One of life's little irritations is being out of the necessary supplies to run your business. This blog is dedicated to thermal paper; the most common type of paper used in today's credit card terminals.
What is Thermal Paper?(We visited Wikipedia for the technical answer)
Thermal paper is a special fine paper that is coated with a chemical that changes color when exposed to heat. It is used in thermal printers and particularly in inexpensive or lightweight devices such as adding machines, cash registers, and credit card terminals.
The surface of the paper is coated with a solid-state mixture of a dye and a suitable matrix; a combination of a fluoran leuco dye and octadecylphosphonic acid as an example. When the matrix is heated above its melting point, the dye reacts with the acid, shifts to its colored form, and the changed form is then conserved in a metastable state when the matrix solidifies back quickly enough. Usually, the coating will turn black when heated, but coatings that turn blue or red are sometimes used. While an open heat source, such as a flame, can discolor the paper, a fingernail swiped quickly across the paper will also generate enough heat from friction to produce a mark.
Not handling thermal paper properly can render your receipts useless.
- Since credit card receipts need to be kept for 18 months, it is important to take care of your thermal receipts properly.
- Keep thermal receipts away from extreme temperatures & humidity
- Avoid prolonged exposure to light
- Do not store thermal documents with other paper types (the coating can actually affect the other papers)
Keeping your receipts is an important part of accepting credit cards as the signature and card data contained on the receipts can help you prevent losses. Thermal paper is ideal for the short term storage of your receipts (anything longer than 5 years would require a different type of paper).
The coating on thermal paper makes the receipts more difficult to sign. Having a piece of card stock placed on your counter, is a great idea. Your customers will find it much easier to sign their receipt when the receipt is lying on top of the card stock. You can also make gel pens available- although they can be a bit messy. Sharpies are always a great options but they do tend to walk out the door (those pens are AWESOME!).
Where Do I Find Thermal Paper:
Most thermal paper is easy to find these days.
- Total Merchant Concepts carries all sizes of Thermal Paper for our merchants
- Most office supply stores have a good supply to choose from
- Variety stores, like Fred Meyers, typically have a small supply
- Tiny rolls of paper (for wireless devices) are MORE expensive and typically have to be special ordered. You can always purchase the larger rolls and pull enough off of each roll so they fit into your terminal (do the math on this option because it can save you time & money depending on your usage).
Getting creative can prevent the worse case scenario from happening (being caught with NO thermal paper)!
- Make sure you check with your neighbors to see if they use the same type of paper that you do; future paper emergencies can be handled in no time when you are aware of your closest options.
- Supply waiver programs that offer free or reduced cost supplies can be great as long as you use enough paper and you remember to order! At TMC, we suggest this program when you use more than 12 rolls of paper per month and we offer our merchants the ability to have reminders set to get their paper ordered.
- Set an appointment (really) to order your paper BEFORE you run out.
Having the necessary supplies to process your cards is important and knowing how to take proper care of thermal paper will help you keep legible records!