, which is likely to drive fraudsters to more vulnerable outlets, i.e., small businesses. So I don’t want to be a fear-mongerer but for the fairly small business expense of a terminal upgrade you get a lot of fraud protection. If it prevents just one instance of fraud in the years to come, it has likely paid for itself many times over.
Do you have other questions about chip cards or buying an EMV terminal? Post them in the comments section and we’ll answer them! The bottom line here is this: For most merchants, it’s not that expensive or difficult to switch over to EMV equipment and the insurance that the switch will provide you with is well worth the effort. So start thinking about it, and don’t wait until the last minute. I’m predicting that in the last month before the liability shift occurs in the US equipment providers will be backed up with orders, making the transition less smooth. So there’s no time like the present to start looking into chip card machines. It might even be a good time to think about switching providers if your current provider is trying to rip you off with over-priced equipment. All of our favorite providers have very reasonable options for EMV-compliant machines!