Connecting EC terminals to the till? What you need to know!

The technology around cashless payments is in a continuous state of development: new payment options (e.g. mobile payment) require card readers and till software that support them, however. So you have to change your hardware regularly if you want to stay up to date. Whether initial set-up or terminal exchange: this article summarises everything you need to know when you want to connect a new EC terminal to the till.

Content of the article

    Overview: connecting EC terminals to tills

    • To guarantee all the features, the EC terminals and tills have to communicate with each other via a communication protocol.
    • The problem? The various EC terminals use very different communication protocols that are not always compatible with the communication protocols in the till software.
    • They have to communicate with each other for all the modern features of the tills and EC terminals to function smoothly.
    • It’s worth doing an exact comparison of the acquirers and payment service providers in advance, because the fee conditions may vary depending on country, sales volume and industry.
    • Universal interfaces, which support a high number of different communication protocols, simplify and accelerate the connection.

    EC terminal, payment terminal, card reader, EFT/POS terminal – which is actually correct?

    We’re talking about EC terminals, but of course we realise this term is no longer strictly up to date.

    What is the difference between EC terminal, payment terminal and EFT/POS terminal?

    In the context of payment options at the POS, you constantly encounter different terms like EC terminal, payment terminal, POS terminal, automated bank terminal or EFT/POS terminal. However, all these terms refer to the same card readers that facilitate electronic payments at the POS. As mentioned above, in this article we’re talking about EC terminals, because that’s the term people have embedded in their minds.

    What is EC Cash?

    • The term ‘EC Cash’ refers to the electronic cash process, an electronic debit card payment system of the German Banking Industry Committee (GBIC).
    • girocard was introduced as the new standard for payment systems in Germany by the German banking industry in 2007. The process is now officially called the girocard process.
    • The next card standard is already replacing the girocard process though: International debit cards from Mastercard and Visa essentially provide the same functionality, but can be used all over the world by consumers.
    • All three terms (EC Cash, girocard process, international debit cards) refer to electronic cashless payment.
    • As the term EC is still embedded in many people’s minds, we’re using it in this article – although strictly speaking it is somewhat outdated.

    Connecting EC terminals to tills: What’s the challenge?

    Anyone who’s been involved with EC terminal integration knows: connecting the EC card reader to the till system, so they can communicate with each other, can quickly become very complicated.

    This is because there are no real standards for the interfaces between the two components. There are hundreds of different EC terminals and almost as many till systems, but these are never compatible with each other from the start. The reason is that there are no standardised interfaces for the till systems or the EC card readers.

    Attempts have been made to standardise the interfaces at the national level (e.g. ZVT interface) or even internationally (e.g. the Nexo protocol). In reality, however, different manufacturers use different interpretations of these interfaces, which can then make connection very complicated and time-consuming again.

    Once the EC terminal is finally connected, retail or hospitality companies want to avoid this effort in the future if at all possible. This creates the so-called lock-in effect: the projected effort it would take to integrate a new EC terminal deters many companies from changing acquirer – even if other acquirers can offer much better conditions and more up-to-date terminals.

    Before we talk about possible solutions to this dilemma, we’d first like to look more closely at the two components that need to be connected – the till system and the EC terminal.

    What till systems are there?

    Depending on requirements, there are many different types of till systems in use today.

    Traditional till systems

    Traditional till systems comprise three elements: a physical cash register, a cashier and the receipt printer. The sale is manually recorded and manually printed out. These till systems cannot be integrated into IT structures and are only used now by very small companies for this reason. It’s not possible to connect EC terminals.

    Electronic cash registers

    Electronic cash registers were the next stage in the evolution of till systems. They usually have a screen, a keyboard and have features like barcode scanners or receipt printers. It’s not really possible to integrate these into IT structures either though.

    PC-based till systems

    PC-based till systems use a computer with special till software that has to be connected in turn to hardware like barcode scanners, printers or EC terminals. The software and the necessary interfaces run locally on the respective computer.

    Cloud-based till systems

    Cloud-based till systems use cloud technology to store and manage software, interfaces and data. The flexible choice of hardware only acts as an interface: all data runs on a remote server. That’s why mobile till systems, such as tablet tills that are particularly popular in pop-up stores, restaurants or at trade fairs, are often cloud-based.

    In the case of both PC-based and cloud-based till systems, the hardware always works in combination with till software, which has interfaces that have to be compatible with the respective EC terminal. Here’s a list of the till software solutions we think are the most important.

    A company’s individual requirements determine which is the right till system. To find the best solution for your situation, it’s important to consider each system’s functions, costs and, of course, the options for IT integration.

    What do modern EC terminals do?

