So, you’re a merchant and you’ve heard this acronym, PCI, coupled with that wonderful word: compliance. The thing is, you don’t know what PCI compliance is, why it’s important, or how its affected by your merchant processor. What does PCI even stand for?!
PCI can stand for many things, like Portable Chocolate Ice cream maker, or Personality and Character Index. However, neither of those make any sense, nor are they as interesting as PCI’s true meaning:
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
“But Flashinator, that has more than just P-C-I in it!”
Well, yes, yes it does. That is because PCI is often shortened from PCI-DSS. It’s much less intimidating that way. But what does PCI really mean, and why should you comply? PCI is a set of standards created by the payment card industry (think Visa or Mastercard) to protect customer data and make sure that all processing of said data is secure during any form of transaction. The standards are different for every business, depending on what sort of transactions you process and how many you process every year. The more you process, the more strict the standards are for your company. Most small merchants will typically fall under tier four of PCI compliance by handling fewer than 20,000 transactions every year. Additionally, depending on whether you are in the sales industry, a restaurant, E-commerce, or any other industry, your company will be held to different standards.
Why should you care?
Well Jimmy, you should care about PCI because there’s a fee for not following these standards. It’s called a non-compliance fee, and the cost of the fee changes depending on your merchant processor. For instance, your lovely and friendly neighborhood merchant processor, FlashBanc, charges a $29.99 monthly fee for non-compliance. That’s $359.88 annually! However, if you are PCI compliant, then you only need to pay an annual fee for the services provided in helping you stay compliant. These fees, again, vary from processor to processor. FlashBanc, for instance, charges either a fee of $29.99 or $149 depending on your number of transactions per year. Additionally, this fee may be broken into monthly payments, at a much lower rate than a non-compliance fee, such as FlashBanc’s $12.41 (or less) monthly fee.
How Do I Become Compliant?
Great Question! Fortunately for you Mr/Ms. Merchant Sir/Ma’am, most processors do a large amount of the work for you. The only work required on your side is to fill out an annual questionnaire and follow the standards. The questionnaire can be annoying, but not filling it out leads to that pesky non-compliance fee, so it’s better to just do it. The form consists of questions such as what sort of business you are, what kind of types of payments you take, where your payment-accepting facilities are located, and if you use any, what kind of vendors you use. That’s it! All done! Just a moment of your time and a small service fee from your processor and you too can protect your customer’s data!