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How and why to set up a virtual terminal

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Last editedJul 20232 min read

If you are a business or sole trader needing to find a simple and secure way to accept and record payments from your computer or mobile device, then setting up a virtual terminal is the most cost-effective and practical solution. But what is a virtual terminal exactly and how do you go about setting one up? 

What is a virtual payment terminal?

At its core, a virtual terminal exists to transform your computer or smart device into a payment terminal. It is ideal if you want to make or accept payments remotely or take credit or debit card orders over the phone. This makes it an increasingly popular choice for smaller businesses such as independent restaurants and takeaways.

How does a virtual terminal work?

  1. A customer calls with their payment information ready and you sign in to your account.

  2. Enter the amount owed, the name of the customer, their card details and billing address.

  3. Take the payment and create and send a receipt with just one click.

What else can you do with a virtual terminal?

A virtual terminal solution will generally be browser-based, although it might have its own front end. Either way, they all work the same – you take card information either over the phone or through an online terminal solution and authorise, process and manage the transaction with no need to store card details on your system. You can, however, also retain payment details for regular transactions if necessary. With some solutions, you can even offer direct refunds.

Why a virtual terminal might be the right choice for you

Virtual terminals are easy to set up. In fact, most providers will have you up and running in less than 24 hours. Also, you can keep track of all payments from within the terminal itself. What you’re essentially doing is turning your device into a point of sale system, and you’re doing it without having to set up any complicated systems or inventories.

Accept all types of payment 

It’s not just credit and debit cards that are accepted, but some virtual terminal solutions also allow you to pay with cheques, gift cards and even cash. You might even be able to split payment across multiple payment methods.

Recurrent billing

If your business charges for subscription services then it’s easy to set up recurrent billing to accept repeat payments automatically. If you have more specific needs you can manage and edit payment schedules through your own back end with an API.

No equipment required 

Whereas some payment solutions might require a card reader or other expensive accessories, all a virtual terminal requires is a computer and an internet connection.

Fraud management 

Modern virtual terminals are equipped with the best fraud management tools, with payment gateways that include dozens of failsafes that ensure fraud is never going to be an issue. The potential for fraud is perhaps one of the main reasons why somebody might be hesitant to use a virtual terminal, but they are actually just as secure as online payment gateways.

Data analysis

Finally, one of the benefits of virtual terminals that rarely gets discussed is how they can be used to track customer behaviour in real time. This not only allows you to single out any issues with specific banks or cards, but will enables you to track trends too. It’s a complete solution that perfectly complements other payment options.

We can help

At GoCardless we specialise in global bank payments, giving businesses a cheaper, easier, and faster option over card payments. We're not a virtual terminal, but we enable people to take online payments in just a few clicks.

It's easy to request payment from your customers by setting up a payment link in the GoCardless dashboard, either collecting a one-off amount or kicking off a series of regular Direct Debits. You can even integrate GoCardless with your preferred business software - browse our 350+ partner integrations here.

Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

Over 85,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help
Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

Interested in automating the way you get paid? GoCardless can help

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