How do cashless systems install in vending equipment?
A vending machine with cashless equipment installed looks like other vending equipment, except that it includes the cashless equipment in addition to (or instead of) a bill validator and coin mechanism.
The cashless equipment may include a card reader, a slot for an electronic key, or a PIN pad for the user. Most cashless systems also include a 2-line display that works with the vending machine's display to make the experience simple for the user.
Cashless systems can be installed in any modern vending machine that supports the Data Exchange (DEX) and Multi Drop Bus (MDB) standard NAMA protocols. MDB allows the cashless system to communicate with the vending machine controller (VMC) and credit the system with cash value during a consumer purchase.
Most new equipment today supports later MDB protocols that also allow the consumer to recharge stored value at any vending machine that accepts currency.
DEX allows the VMC to communicate the cashless and cash data to the operator's software system via a handheld computer or remote monitoring system for cash accountability purposes.
Costs vary depending on functionality
How much does cashless equipment cost on a per machine basis? It varies, even by each provider, depending on the options chosen. Operators should plan on spending $250 to $650 per machine for the in-machine hardware.
For closed stored value systems, additional costs are generally required for programming equipment, cards and keys, and recharge stations.
For closed, "online" systems, a software-based server is generally required and some type of networking is required for communication between the machines and the server.
For credit/debit card systems, monthly networking fees and processing fees are required.
How has technology helped? Advances in technology have paved the way for easy adoption of cashless technology despite challenging issues in the past. The chart on the opposite page lists several challenges and solutions related to cashless deployment and technology.
Closed Cashless Systems
Closed cashless systems are perfect for environments where there is a captive audience that is best served by enabling another form of payment besides cash.
I suggest the following guidelines when choosing a stored value system versus an online system. Both systems can be used with foodservice point-of-sale terminals.
Choose a stored value system when:
- Cost and complexity are factors. Stored value systems are very cost effective and easy to install because no wired or wireless connection is needed between machines.
- You want to enable consumers to try "credit card" vending, but at a lower cost to you. A single recharge station can serve several banks of machines, and because money is transferred in greater quantities to the cashless system, (typically $10 or more), credit card processing fees are minimized.
- You want a system that will be easy to maintain.
- Using the cashless provider's "key" or "card" is convenient to the end users. The keys are typically very small and can be stored on a keychain or worn around the neck.
Choose Online systems when:
- You desire to support an existing consumer ID system (magnetic card, ID badge, hotel or resort key) and the cashless provider can provide this support.
- Seamless integration into other software systems is needed and must be done in real time, such as a hotel system with billing to the room, or a factory where an ID card is used for automatic payroll deduction.
- Part of the solution involves restricting what can be vended based on the identification of the consumer, such as a middle school student whose parents only authorize organic foods.
- The account is willing to provide connectivity (Ethernet or Wi Fi) for you to use at each machine.