In an era when billions of dollars are transferred electronically from your credit card account to a merchant's bank account, the humble credit card imprint machine may be regarded as dinosaur technology. For some businesses, processing credit cards manually is still their best alternative. Many brick-and-mortar merchants, and many who operate online or via mail or telephone, all have a credit card imprint machine for backup and emergency purposes.
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Credit card imprinting machines date to the beginning of the modern charge and credit card industry. The first imprinters were developed to handle the Charga-Plate in the 1930s. Resembling a military identification tag, the Charga-Plate was a rectangular piece of sheet metal what was embossed with the customer's basic information. The metal plate was held by the merchant, who placed it on an imprinter, put a paper card and inked ribbon on top of the plate and imprinted the customer's information for future billing. Although the imprinters themselves have become more streamlined and efficient, the original imprinting process has remained essentially unchanged.
The primary function of a credit card imprinting machine is to create a physical record of a sales transaction. The customer's credit card is placed into a slot in the imprinter, a multi-part sales draft is placed on top of the card, and the roller presses an imprint of the card onto the sales draft along with the merchant's identification information. Additional information such as date, time, items purchased and amount of the sales may be manually entered. The customer is normally required to sign the sales draft as proof she approved of the sale.
Although all credit card imprinting machines function essentially the same, there are many types. Flatbed imprinters are the most popular type of imprinter. As their name implies, they provide a flat bed on which the credit card is placed. They are manual, mechanical devices that require no electricity to operate, making them a suitable choice for doing business in remote sites that do not have access to electricity, or for backup during power outages. Electric imprinters are popular in high-volume establishments such as the travel, dining and entertainment industries. Pump handle imprinters provide the same benefits as the flatbed version, but without the potential to crack your knuckles on the slider. Portable versions of the flatbed are also popular with delivery services, taxi and limousine services, and in home party businesses.
Credit card imprinting machines are designed to obtain a legible impression of the physical credit or charge card being used for a specific transaction. Modern versions may be manual or electric, but they are engineered to deliver clean, clear imprints for up to 1 million cycles. Each imprinter features a base upon which to place the plastic credit card, a merchant identification slug, and a roller to impress the information onto the sales draft.
Two per cent of all physical transactions where the credit card is swiped through an electronic processor fail, requiring the sales clerk to enter the credit card information manually. Manually entering the credit card information increases the potential for error and eliminates the proof that the credit card was present, which creates a potential liability for the merchant in the event of a customer dispute. By taking a physical imprint of the card, the merchant reduces the risk of charge-back. Manual imprinters are inexpensive and can provide the additional benefit of allowing off-site transactions. They also permit sales transactions in the event of a power failure.
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