Can you operate a POS with no internet? The short answer is yes!
You can use a POS with no Wi-Fi (and yes, you can continue to accept card payments). That’s because most modern, cloud-based POS systems include an offline mode.
POS offline mode serves as a failsafe for retailers. It allows the POS to continue to process essential transactions and accept payments without an Wi-Fi connection. Then, when a web connection is restored, the POS system automatically syncs. The POS then processes credit card payments, syncs transaction databases, and updates inventory data.
However, although an offline POS can function without the internet, there are some limitations to this type of set-up. This guide will walk you offline mode, including what it is, how it works, and the limitations of using a cloud POS without Wi-Fi.
Can You Use a POS with No Internet?
Offline mode ensures your business can continue to conduct business (and even accept credit card payments), without a network connection. This, however, is a very basic definition of offline mode. There are some nuances you should understand:
What Is POS Offline Mode?
Offline mode allows the POS to function without internet. Here’s a quick overview:
- Offline mode is triggered in the POS when the Internet connection is instable.
- Offline mode creates a locally stored database that your POS terminals can communicate with.
- Offline mode allows the POS to conduct business as usual.
- All transactions, inventory data, and credit card information is stored temporarily on the local database, e.g. the harddrive of the POS computer.
- Once the connection is restored, all of this data is synced with your cloud database.
- Also, with a restored Wi-Fi connection, credit card transactions will be processed and finalized.
In other words, POS offline mode helps to prevent data loss. This feature is particularly useful for businesses that experience occasional internet or power outages, or that operate in areas with limited interneted connectivity. However, offline mode isn’t designed to be a long-term solution.
What Are the Key Functionalities of Offline Mode?
Remember, offline mode only allows essential functions. Advanced processes or data-intensive tasks may not be supported. Most POS offline modes include:
- Transaction Processing – This mode allows you to complete transactions, accept case, and often take credit card payments without an internet connection.
- Data Syncing – Once the internet connection is restored, offline POS data syncs with the cloud-based database. This prevents loss of sales data.
- Inventory Management – Offline mode makes a local copy of inventory data, which is later synced with the central database. This helps to improve inventory accuracy.
- Customer Management – Some platforms allow you to manage customer details or loyalty programs in offline mode. However, this varies by system.
The key benefit is that the business stays online even when the internet is down.
However, there’s a big potential limitation. In offline mode, how credit card transactions are processed and approved changes.
Is It the Same as a Offline POS Machine?
Users frequently confuse “offline mode” and offline POS system. An offline POS machine is a fully on-premise system that doesn’t require an active internet connection. These systems might offer limited credit card processing, and are ultimately designed for businesses in areas with internet connectivity.
An on-premise POS is similar. However, it requires a local network to allow for multiple POS systems to communicate. Like a cloud POS, however, an on-premise POS still has limitations with credit card processing in offline mode.
Can You Accept Credit Card Payments in Offline Mode?
You can accept credit card payments in offline mode. So, no, you don’t need the internet to continue to “accepting” credit card transactions. (Note: This feature, which is available in FTx POS, depends on your payment processor and POS provider.)
However, the limitation is that you can’t fully process the payment.
Credit card payments require real-time authorization. You swipe the card, and through an internet connection, the system determines if the funds are available.
In offline mode, this real-time authorization can’t happen. That puts businesses at risk, and this is why there may be specific rules you face when it comes to offline credit card processing in your POS. Your processor may use one or a mix of these rules for approving credit card payments in offline mode:
- Store and Forward – This means the POS records the transaction and credit card information securely. Then, when the connection is restored, the transaction forwards to the payment processor, which is known as “delayed authorization”.
- Floor Limit – Businesses and credit card processors may agree on a pre-set “floor” for authorized transactions. If the transaction amount is below the floor, the payment is authorized.
- Stand-In Authorization – Some payment processors provide a proprietary service to authorize offline transactions. For example, a processor might use a customer’s previous transactions to decide whether to approve or decline a transaction.
Ultimately, accepting credit cards in offline mode does carry risks for the business. Real-time authorization checks if the funds are available in the cardholder’s account. Without an authorization, it’s possible the funds are unavailable. Setting floors helps limit risk in these situations.
What Can You NOT Do on a POS with No Wi-Fi?
If you suddenly use internet, your cloud POS will allow you to perform essential functions, take payments, and keep a record of data.
However, offline mode limits real-time, internet-based functions. This includes reporting, e-receipt processing, and potentially, the available payment options you can accept. For example, if you accept mobile payments at the register, you might not be able to.
Here’s a look at what POS features might not be available when the Wi-Fi nework is down:
- Real-time inventory data, analytics and reporting – Data is local and synced later with a central database.
- Digital payments – Generally, you cannot process payments from mobile wallets, crypto payments, or other digital payment options. These options require real-time authorization.
- E–receipts – Email based receipt systems require an internet connection to process.
- 3rd Party Integrations – Your system cannot integrate with third-party apps without a web-based connection. This results in data loss. That’s why it’s best to choose an all-in-one POS that doesn’t require third-party integrations for loyalty, credit card processing, or inventory.
In short, offline mode in a cloud POS is great for short-term outages. However, if you regularly experience network outages, you will need a more reliable network to stay online.