POS Terminals To Take Prepaid Wireless Payments
POS terminals are the classic or original point of sale terminals that
activate POSA (Point of Sale Activated) cards, and to retrieve and
print PINs on receipts.
The easiest way to think of these is that they are the
physical terminals on the
counter that you see clerks using to process
credit and debit card payments (see the picture!). When
prepaid wireless (and
prepaid programs like long distance and stored value cards) were first
launched, these credit card
terminals were upgraded to enable prepaid wireless card activation and
PIN dispense functionality.
Some benefits of POS Terminals include:
- They're easy
to use - "always on" quick navigation
- Are typically
already in use in stores for taking credit and debit card payments, so
clerks are already familiar with their general operation, and don't
need to purchase (or lease) new hardware
use logins that allow managers to track and report on sales
- Are inexpensive
to purchase or lease if needed
- They're small,
so require little counter space (many stores will have multiple
terminals to support different products)
So how do POS Terminals
- They can support
and other prepaid products on the same terminal
For Card Activations
handing the prepaid topup card to the store clerk, they will usually
ask you for
- Then they'll use the menu
on the POS terminal to select the product (i.e. wireless carrier).
terminal will prompt them to swipe the prepaid wireless topup card.
swiping process basically transmits the card serial number to the
correct technology provider, requesting that the card be activated
turning the card from cold to hot = from inactive to active).
- The technology
provider has a database that tells them which PIN is printed under the
scratch-off on that
- Knowing the PIN, the technology provider
requests that the wireless provider (with whom they're connected)
activate the PIN in real time.
if you scratch the back of the card and try adding the PIN to your
account, it will work properly. If you don't go through this
activation process, or it fails, the PIN will not be activated for use;
this is a fraud/theft prevention technique.
For PIN Sales
that this all happens in a matter of seconds, usually well under two
and rarely longer than eight (which is considered slow).
- You will either start out with what's called a
dummy card (or placebo card), which looks like a topup card but has no
PIN (it's just for looks/marketing), or
you'll simply tell the clerk that you want to buy a replenishment PIN
from a specific prepaid wireless provider.
- They will then use the menu on the POS terminal to select
and then the product. For example, electronic PIN, then $25.
terminal will then connect to the appropriate technology provider to
request that a $25 PIN be sent to the terminal and printed on a
receipt. Note that some systems actually store a small number
of PINs locally in the terminal in case there are system connectivity
you've successful paid, the clerk will then hand you a paper receipt
that will have the date and time of the transaction (i.e. sale), as
the PIN (no scratch off), value of the PIN, and instructions regarding
add the PIN to your account (also referred to as redeeming the PIN).
For Topup Sales (a.k.a. Real Time Replenishment)
for card activations, this occurs in a matter of seconds. The
only difference here is that you won't have a nice pretty card to take
home with you (unless they let you keep the dummy card), but rather,
you'll have a PIN on a receipt. So be sure not to lose it!
typically no dummy card for topup sales, but you'll probably see a
poster or some other indication that the store sells replenishments.
You may not know that it's going to be a real time topup
(instead of a
or PIN) until you talk to the clerk. Some stores do use dummy
cards like those described above, that will indicate the available
clerk will ask you for the wireless phone number of the account (i.e.
MDN = Mobile Directory Number) to
which you want to add money, and the amount you want to add.
on the store and the functionality offered by the wireless provider,
you'll either be offered a choice of denominations (ex. $10, $20, $30,
$50, $75), or you'll be able to add any amount within the allowed range
(ex. between $10 and $99). There will often be both options
the clerk; i.e. quick buttons for specific amounts, as well as an
option to enter any amount (often referred to as "open range").
clerk will typically ask
that you pay first before processing the topup transaction.
avoids issues with returns should you not have cash or a credit/debit
card with you that works.
- Once they receive your money,
the clerk will select the right product on the terminal (ex. Verizon
terminal will prompt the clerk to enter the 10-digit phone number of
the account to be replenished. They'll typically be asked to
enter the number twice or verify that the number entered is correct.
This is just an extra step to help avoid errors from entering
a wrong digit. Accidentally adding money to the wrong account
result in delays and frustrations by both customers and store clerks.
- The terminal will then prompt
the store clerk
to either select the amount of the topup or to enter the desired amount.
the phone number and amount, the terminal will now be able to complete
the real-time topup transaction. This is done by having the
provider use their connection with the wireless provider to verify that
the phone number is valid (i.e. it's a real number and the account is
not canceled or suspended for some reason). If the number is
valid, the topup is completed immediately, and the terminal receives a
success response. This happens in a matter of seconds.
clerk will then print out a receipt that has a number of things on it,
including the date and time of the transaction, phone number
amount added, new account balance, and new account expiration date.
Note that although this type of POS terminal is still around, the
industry in general has been moving towards Web
as a preferred approach wherever feasible.
Also, the next generation of this type of functionality is
using smartphone applications to process real time payments, and even