Credit Card Processing and the Digital Receipt

Traditional paper sales receipts could be on their way out, replaced by receipts that are emailed directly to the shopper. In fact, digital receipts are already the norm when it comes to mobile credit card processing, which refers to a smart phone or other mobile device to process the transaction. While an approved receipt may streamline the sales process and be an excellent green alternative, some consumers are not 100 percent behind this development.

A growing number of major retailers – including Sears, Kmart, Best Buy and Apple – already offer a digital receiver to customers at the register. Tom Aiello, division vice president at Sears Holdings Management Corp., told CreditCards.com that his company views the electronic receipt as a smart service for members of its Shop Your Way Rewards program. "Even if you happen to lose the email, you always have access to your digital receipt," he explains, noting that shoppers can access their receipt on the Web and on their mobile phones as well as from their email accounts.

E-receipts are also thought to make returns easier and be a deterrent to fraudulent returns, which the National Retail Federation estimates will cost merchants well over $ 14 billion this year alone. That's because not only are the receipts readily available to shoppers, but they can also be accessed at the register by a sales associate.

Tech-savvy consumers who are accredited to checking their various accounts online will probably welcome the arrival of the digital receipt, particularly if they need to return an item. Keeping track of digital files can be easier and less space- and time-consuming than keeping a paper file, plus the chances of losing an e-receipt are lower.

However, many cardholders have become wary of having their personal data and shopping habits tracked by retailers, especially when the information is used for marketing purposes. While some shoppers appreciate having personalized offers sent to them, others consider them invasive.

Not surprisingly, early-adopter retailers take a different view of the situation and consider it an added service to their customers. "This really starts to open up opportunities that a paper receipt just can not," says Aiello. "If the customer has shown interest in certain things, [he or she will receive] recommendations as part of the digital receipt."

So it appears that consumers have yet another decision to make when out shopping: Will that receive be paper or electronic? Their choice will be based on their own level of comfort with the process and their tolerance for personalized marketing offers. Which would you choose?

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