Electronic Ticket Capture

Electronic Ticket Capture (ETC) systems are the devices with which a retailer “swipes” your card when you make a credit card purchase. The device reads your account information from the magnetic strip on the back of the card, adds the amount, date and type of purchase being made, then codes and sends that information to the processing system.

In the 1970s, when credit cards became commonplace in the industrialized nations, there were no electronic ticket capture devices available. Cards were “swiped” through a manual machine which copied the embossed information from the card onto a multi-sheet, carbon-paper sales form. Your yellow “customer copy” was separated from the others and handed to you with the cash register receipt.

At the end of the day, all of the sales slips were manually entered into the retail merchant’s books and then taken to the bank. They were then manually entered into a processing system which took days to process. After this time-consuming, labor-intensive procedure was completed, funds were credited to the merchant’s account as the cardholders’ accounts were debited for their purchases.

With growth and technology came a much more streamlined procedure, and the devices to make it work. The creation of electronic banking services, with its batch transfers and computerized communications, introduced the means to handle many credit card transactions in a small amount of time.

The introduction of the magnetic strip on the back of the credit card, along with the device to read and process the information there, inaugurated a new era in credit card commerce. The device reads the information on the back of the card, the merchant simply enters his account number and the amount of the transaction, the information is sent through the approval and completion process – and another sale is consummated.

Many different devices have become available to merchants, each offering more and more services as time and technology marched on. Those first electronic ticket capture devices, which took the sales info and customer info separately, gradually advanced to the point where the cash register and the scanning device were linked together. Now the same process that was initiated with a manual carbon copy of the card, then progressed to a multi-stage entry process, has advanced even further, making it unnecessary for the merchant to do anything but swipe the card. The merchant’s information, as well as the sales amount from the register, is electronically sent through the system with the credit card information. Over time, steps were removed and the process was streamlined.

The next advance in electronic ticket capture devices came when the device was linked not only to the cash register but to the merchant’s computer system as well. Now when a sales clerk swipes your card, all of the sales information and your account information is sent through the processing system while, internally, the merchant’s inventory is automatically updated and his bookkeeping is done. One swipe and all of that information is automatically entered into several different databases instantly.

Lately, with major supermarkets competing for customers, the customer card which offers points for purchases, discounts, contest entry, air miles and a whole host of other services has added another dimension to the services offered by electronic ticket capture devices. Now before you swipe your credit card, the cashier may ask you to swipe your customer card through the same device, or enter your customer code (often your phone number) on the card device’s keypad. But instead of sending that information through the credit processing network, that information is sent into the merchant’s database for their own internal uses.

From manual machines that copied the embossed information from the card onto a carbon-copy slip, to multipurpose electronic ticket capture devices, payment processing services have certainly come a long way.