Can you add a card reader to an old vending machine

Wait! Can you add a card reader to an old vending machine? For vending machine operators, the ability to accept credit, debit and contactless payments is vital to maximize sales in today’s cashless society. But is adding new electronic payment systems feasible with older equipment?

This guide examines key factors in upgrading old vending machines to support card-based transactions. We outline compatibility requirements, integration steps, costs, and the revenue benefits of enabling modern electronic payments.

Can you add a card reader to an old vending machine?

Can you add a card reader to an old vending machine

Assessing Machine Compatibility

The first step is determining if the vending machine can technically support integrating a new card reader.

Things to evaluate:

  • Age of Controller Board – Older than mid-1990s may lack capacity to interface new peripherals like card readers.
  • Controller Ports – Require a serial or USB port to connect a card reader. Machines lacking these cannot be upgraded easily.
  • Power Supply – Ensure ample wattage for adding a reader’s power demands.
  • Space Limitations – Measure to confirm physical space exists to mount a reader.
  • Software Limitations – Older machine software may not be programmable for new features like cashless vending.

Ideally the machine should be from the late 1990s or newer when more advanced controllers with peripheral support became common.

Selecting a Card Reader

If machine compatibility is confirmed, choose an MDB or DEX protocol reader designed to interface vending machine controllers. Wireless Bluetooth models provide flexible mounting. EMVL2 certification ensures secure card processing compliance.

Look for compact, rugged readers with built-in tap-to-pay that work with major payments processors. They should easily program into your machine’s control board.

Installation Considerations

Factor these elements when installing the new card reader:

  • Mount reader in a noticeable but secure location, often replacing the coin return slot.
  • Ensure the reader head is positioned appropriately based on vending machine design.
  • Use provided harness to connect MDB/DEX interface to the machine’s controller board.
  • Connect a USB reader directly to an interior USB port on the vending machine if available.
  • Tap into the power supply to power the reader separately from the machine’s main power.
  • Program vending machine controller to initialize the reader and integrate transactions.

Well-planned reader placement and wiring for optimal functionality is crucial for long-term reliability.

Programming and Integration

The vending machine’s control board needs proper programming to enable the card reader. This may require a software update to the machine’s operating firmware depending on model.

Programming links the reader to the machine controller to authorize and process payments through the reader seamlessly. This requires vending operator expertise to configure unless turnkey solutions exist for your equipment brand.

Costs of Upgrading

Upgrading vending machines to accept cards involves:

  • Card reader hardware: $200 – $400
  • Programming/installation fees: $100 – $300
  • Potential control board upgrades: $400 – $600

While not cheap, the $700 – $1,300 investment per machine can pay for itself quickly from increased sales.

For older machines, repair parts like wires or boards may also be needed, adding costs. Weigh expenses against each machine’s earning potential before upgrading.

Increased Revenue Potential

Enabling card-based transactions provides:

  • 10-25% sales lifts from improved convenience and accessibility
  • Higher transaction amounts from less cash restriction
  • Ability to expand food/drink selections to higher pricepoints
  • Reduced cash storage needs and risk
  • Future-proofing to meet consumer payment expectations

Faqs about Can you add a card reader to an old vending machine

Q: How do I know if my old vending machine can support a card reader?

A: Check that it has an advanced enough controller board and either a serial port, USB port or adapter board to interface with a reader. Also ensure sufficient power and physical space exists.

Q: What are examples of compatible vending machine brands?

A: Most late 1990s or newer machines like Royal, USI, Seaga, Automatic Products, Crane National, Dixie Narco can likely support upgrades.

Q: What if my machine lacks the right ports?

A: Adapter boards can sometimes retrofit unsupported machines to add a serial or USB port. But upgrades may ultimately be very difficult or impossible on old or proprietary equipment.

Q: Can I install the card reader myself?

A: If you lack experience with machine wiring and programming, it’s advisable to hire a reputable vending service company to handle the installation and integration work.

Q: How long does it take to recoup the upgrade costs?

A: With additional sales from card transactions, ROIs of less than a year are common. Ideal high-volume machines can often pay for upgrades in just a few months.


While not always straightforward, adding card readers to older vending machines is feasible in many cases with professional upgrades to hardware and software. For qualified operators, enabling modern electronic payments greatly improves convenience for customers and sales revenue. Given the substantial profit impact, integrating payment card acceptance should be a priority upgrade when possible on equipment from the late 1990s and 2000s.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top