How To Use A POS System Offline & Top Systems We Recommend
An offline POS system can help you continue to operate your business, even when the power or the internet goes out.
Not every business that accepts credit cards will screech to a halt if the internet goes down. But any business where the vast majority of customers prefer to use their cards knows how important a strong POS offline mode can be. In most instances, the best POS systems offer offline modes that allow your business to keep operating — and in some cases, even keep accepting credit card payments — without an internet connection.
So what happens when the internet goes out at your business?
In this post, we’ll explain offline POS mode, how it works, what the limitations are, and what you need to ask a prospective POS provider before you commit to a contract.
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How To Use A POS Offline
Setting your POS to offline mode is almost always a very simple process, no matter your provider.
If you lose internet access, you can toggle your POS to offline mode, which, in most cases, still allows you to use basic functions within your system. You will also still have the ability to take cash payments and card payments that will be encrypted and then processed once internet access is restored.
When Might You Need To Use Your POS Offline Mode?
While you generally will want to use your offline mode sparingly for security reasons and to process payments as quickly as possible, here are a few situations where it might be necessary.
- Brief internet outage: If your network or WiFi goes down while you have customers in the store, you don’t want to inconvenience them by trying to diagnose the problem as they wait. Instead, you can simply switch to offline mode and conduct business as normal and process those payments when the internet is fixed.
- Employees who travel: If you have employees who are out and about, the internet may be patchy or unpredictable. Switching to offline mode in remote or rural areas can ensure that payments can still be received.
- Selling outside: If you are a vendor who operates in a mobile food truck or at farmer’s markets, you might encounter situations where the location you’re at for the day or the weekend has poor internet. Offline mode can be a lifesaver in these situations, allowing you to sell like normal.
How Does A Payment Process With A POS Offline?
Support for credit card processing in a POS offline mode depends on several factors. It’s not a guaranteed feature of every POS system with offline mode, but for those who do have it, offline credit card processing can be a huge benefit. A major consideration for small businesses that are setting up their POS system and credit card processing is whether to use an integrated setup or keep the two as standalone services.
While there are still a fair number of businesses that use standalone credit card processing with another POS system, integrated payments and POS software allow for better data collection and less work managing transaction information overall.
If your POS and payment processing are not integrated, but your POS system supports offline mode, you will need to make sure that your credit card processing setup also functions offline. Otherwise, you will be restricted to cash and any other POS-supported payment types.
If you do have an integrated setup for your credit card processing and POS, you’ll need to make sure that the offline mode features include support for card payments. Additionally, you’ll need to verify which types of card payments (and which card readers or credit card machines) are supported.
Do You Need An Offline POS?
Not every business needs a point of sale system with a strong offline mode, but for many, it can create a lot of peace of mind and protect profits. Obviously, if you are operating in an area with even somewhat sketchy internet connectivity, or if you operate a mobile business, having an offline mode that can continue to store your data and accept transactions is a must.
Also, if your business primarily accepts card payments as opposed to cash, having a point of sale system without an offline mode is going to bring your sales to a halt until service can be restored. Even if you rarely have an internet outage, a delay can cost you dearly if you don’t have a backup. If you run a busy cafe, for example, with hundreds of customers who are in and out quickly with their purchases, even a brief delay in your ability to accept card payments could cost you hundreds of dollars.
In short, strong offline functionality in a POS can be more than just a nice perk; it can be a huge time and money saver.
How Secure Are Offline POS Payments?
Running an offline credit card payment does come with some risks and drawbacks.
First, there’s no way to verify whether an offline payment will go through when the system comes back online. When a credit card is swiped, dipped, or tapped at a credit card terminal with an internet connection, the payment information is routed in real-time directly to the customer’s bank, which gives a quick approval (or decline, if funds aren’t available).
The funds are released later and are eventually deposited in the merchant’s bank account a couple of days after that.
With an offline transaction, that initial approval request isn’t sent until the internet connection is restored. That means a merchant could run an offline transaction, allow the customer to leave, and find out later the transaction has been declined for any number of reasons.
POS systems and credit card processing companies that support offline payments make no guarantees or offer any sort of insurance or protection against loss, so if you intend to run offline payments, be aware that you are accepting the risk.
The second concern is whether it’s even safe to store credit card information in an offline transaction. The good news is that as long as you are following PCI compliance guidelines, processing an offline credit card payment does not in any way compromise your customers’ card information. The credit card reader or terminal reads the card data and encrypts it immediately. That information can only be decrypted when it is sent on to the credit card processing company.
How To Find The Best Offline POS
The best POS offline mode systems should be able to still grant you access to your cash drawer and accept and encrypt card payments until the internet is restored. They should also allow you to access things like your customer database and inventory information.
There are plenty of options for the best point of sale systems for small businesses, but not all of them are equipped with an offline mode that will keep you running smoothly in the event of an internet outage.
Here are some of our favorite POS systems with offline mode.