What you should know about Debit Card Processing

Shannon Andrade |

May 31, 2012

While most merchants know they should accept debit cards, it is not always easy to understand how to take full advantage of debit card processing. Merchants can do debit card processing in one of the following two ways:

Offline Debit Card Processing
The most common way to accept debit cards is an "offline debit transaction." In this type of sale the merchant accepts a debit card the same way in which they would accept a normal credit card. The card is swiped through the terminal and the customer signs the receipt. As far as the merchant is concerned, there is no difference in the way a credit card or an off-line debit card is processed. The one thing merchants must remember is that the debit card must have a VISA® or MasterCard® logo on it. Cards that do not bear the Visa or MasterCard logo can not be processed off-line and will not be approved.

Online Debit Card Processing
A potentially cheaper and more secure, method for accepting debit cards at the point-of-sale is called an "on-line debit transaction." In this type of sale the card must be swiped through the terminal and external or internal PIN Pad is used to enter the merchant’s four digit PIN. The terminal will pass the encrypted number to the bank for verification. The merchant will then be paid for the transaction in the same manner and time frame that they would be paid on a credit card sale. The cost of this type of transaction is potentially lower due to the way in which the merchant is charged by the processing companies. Rather than paying a flat fee and a discount rate, or percentage of the transaction, as with a credit card or offline debit transaction, there is only a slightly higher flat fee.