Common PCI Compliance Myths for Merchants

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Happy customers can be a huge blessing in a business. Giving discounts, giving unique in-store experiences and a wide variety of products are ways companies focus on customer satisfaction. One of the most critical factors towards customer satisfaction is their sensitive data safe.

If someone makes a purchase at your business and starts facing fraudulent transactions, they are sure to have a wrong impression of your store for a long time.

Being PCI compliant is the best way to ensure that you are doing your part in protecting cardholder information. Getting validated with PCI standards is one of the most challenging aspects of accepting merchants’ payments.

Despite the toughness, PCI compliance can be worthwhile, especially if you take the standing of your processing accounts, customer data safety, and customer relations into account. Several myths go along with getting PCI validated. This article aims to address the myths of PCI compliance and address the misunderstandings to make the right decision.

Myth: PCI compliance is not necessary for small businesses

PCI compliance has a complicated set of criteria to meet. As a result, many merchants have the false belief that only businesses that process large volumes of transactions are required to be PCI compliant.

The reality is that all companies that conduct transactions using credit cards or alternatives need to be PCI compliant to protect cardholder data. This includes businesses that may not even be active the whole year. The fact is that PCI compliance is broken down into four levels to cater to differences in business size. The levels are;

Level 4:

Smaller businesses fall into this category. This includes processing less than twenty thousand dollars in Visa e-commerce transactions, or lesser than one million transactions of any type in one year.

Level 3:

Businesses that process Visa e-commerce transactions between twenty thousand to one million dollars annually need to maintain level 3 of PCI compliance.

Level 2:

This level is for merchants processing from one to six million dollars annually. These transactions have to be Visa e-commerce spanning across all channels.

Level 1:

This is the highest level of PCI compliance, and it is for businesses that are considered significant in transaction volume. Companies that process more than six million dollar Visa transactions, regardless of type or channel, fall into this category.

Each level of PCI compliance usually becomes more complicated and costly in processing. But the requirements for the validation of PCI from level 2 to 4 are almost the same. They have to submit a self-assessment questionnaire and attestation of compliance every year.

Each quarter, these businesses have to get a vulnerability scan of their system from an approved scan vendor. There is an additional requirement for a level one merchant because of the transaction volume. A compliance report has to be submitted four times a year through an internal auditor or a qualified security assessor.

Myth: Only e-commerce companies need to be PCI compliant

Any company that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder information is recommended to maintain PCI compliance. Factually speaking, merchants who process cardholder information through POS terminals are at more risk of breaches in cardholder data than e-commerce stores.

It is much easier to compromise physical data if it is not protected. This is usually when non-compliant POS terminals store card data without encrypting it. There can be heavy fines for security compromises that happen because of this.

Myth: You don’t need to meet all PCI criteria

PCI compliance is a minimum standard of security that merchants can protect cardholder information. This means that anyone who falls below the minimum standard does not qualify for PCI compliance.

Therefore, meeting all the PCI SSC requirements is a must for any merchant to be PCI compliant. PCI compliance is a foundation for merchants to add even better security protocols, which can reduce the need for PCI assessments and even cut compliance costs. Hence, meeting all the criteria for essential PCI compliance is a must.

Myth: It is mandated by federal law to be PCI compliant

People have a misconception about the government’s involvement in the enforcement of PCI regulations. The reality is that these standards and requirements are set by the Major card brands that own credit and debit cards.

The payment card industry, commonly known as the PCI, devised the data security standard (DSS). The banks and merchant service providers enforce this. There are no law enforcement agencies involved.

This myth has been allowed to exist on purpose by credit card associations. There are a few benefits of not addressing such a widespread inconsistency.

When merchants believe that PCI compliance is enforced by law, they are more likely to stay compliant. Furthermore, merchants are less resistant to pay non-compliance fees when they feel like the card industry has no control over the regulations.

It can be classified as slightly deceptive, but if PCI compliance is not enforced by law, it does not mean that it isn’t essential. PCI compliance is a powerful way to avoid data breaches and fraud. Breaches in data can be very costly for merchants and processors, and they can be detrimental to customer trust.

Myth: You can avoid PCI compliance by outsourcing credit card processing

Suppose merchants do not opt for payment processors that provide merchant accounts. In that case, the other option is to sign up with a payment service provider to process credit card payments. Payment service providers such as clover and square are sometimes lower in costs. They can ease the responsibilities of a merchant, such as PCI compliance.

However, even if you are provided with POS terminals and software that comes PCI compliant from the processor, you are not necessarily free of PCI compliance. As a merchant, you may not have to fill out self-assessment questionnaires, but there are still a few requirements that you may have to fulfill.

You may have to install antivirus programs on all your systems, keep individual logins, restrict access to cardholder data and have proper storage and protection of the data. Violations leading to the compromise of data in this area are likely to incur a heavy fine.

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