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Merchants’ Guide: virtual terminal

By CommerceGate, Press Team

A virtual terminal allows startups and small businesses to receive payment from customers anywhere in the world. You only need an internet connection.

When it comes to establishing a secure and reliable payment gateway, leveraging a virtual terminal is practically mandatory for startups and small businesses. At least if they want to be able to increase their transaction amount. 

There has been a 40% jump in digital payments in the last year alone. And that isn’t even narrowing down payments by credit card usage. If we look at the United States by itself, the average American has four credit cards at their disposal. So it makes sense that you’ll want a payment method that can accommodate your customers in the most efficient way possible. 

But what would you look for in a virtual terminal? There are a few features that stand out: 

  • Usability
  • Easy payment integration
  • Limited touchpoints for sensitive data
  • Automated receipts
  • PCI compliance, bank-grade security
  • One-click installations

But before we get into how these features can benefit your business and streamline your payment process, let’s talk a bit more about what a virtual terminal actually is. 

What is a virtual terminal?

A virtual terminal allows startups and small businesses to receive payment from customers anywhere in the world. You only need an internet connection. Unlike other methods of taking credit and debit card payment details, you don’t need to swipe a card or install the software. Usually, you can access your virtual terminal from your browser.

Furthermore, your staff can access the virtual terminal to complete tasks. This includes call center agents who are taking payments. 

In other words, a virtual terminal is easily one of the most convenient tools for merchants on the market.

But these terminals are not limited to just credit card transactions. Many also offer ACH payment options. And compared to alternative payment methods, such as taking information via the phone or mail, it’s incredibly low-cost. 

In addition, virtual terminals aren’t just for one-time payments. Most terminals can also automate recurring payments. 

The benefits of a virtual terminal

These virtual terminals are the best choice of payment gate if you process many card-not-present transactions. It’s safe, convenient, and easy for both the merchant and buyer. 

As you can imagine, there are many reasons why merchants choose to accept payments via a virtual terminal:

  • Customer service – A virtual terminal, especially when we consider eCommerce payments, is a self-service payment option. Since you can give your customer the ability to decide on their best payment method, especially if you accept multiple payment types 
  • Usability – A solid virtual terminal should provide an intuitive experience for both the end-consumer and the merchant. Terminals often include a log of automated receipts, transaction history, and other valuable data for merchants
  • Faster payments – Since you no longer need to deal with card swipes, slow card readers, checks, faxes, and order-by-phone transactions, merchants can receive funds faster than ever.
  • Additional features –  Depending on your payment gateway, you may be able to offer different payment options. This can include offering subscriptions or other recurring payment plans.
  • Greater security – Through a virtual terminal, both the merchant and the customer are protected. Customer credit card numbers are verified in real-time by your payment gateway. And at the same time, the payment gateway handles all data security concerns – meaning that the merchant can reduce their compliance scope. For startups and small businesses, this can mean they can more quickly go to market with new products without worrying about how their new launch will affect their payments process and customers’ data security.

    What level of compliance do you need? It depends on your level of transactions. But if your virtual terminal provider can over PCI Level 1 compliance, you’re set no matter how many transactions you handle. 

And overall, a virtual terminal can eliminate manual tasks or writing things down. Nearly everything is digitized, recorded, and automated. Saving your hours down the road. 

How does it work?

Once you have a user account with your payment processor, virtual terminals are simple and easy to use. For example, to register a payment, simply:

  1. Enter your order into the terminal
  2. Assign the transaction to a customer
  3. Get paid

Receipts and transactions are automatically logged. This process becomes even more straightforward when you have an online payment gateway that allows customers to enter payment details themselves. 

Keep in mind that transactions conducted through a virtual terminal are card-not-present (CNP) interactions. This is true even if you are processing the payment at a physical location with your customer. These transactions can cost more to process. For this reason, it can be an excellent option to add other digital payment options. 

How to choose a virtual terminal provider

A virtual terminal is mandatory these days. And most Point of Sale (PoS) providers offer a virtual terminal. In this case, you may only need to log in to your system or call Tech Support to startup your service.

That said, you should take your time in deciding on the best virtual terminal provider, especially one that is not included in your PoS software. Since your terminal deals directly with sensitive data, taking shortcuts can result in non-compliance fees or wasted hours as you scramble to understand a poorly designed system. 

To ensure you get the most out of your virtual terminal, you should look at providers who are:

  • Reliability – Can your provider be made accountable, and what financial organizations are backing them? CommerceGate, for example, is regulated by the Bank of Spain. A  provider with proven and transparent regulators and backing will not only suggest that the provider will stick around a while but that they will handle your and your customers’ information carefully.
  • Cost-effective – Does the vendor you looking at match your budget? A solid vendor should offer features that balance the cost. A virtual terminal is an investment that should make your life easier – not drain the bank.
  • Usability – Your virtual terminal should be easy to navigate for you and any other team member. An intuitive interface will save you hours since you won’t have to scratch your head to find crucial features.
  • Security – Remember, your virtual terminal deals with sensitive data. Make sure whatever vendor you work with has the necessary PCI level compliance for your company size.
  • Customer service – You shouldn’t have to wait days or weeks to resolve an issue. Your vendor should h ve a team available to answer any question or solve any problem as soon as possible.
  • Checkout user experience – Part of a solid terminal is giving your user a chance to self-checkout. The process should be easy and recognizable to the end-user. Ensure to test the end-user side to ensure that your vendor can cater to your customer. 


A reliable and efficient virtual terminal is more than just a check-out tool: It’s a revenue builder. The faster and more securely you can verify and approve payments, the more payments you can receive. 

That’s why choosing the right vendor is so important. When you invest in the right virtual terminal partnership, you are gaining new technology and a sales partner. 

Are you looking to get started? CommerceGate combines easy-to-use technology with expert customer service to provide a seamless payment gateway. Contact us today to see if we’re a good fit for your business goals. 

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