What You Use to Swipe Credit Cards

Magnetic strip readers or card readers have an electric sensor that reads a magnetic strip on the back of a credit or debit card.

What's the advantage of an integrated MSR?

If you're going to accept credit cards, then you need an MSR, however not everyone chooses to have an integrated MSR. The picture to the right highlights how an integrated MSR fits with a standard Touch PC. The most significant advantage to this setup is that the POS software will automatically read when a card is swiped. For example, when a customer is rung up, the software automatically knows the correct amount to charge the customer's card. The alternative setup is to use an external credit card machine. These machines are not connected to the POS system and that can cause two primary issues. First, this setup creates an extra step in the checkout process as the cashier now has to enter the transaction amount in the external machine. And second, this manual entry is prone to human errors as the wrong transaction total can be transcribed. So, for speed and accuracy, we always recommend an integrated MSR.

If I have a pinpad that accepts credit cards, do I still need an MSR?

Maybe. First, an extra MSR can always serve as a backup in case your pinpad goes down. From a day-to-day basis, if your employees use employee cards to clock in, then they'll still need to swipe their card with the MSR.

What else can MSRs read?

Card readers can also read gift cards, customer cards, loyalty cards, and employee cards.

Are all MSRs the same?

No, MSR technology can vary greatly. The most basic MSR simply transmits data (e.g., the credit card number) through a USB cable. Newer models use BlueTooth to transmit data. Encrypted MSRs are becoming increasing popular as well. These MSRs encrypt the data on the card before transmitting it. If your POS software supports an encrypted MSR, then the credit card information never actually enters the software - and obviously cannot then be stolen.