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Merchant services: Magnetic Stripe Readers : Their Place in Electronic Point of Sale Systems.

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Any business or professional, such as a retailer, service provider or health care professional, will need an Electronic Point of Sale system (EPOS) for financial transactions with clients. The magnetic stripe reader is a vital part of this system. Most payments are now by credit or debit cards rather than cash so a reliable EPOS system is vital for the success of any business.

What is a Magnetic Stripe and Reader?

Magnetic stripes are one of the cheapest forms of information storage and are used millions of times every day. Tiny iron-based magnetic particles are embedded into a strip of magnetic material on a card, these particles contain unique information embedded in code within them. When a magnetic stripe is used on credit and debit cards the information is unique to the card holder and identifies that person. The information is read and decoded by bringing the card into contact with a magnetic reading head. The magnetic stripe reader is the hardware device, that when combined with the correct software, provides this magnetic reading head.

magnetic stripe reader

Types of magnetic stripe reader.

There are two types of magnetic stripe reader, an insertion reader or a swipe reader. With an insertion magnetic stripe reader the card is inserted into the device and then pulled out. The other form of magnetic stripe reader requires that the card is passed or swiped through the reader. Both can be found with EPOS systems and are often combined, although the swipe method is less commonly used now for financial transactions. A client's banking information is embedded into their credit or debit card's coding and this is accessed when the card is inserted or swiped. Traditionally this was backed up with the customer's signature and more recently with the keying in of a pin number. Technology is moving fast, however, and some credit and debit cards are now contactless and operate through radio frequency.

Choosing a magnetic stripe reader.

When considering the best options for purchasing a magnetic stripe reader, advances in technology need to be considered. Clients at the moment will have a range of card in use, from Pin and Chip to the newer Smart cards with contactless technology. EPOS systems need to be able to support this. A magnetic stripe reader terminal should be able to operate with Pin and Chip cards as well as with contactless cards. Magnetic stripe readers can be part of a fixed payment terminal point or can be mobile and taken to the customer. This form of magnetic card reader is commonly used in restaurants. It is also useful for mobile service providers such as tradesmen who visit customers in their homes. The cost of a magnetic stripe reader will vary but it is a reasonably priced component part of the EPOS system. Businesses can also rent them for short term use, giving extra sales capacity at busy times such as during sales or at Christmas.

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