Reprogramming Your Credit Card Machine: the Process, Cost, and Factors to Consider
When you switch credit card processors, you may be wondering if you can use the existing payment terminals that you have. The answer to this isn’t clear-cut, as the process of reprogramming credit card machines varies, depending on your merchant services provider, and the types of equipment you have.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the factors that you should consider when reprogramming your credit card terminals. You’ll learn:
- when it makes sense to reprogram your credit card machines (and when it doesn’t);
- how much it costs;
- alternatives to reprogramming your payment terminals;
- and more.
Let’s dive in.
What to consider when reprogramming your credit card terminals
Making your existing equipment work with your new processor isn’t always as simple as downloading software or implementing an upgrade. Depending on your previous processor and the machines you’re using, you may need to take extra steps to successfully reprogram them (if you can do so at all).
Consider the following:
Whether or not the credit card machine is locked
Many processors lock their terminals so they cannot be reprogrammed. Often, you won’t know that a credit card machine is locked until you try to reprogram it. If you’re switching processors, consider checking with your old vendor and ask if they lock their terminals.
In some cases, your new processor could do an encryption exchange, instead of trying to reprogram a terminal, so ask your new provider if this is an option.
How the terminal is encrypted
Each processing bank has its own encryption keys that are injected into the terminal, to allow the machine to process PIN debit payments.
If you switch processors, often the encryption will not be the same as the new processor, which means your new provider can’t enable PIN debit payments. However, you will still be able to swipe debit cards like you would when accepting credit cards.
The specific type and brand of terminal that you want to reprogram
Each terminal has a specific reprogramming process. Here are the most common ones we see at Payment Depot:
This is the most common standard terminal. The reprogram process requires entering the new download parameters into the terminal by using the number keys and “alpha” buttons. It is very similar to texting the old fashioned way with the number keys instead of a keyboard. It is tedious but over an ethernet connection, it takes about 15-20 minutes total.
FD-130 (and 150)
This is a standard First Data terminal. At Payment Depot, we walk the merchant through the menu to perform the download, and the process is much easier compared to other credit card machines.
Pax terminals are updated on our end and the update is automatically pushed to the terminal. The terminal does need to be deregistered by the previous processor first which can sometimes be a hurdle. Once we have the serial number and it is unlocked, we can easily push the update.
These terminals are reprogrammed over the phone. We would walk the merchant through the information that needs to be entered into the terminal to complete the download. It is about 6 total button presses and one of the easiest to work with.
Clover credit card terminals can only be reprogrammed by the processor who sold the original unit.
The compliance and age of your terminal
The age of your credit card machines will also determine whether or not it makes sense to reprogram. Older terminals that are nearing their end of life date with PCI compliance won’t be compatible with the latest security standards. If this is the case, then you’re better off purchasing new units.
Your internet speed
The reprogramming process can take 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the terminal. Your internet connection also plays a big role. If you’re using a dial-up connection (admittedly quite rare these days), expect the process to take a number of hours to complete.
The cost to reprogram your credit card machine
While reprogramming your payment equipment can take time (minutes or hours depending on on the situation), payment processors do not incur financial costs when they reprogram a terminal. If you’re being charged reprogramming fees (some providers charge up to $100), know that that fee serves as pure profit for the credit card processor.
At Payment Depot, we reprogram your equipment for free, so you won’t have to worry about extra costs.
Alternatives to reprogramming your credit card terminal
If your new payment processor is unable to reprogram your equipment, ask them what your options are. At Payment Depot, we allow members to:
1. Purchase new equipment at wholesale costs that start at $49.
2. Use our free key entry virtual terminal, which allows you to key enter credit card transactions on any web browser on any device. (Ideal for businesses with fewer daily transactions or as a back up in the event you experience an equipment problem.)
Some processors may recommend leasing your equipment, but this option is almost always more expensive. Not to mention, it can be downright scammy.
We urge you to stay away from leasing credit card terminals.
If you’ve already switched payment processors and want to find out if your terminals can be reprogrammed, get in touch with your vendor and ask them what your options are.
If you’re still shopping around for a new credit card processor and are wondering if you can use your old equipment, be sure to bring it up when talking to prospective vendors.
Feel free to get in touch with the Payment Depot team. In addition to discussing your credit card machines, we can give you a free merchant statement analysis and identify ways that you can save in credit card processing costs.
Payment Depot’s members save hundreds of dollars and up to thousands per month simply by making the switch.