Digital Phone Lines & Credit Card Terminals – Why They Don’t Go Together

Does this sound familiar?

Your phone service was recently upgraded from the old style analogue lines to a new, state-of-the-art digital technology. All of your phone calls are now crystal clear. You can get connected to the Internet 100x faster and your e-mail loads in the blink of an eye.

Phone companies are switching their systems to the latest technologies in order to better serve their customers. Out with the old, in with the new.

But, what happened to your credit card terminal? It suddenly doesn’t work as well as it use to, or perhaps not at all. Your business is suddenly at a stand-still.

Ringing a bell yet?

It certainly does for me. I hear it almost every day. Over the past few years this has become a common occurrence. In fact, if I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard of this problem I could buy a tropical island and build a five star resort, complete with an18 hole mini-golf course.

Here’s the problem. Credit card terminals are equipped with “analogue” phone modems. Those modems are built to work with the analogue lines that were just replaced with your new digital service. This probably doesn’t mean much to you. You might be wondering why this should make any difference at all. A phone line is a phone line, right? Well, not exactly….let me explain.

Analogue modems operate within a band of frequencies between 300 to 3400 hertz. In order for it to function properly, it requires a phone line that also operates within this frequency range. Your digital line speaks an entirely different language. It operates at frequencies between 25khz (kilohertz) and 1.1mhz (megahertz), which is significantly faster than your analogue lines.

These conflicting frequencies create “echoes” or “line noise” when the terminal attempts to dial out to process. Since the terminal’s modem does not have the ability to properly adapt and filter out these noises, the communication breaks down and fails. In rare cases, the digital signals can actually overwhelm the terminal’s modem, causing it to burn out.

So the question becomes, what can be done to solve this?

There is a device that you can purchase from your local electronics store for about $15 – $20. It’s called a DSL Filter. This handy little gadget will filter out the digital information coming in from your phone lines and send it to your terminal at lower frequencies, effectively cancelling out the line noise. 98% of the time the filter resolves the problem and our merchants are able to get back to business. There are unfortunately cases where it doesn’t work. For those merchants that fall into that 2%, we offer the following solutions:

  • Contact your phone company and request an analogue phone line be installed. This line will be used only for your credit card terminal
  • If you have a fax at your location, connect a phone line splitter to that wall jack, connect your terminal to one side and the fax to the other. In most cases we have found that fax machines are connected to dedicated analogue phone lines and are not replaced when the digital service is installed.
  • Upgrade to a terminal that supports an IP/Ethernet connection
  • Switch to a web based or PC based processing program.

Until next time…Thanks for reading.

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