A new product designed to reduce the potential for card skimming will be available by early November, says Bellatrix Systems Inc., developer of the Card At Table Service.

Unlike other payment-acceptance devices that enable consumers to pay at the table, the Card At Table Service system relies on a magnetic stripe card reader that attaches to a guest check presenter, the folder containing the bill.

Customers swipe their cards in the reader after reviewing the bill inside the presenter, adding a tip amount and signing the receipt. A successful read illuminates a green light on the device alerting the server to pick up the check.

The point-of-sale system reads the data from the reader as a card-present transaction, says William Raven, Bellatrix senior vice president of sales and marketing. This system does not change how the restaurateur does business, he notes.

The PCI-compliant Card At Table Service also requires minimal training for servers, and it could eliminate a social pitfall of typical pay-at-the-table POS terminals–servers need not stay at the table to ensure the POS device is monitored while the customer fills out the tip amount, Raven says.

Pay-at-the-table services are popular in many European cities, but tips often are included in the bill presented to customers, Raven says.

Restaurants are frequent source for card-skimming incidents. An employee at a Wendy’s restaurant in Seattle, for example, last week allegedly used a skimmer to capture sensitive cardholder data (see story).

Bellatrix’s research found there is no certification process with payment processors for the mag-stripe reader, Raven says. “The CATS readers are employed prior to the entry of data [into] the POS software, which is in turn certified by the payment processors,” he says.

For $1,850, restaurateurs receive 10 card readers, two chargers and two docking stations. A typical restaurant POS system may cost $40,000 or more, Raven says. Readers accept one transaction at a time, he notes. The Card At Table Service should be available through various resellers, including independent sales organizations, when it becomes available, Raven says, noting Bellatrix has not yet established a revenue-share model.

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