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What is PCI compliant credit card processing and why it matters

8/15/2016

A topic that isn’t discussed often, in regards to accepting credit and debit cards as a form of payment in your business, is PCI Compliance.  Just knowing what PCI is, and what costs are real or not, is a serious amount of firepower for a merchant. Some merchants work hard to get great pricing on their credit card processing, only to realize later that there is more profit in their PCI Non-Compliance than in the processing itself. By knowing about processing and PCI, you are far better able to reduce your bottom line.  This article was written with the merchant in mind. What should you pay for Compliance, Non-Compliance, and how can a merchant avoid PCI Fees entirely?

What is PCI?

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council is comprised of the major credit card associations (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Japan Card). These associations have established a set of security standards to ensure that merchants and service providers follow best practices in order to reduce credit card fraud and security breaches. By accepting VISA and MasterCard payments, merchants and service providers are required to become Payment Card Industry compliant.

Why PCI matters?

Every merchant that gets charged a PCI Compliance Fee, or PCI Non-Compliance Fee should know every detail of the topic, yet few do anything about the charges on their statement. These merchants assume PCI fees are a necessary cost of doing business in many cases.  Don't make this mistake with your business

What does PCI Compliance mean to business owners?

As part of your Merchant Services Agreement, the Merchant is required to be PCI Compliant with their processing equipment, and by completing an annual PCI Self Questionnaire. All equipment manufactured since 2009 are PCI Compliant, so if you have a newer terminal, odds are you are covered. You can always ask your provider if your terminal is compliant as well. The Merchant Self Questionnaire must be completed within 60 days of boarding a new account, as well as every year in January. The Self Questionnaire is probably the most overlooked profit center for providers in the industry today. There is a cost to service merchants, to providers, who have not done the Self Questionnaire as required annually. In addition, providers will have to implement a Card Assist Program on an account that has not fulfilled the annual requirement of the Self Questionnaire. Some of the best programs have a cost of just under $24 per month for Non-Compliance and Card Assist programs. However, there are providers who charge well over $24 per month for the same protection.

What if I have done the Self Questionnaire, my equipment is PCI Compliant, but I am still being charged a PCI Fee?

This answer is simple: You are paying a 100% revenue stream to your provider. If you have PCI compliant equipment, and you have done the PCI questionnaire, there are no costs to the provider for PCI Compliance. You can save money by switching to a credit card processing provider who does not charge for PCI when it isn’t necessary.

How am I supposed to remember to do the Self Questionnaire every January? You shouldn’t. Most providers have your email address on file, and will send you a message in advance of the requirement, as well as a way for you to do that online with instructions. It is suggested that if you don’t know if you have an email address on file with your provider, or if they send notifications to you annually, that you call the provider to find out. Remember that some providers see this as a revenue stream, so they will not notify you of PCI Self Questionnaires to miss out on the money.

I still have more questions about PCI Compliance.

If you still have question about PCI compliance and how it's effecting your business please feel free to contact us with questions.  It also might be a good time to review your credit card processing statement to make sure you are paying the best rates and receiving the best service as well.

 

RF

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