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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 23, 2009 • Issue 09:03:02

Think outside the converter box

By Dale S. Laszig
DSL Direct LLC

As communities across America make the switch to digital television, millions of converter boxes are helping old TVs stay in the game by converting their analog signals into newer, more efficient digital ones. Of course, when you add a converter box to an older set, you won't get the high definition that you would enjoy on a late model cable-ready TV.

Likewise, when merchants apply patches to older credit card terminals, they miss the experience and advantages of new, high-speed, integrated technology. And they won't even save any money.

The next time one of your merchants asks for a hardware or software patch to an older credit card terminal, you may want to explain that it will cost the merchant less in the long run if he or she makes the switch to newer technology. Following are five reasons for this:

1. The PCI DSS

Any business that manages cardholder data must comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) DSS (Data Security Standard) on the transmission, processing and storage of cardholder data. The new guidelines allow only encrypted primary account numbers (PANs), expiration dates and cardholder names to be displayed, transmitted and stored.

If a merchant's older device displays cardholder verification value (CVV2 and CVC2), full track data (either track 1 or track 2), or PIN block data, it is using a noncompliant, vulnerable application. Processors have been given a deadline of Oct. 1, 2009, to decertify all vulnerable payment applications.

2. PCI PED standards

The PCI Security Standards Council (SSC) has created the PCI PIN Entry Device (PED) standards, which specify technical requirements for devices that handle PIN debit.

Refer to the PCI SSC Web site (www.pcisecuritystandards.org) for a list of compliant devices, which is based on the following criteria: model name, hardware version number, firmware version number and application version number (if applicable).

Some vendors may sell certain models in approved and unapproved versions.

3. High-speed protocols

  • Ethernet: When transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP)-enabled devices were first introduced, several manufacturers introduced IP converter boxes with dial and Ethernet ports, enabling traditional dial terminals to use both dial and broadband protocols.

    Although these boxes transform older payment devices into dual communication (dual-comm) terminals, merchants will not get the same fast response times, functionality and benefits available in newer, dual-comm technology. For example, multi-application capability, high-speed downloads, and touch-screen menus.

  • Wireless communications: Improved cell phone coverage and advanced technology have made wireless devices the fastest growing category of transaction processing technology. Today's expanded menu of choices includes payment modules for smart phones, countertop wireless devices, handheld mobile payment devices, and Wi-Fi-enabled Ethernet terminals that communicate wirelessly to Ethernet routers.

    Beyond providing mobility, wireless devices can process transactions in just a few seconds, and they integrate well with enterprise systems. For example, transactions made on mobile terminals in the field can be imported into virtual terminals or enterprise-wide accounting software applications.

4. Integration

Many older stand-alone credit card machines have not kept up with the needs of merchants. Today's business owners need integrated solutions that incorporate payment processing into their accounting, inventory and customer relationship management systems.

Many acquirers and ISOs are marketing value-added POS management solutions that give business owners the ability to manage cash, credit cards and online payments from a central access point. Low-priced alternatives for merchants with smaller budgets include virtual terminal applications for desktop and laptop computers and payment modules that can be embedded into accounting systems.

5. Product lifecycle

When making the case to merchants to swap out an older credit card terminal, nothing says it better than an end-of-life letter from a manufacturer. Search for an older device on the manufacturer's Web site; you may find the product has been discontinued and that support and replacement parts are no longer available.

A public announcement, on company letterhead, of the last day of a credit card terminal's life has an indisputable air. Many end-of-life statements recommend migration paths to new generation hardware. These documents will help convince merchants to upgrade their systems. In depressed economic conditions, merchants may want to delay capital expenditures. Fortunately, prices have plummeted on payment processing solutions.

Most side-by-side comparisons of repairs and replacement systems demonstrate that new, improved solutions are equal in price, or only slightly higher in price, than hardware or software patches for older payment terminals. Better yet, these newer systems are safer, industry compliant and easier to use than older, outdated models that have outlived their usefulness.

When new systems are installed, there will be little remorse. The most frequent comment you will hear from merchants who have replaced older terminals with new, value-added technology is simply, "Why did I wait so long?" end of article

Dale S. Laszig is a writer and payments industry executive with a diversified background in sales and marketing. Her company, DSL Direct LLC, helps industry professionals and business owners leverage electronic transaction technology. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale@dsldirectllc.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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