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Updated Jan 11, 2024

Upgrading Your Credit Card Terminals? Things to Consider with a New Reader Machine

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Sammi Caramela, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer

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There are many reasons to update your business’s credit card terminals, from outdated hardware to limited capabilities. While most credit card terminals last several years, there will inevitably come a time when you must upgrade your point-of-sale (POS) system. Failure to do so can lead to slow transactions, less flexibility with integration, technical issues and security risks.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right credit card processor for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Here’s everything you should consider when upgrading your credit card terminals.

Signs you may need to upgrade your POS credit card terminal 

Business owners should be on the lookout if they have had the same POS system for some time. After several years, issues with the system will likely pop up. The following are a few signs that you may need to upgrade and get a better version as a way to streamline payment processing:

  • Payments take a long time to process: If customers have to sit and wait for long periods of time for transactions to process, you may need to update your system or consider working with one of the best credit card processors on the market. You may have also started noticing issues such as freezing or processing disruptions.
  • The POS system lacks mobility: Older systems were not created to optimize mobile-user experience. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to finalize purchases across platforms. POS systems should never have limitations on being integrated easily.
  • Customers and staff have reported technical issues: If poor user experience is being reported frequently about the POS, you may want to evaluate the old system and invest in an upgrade.
  • The POS system lacks reporting capabilities: Modern POS systems that generate reports in real-time help business owners make real-time decisions. Reports should include options such as sales tracking, employee time tracking and return totals.
  • Hardware issues are occurring: If your POS system has issues like power failures, then you need to consider a more modern solution. Most companies that upgrade are choosing cloud-based systems. Cloud-based POS systems not only save all your data, but they also save you from common hardware headaches. Older POS systems can be expensive to repair and you may not want to keep investing money in an outdated system.

Perhaps you are looking to get an EMV chip reader or want to add near-field-communication (NFC) technologies to your reader for processing mobile phone and wearable tech transactions. Whatever the reason for needing new card readers, there are a few things to keep in mind as you choose a vendor.

What to consider when upgrading your POS credit card terminal

This article is focused on adding card readers to an existing POS system. Review our guide on how to accept card payments if you’re looking for a new POS system.

If you’re in the market for an entirely new POS package, check out our POS system guide.

POS, credit card and reader compatibility

Your new card reader must be compatible with your existing setup. You may be able to find lower-priced options online rather than from your merchant service but request a list of compatible card machine models from them to ensure that you purchase the correct versions. If you require assistance, it may benefit you to pay for a technician to help you add the card readers to your existing POS system.

EMV chip and PIN readers

Due to EMV compliance and liability reasons, you should upgrade to readers that can process chip debit and credit cards. The liability shift took place in October 2015, which means that now merchants can be deemed liable in a fraud issue if they are not compliant. Compliance involves more than simply having a chip reader, but that is one part of it. Most EMV card readers also include a magnetic card reader as well to accommodate your customers who do not have chip cards yet.

NFC card readers

NFC technology can help you process payments from mobile wallets or emerging wearable tech, such as rings, smartwatches, stickers or key chains. Acquiring this tech is reasonably priced and worth considering if you think your customers will want to make payments using this type of technology. This tech is also necessary if you want to process mobile-wallet-type loyalty or gift cards.

Long-term commitments

You may feel pressured to enter into a long-term leasing agreement. If you can, avoid it. Online reviews are laden with bad experiences and tales of warning. In the long run, you could save thousands by purchasing the card readers outright, even if you have to use a credit card to do it. Most new EMV chip-card readers are about $200 for a single unit. If you lease the readers, you might pay $50 or more, per month per machine, for three years. That adds up to $3,600, which is significantly more than just buying the readers. Some leasing agreements will even include an automatic contract renewal, so if you are not paying close attention you may find yourself in another three (or more) year agreement that may prove difficult to get out of.

Payment agreement methods

There are a variety of technologies available for your customers to consent to payment. The most common way is entering a PIN, so many credit-card machines will have a connected PIN pad. But you may also want to include a signature device for those who need to sign for their credit card purchases. You can choose from one that allows customers to sign on a screen or on a signature pad. As mentioned, you may also want to consider adding NFC technologies for additional options. Biometric technologies are beginning to become available but are not commonly used at this time.

Ways to connect

Credit card machines can connect to your payment processor and POS system in a variety of ways, so be sure to choose the type of technology that works best with your system. Some connect by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, USB, cable or Ethernet connection. The lowest-priced options often physically connect with wires, but if you desire a cleaner sales counter with fewer cords, you may want to consider a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi option.

If you sell products away from your business’s home base, such as at an outdoor market or a convention center, you may also want a mobile option. 

FYIDid you know
Often credit card processing services will add mobile processing for no additional cost over regular transaction fees.

The best POS credit card terminals

Here are some of our top picks for the best POS systems for 2024. 


Clover is an excellent POS system, as it has durable hardware options that are easy to set up. Its customizable hardware also allows you to integrate seamlessly with third-party software. Additionally, if you are on a limited budget, Clover offers virtual terminals so you don’t have to purchase hardware. [See our Clover review]


CAKE’s hardware is extremely durable, which means it should last for years — even in hectic environments. Its terminal boasts a touch screen that’s kept safe by its frame and can handle wear and tear. [Learn more with our CAKE review]


Shopify’s POS system has impressive hardware that can accommodate both online and in-person sales. There are multiple hardware options and accessories like a barcode scanner, receipt printer, cash drawer and label maker. [Read our Shopify review]

Browse our best picks for POS systems and read our reviews to ensure you’re choosing the right option for your business. While analyzing your choices, be sure to factor in your specific use case.

Upgrade your credit card terminal today

There are many affordable, capable credit card terminals available to help you upgrade your point-of-sale experience. Once you put together your buying list, you can easily find compatible and compliant card machines. You’ll want to consider features like durability, integration opportunities and card reader compatibility. Additionally, factor in expenses and long-term commitments to ensure the terminal fits your budget while meeting your business’s unique needs.

Pamela S. Stevens contributed to this article.

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Sammi Caramela, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Sammi Caramela is a trusted business advisor whose work for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others centers around creating digestible but informative guidance on all things small business. Whether she's discussing cash flow management or intellectual property, work trends or employer branding, Caramela provides actionable tips designed for small business owners to take their entrepreneurship to the next level. Caramela, who also lends her expertise to the financial outlet 24/7 Wall St., has business management experience that allows her to provide personal insights on day-to-day operations and the working relationship between managers and independent contractors. Amidst all this, Caramela has found time to publish a young adult novel, develop a poetry collection and contribute short stories to various anthologies.
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