    The range of functions offered by modern EFT/POS or EC terminals is continually expanding: on the one hand, new payment options always have to be supported (e.g. mobile payment, vouchers etc.). And, on the other hand, new functions are always emerging, e.g. cashback, which allows consumers to withdraw cash directly when they make a purchase. We’ve summarised the most important functions of the latest EC terminals for you here:

    • NFC-Technologie: modern EC terminals support contactless payment: customers can simply touch their card or smartphone to the terminal to pay.
    • Several payment options: modern card readers support various payment options like credit cards, debit cards, vouchers and mobile payments.
    • Fast transaction processing: the latest EC terminals process transactions quickly and reliably to minimise waiting times for customers.
    • Highest security standards: today’s EC terminals use encryption technologies, chip cards and compliance with PCI-DSS standards to provide the highest possible protection for the data of customers and retail companies.
    • Integration in other systems: nowadays, devices have to be integrated seamlessly into other systems like till systems, accounting software or ERP systems, to allow processes to be digitally completed, handled, documented and simplified.
    • Mobility: most current terminals are really small and connect wirelessly to other devices, allowing payment from any location.

    What are the different types of EC terminals?

    The market in EC terminals is huge and constantly evolving. This means that very different types of EC terminals are available at the same time. We’ve summarised the most important types of EC terminals for you here:

    • Stationary EC terminals are usually installed at a fixed location, often at the till in a shop.
    • Mobile EC terminals are not tied to a location and work anywhere. They’re especially useful for companies that are mobile themselves, such as tradespeople or delivery services.
    • Unattended EC terminals are designed for self-service applications and are used at ticket machines, charging stations or in vending machines.
    • All-in-one Android terminals combine all the functions of an Android device and an EC terminal in one. This means you can install a range of useful apps in addition to the basic payment function.

    Which are the most important providers of EC terminals in the DACH region?

    The distribution of EC terminal providers varies widely around the world. We’re going to stick to the three most important providers in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) and take a closer look at them. These providers also play an important role internationally, however.


    Ingenico is one of the leading providers of EC terminals in Europe and offers a whole range of terminal solutions for different industries. In terms of fees, the company offers relatively transparent pricing structures with no hidden costs. Ingenico offers its customers the highest security standards, like PCI DSS and supports contactless transactions and tokenising.


    Verifone is also very prevalent in the DACH region. In terms of fees, Verifone does offer competitive prices, but their composition is not always entirely transparent. The company offers customer-specific pricing structures and discounts for transactions in certain industries. EC terminals from Verifone are likewise PCI DSS-certified. Verifone also offers continual monitoring including an alert message system.


    Worldline is a leading provider of digital payment solutions in Europe. The fees are comparable to the other big providers, but they do vary by country and industry. Worldline really emphasises transparency, offering detailed transaction reports. The company also supports the PCI DSS standard, tokenising and biometric identification.

    There are also a number of other EC terminal providers, such as Paytec or the Dutch provider CCV.

    And by the way: besides pure terminal manufacturers like Verifone, some EC terminal suppliers also act as acquirers and/or payment service providers.

    That’s why there are a number of different factors when it comes to choosing the right partner to provide electronic payments: acquirer fee structures vary on an individual basis depending on country, sales volume and industry. As transaction fees can end up being substantial for larger companies, it’s worth taking the time to check the precise conditions of the different providers for your own circumstances.

    You shouldn’t underestimate the quality of the transaction data as a factor either, because this can make it much easier to automate accounting processes.

    Connecting EC terminals to tills: step by step

    For fast, simple and secure payment completion it’s essential that the till software and EC terminal can communicate. This requires the right till interfaces that are not dependent on the actual hardware.


    Check whether the EC terminal is compatible with the till software

    Communication between the two devices won’t work if the till software doesn’t have the exact communication protocol that’s integrated into the EC terminal. They just won’t understand each other figuratively speaking.

    The problem? Because there is no real standard, there are many different communication protocols – and even more interpretations of these protocols.

    Even though attempts have been made to introduce national or even international standardisation with the ZVT protocol or the Nexo protocol, you can only really call these communication protocols quasi-standards. That’s because the EC terminal providers interpret these protocols differently.

    Connection can become problematic even when both devices supposedly support the same protocol.

    The universal interface Pepper from treibauf supports all the important communication protocols in the DACH region and facilitates the connection of more than 100 different POS terminals. And by the way: Pepper is already integrated into an array of till software solutions. So IT managers don’t have to worry any more about compatibility between EC terminals and till software.

    They can only connect the terminal and continue with step 2 if the right communication protocol is implemented in the till (or they’re using Pepper).


    Connect the EC terminal to the power supply

    The second step is self-explanatory: the EC terminal needs power and has to be switched on.


    Connect the EC terminal to the till

    In the next step, the EC terminal and till are then connected either using a cable or a wireless network connection (WLAN).


    Test the connection between the EC terminal and till

    The connection has to be tested once the EC terminal and till are linked. This means performing a number of test transactions to check the different features and ensure communication between the two components in the company’s daily routine.

    It’s also important to test all the features with different payment methods.

    Do you have any more questions about connecting EC terminals to your till software? Please get in touch for a non-binding consultation.

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