Credit Card Rolls – Thermal vs Bond Paper

By Nicole Tinkham


If you’re purchasing paper rolls, you most likely need them for a POS cash register, credit card machine, or adding machine. They‘re small (1 ½” to 3 ¼” wide) rolls of thin paper that all look the same. There are differences though, or else there wouldn’t be a need for this blog! One of the main things you need to identify is whether you need thermal rolls (for a thermal printer) or regular bond paper rolls. Because they look so similar, you need to be careful when making your purchase. In this blog, you’ll learn everything there is to know about paper rolls so you can identify the differences and tell them apart when making your next purchase.

Thermal Rolls

Thermal printers require thermal paper – easy as that. But what is thermal paper and how does it work? To answer this question, we are going to talk a little science. Thermal paper is different from regular bond paper in that it’s coated with a mixture of dye and chemicals. When heated above melting point, the dye reacts to the chemicals causing a shift to a colored form (typically black but occasionally blue or red). The print head in the machine is able to heat the correct areas of the paper, making it legible.


Thermal paper contains three layers, although you wouldn’t notice by looking at it.

  1. The substrate layer is basically just the paper.
  2. The base layer acts as a binding element made from starches, gelatin, and alkali salts. This layer allows the heat to move through the paper.
  3. The active layer contains the chemicals that make the paper react to heat.
  4. An additional protective layer helps prevent the paper from fading. Not all thermal papers contain this layer.


Now that you know how thermal paper works, it’s important to be able to identify them. Because thermal rolls look almost identical to bond paper rolls, make sure you read the packaging. It will clearly state if they are thermal rolls or not. You will also notice some differences in the feel of the paper. Thermal rolls have an almost slick surface and can be hard to write on with a pen, whereas regular paper rolls feel like ordinary copy paper. Since the dye appears with heat, the swipe of a finger nail can produce a black mark on the surface of thermal paper.


This question pertains more to the printer since a thermal printer requires thermal paper. These printers have many benefits including low maintenance and less break downs because of the fewer moving parts (making it more cost effective). Since the ink is in the thermal paper, separate ink refills are not required, also cutting down on cost.

Bond Paper Rolls

If you do not have a thermal printer, you will need bond paper rolls. These don’t contain a chemical coating and are much like regular copy paper.

Things to keep in mind

Whether you’re purchasing thermal or bond paper rolls, there are some things to keep in mind when making your purchase, like size. Credit card rolls come in a few different widths and lengths. Width usually ranges from 1 ¾” to 3 ¼” with lengths measuring 14 ft to 2,500 ft (for ATM machines) and everywhere in between. Credit card verification kits are also available. These often come with several bond paper rolls, a ribbon, and a cleaning card. Something else to consider is the ply number. Single, two and even three ply rolls are available in canary, white, and pink.

If there’s one thing to take away from this post, it’s to recognize whether or not you have a thermal printer. Also, read package labels to be sure you are purchasing the correct type of paper rolls. As always, we are here to help. If you’re unsure which type or size you need or want further information on how thermal printers work, stop in, give us a call (941-747-2995), or post your question in the comment box below. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, for more helpful office/art supply information!

4 thoughts on “Credit Card Rolls – Thermal vs Bond Paper

  1. Hi. I had to register a transaction on a credit card machine and there was almost no paper in the machine. The amount of the transaction as well as the personal pin code has been entered. Has the transaction been registered though no receipt has been printed? Thank you very much for answering.

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