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PCI stands for “Payment Card Industry” and is a set of security standards created by the major credit card brands (Visa®, Mastercard®, Amex®, etc.). The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is the specific set of requirements created to ensure that your business has processed, stored, or transmitted credit card information in a secure environment.

These days, PCI compliance is required for businesses to accept payments and should be top-of-mind when searching for a payment processor.

In addition to protecting your customers, PCI compliance is required by most payment providers. Businesses, small or large, must be PCI compliant or risk fees and penalties. 

What Happens to Non-Compliant Businesses?

The impact of non-compliance is a common question that new businesses ask when they consider the costs of different payment processors. Simply put, the major card brands have severe penalties for not staying compliant.

Since failing to follow these standards increases a client's risk of data breach and fraud, you can be denied the right to process card transactions altogether, in addition to the crippling financial burden fines can cause. No one wants a bad reputation; that’s why it’s essential to go with the most secure processor you can find.

How to Achieve PCI DSS Compliance

PCI DSS is the culmination of two influential organizations; the major card brands (Visa, Amex, Mastercard, etc.) and the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). 

The first step for any business trying to achieve PCI DSS compliance is an assessment of your business to ascertain the required compliance level, a quarterly network scan, and the Attestation of Compliance Form.

For Level 1 organizations (defined below), the assessment should consist of an external audit performed by a QSA (Qualified Security Assessor) or ISA (Internal Security Assessor). They’ll perform an on-site evaluation of your organization to:

  • Validate the scope of the assessment.
  • Review your documentation and technical information.
  • Determine whether the PCI DSS’s requirements are being met.
  • Provide support and guidance during the compliance process; and
  • Evaluate compensating controls.

Are There Different Levels of PCI Compliance?

Yes. A different set of PCI standards are implemented based on the number of transactions your business processes every year. So, it makes more sense for a bank that processes thousands of transactions daily to have stricter compliance regulations than your local-owned barbershop.

There are four levels of PCI Compliance:

  • Level 1:  Businesses that process over 6 million card transactions annually.
  • Level 2:  Businesses that process 1 to 6 million transactions annually.
  • Level 3:  Businesses that process 20,000 to 1 million transactions annually.
  • Level 4:  Businesses that process fewer than 20,000 transactions annually.

It should be noted that these transactions include all aggregated processes across every channel your business uses (POS, online portal, mobile application, etc.). Therefore, the sum of your yearly transactions should tell you what PCI level your business needs to stay within the designated regulations.

Level 1 PCI compliance is the highest and most stringent. However, even if your business processes five transactions per year, it would still fall under Level 4 (least strict) regulations and should be followed to avoid the aforementioned penalties. In addition, if your business suffers a data breach, your compliance level requirement can be moved up to correct any lapses in security.

Merchant Vs. Service Provider

We spoke briefly about Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), but what is the difference between a merchant and a service provider?

PCI compliance isn’t something that is checked off and put away. The regulations are continually updated as technology evolves, and PCI professionals must stay educated and certified to maintain compliant status. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have the resources to dedicate an entire team to compliance. Between regular scans and Self-Assessment Questionnaires (SAQ), you need to meet specific criteria to stay compliant, and working with a service provider can significantly reduce the strain on your staff.

Service providers have different criteria for compliance, and there are only two levels.

  • Level 1:  Service providers who process, transmit, or store more than 300,000 transactions per year.
  • Level 2:  Service providers who process, transmit, or store fewer than 300,000 transactions per year.

What REPAY has to Offer

As mentioned earlier, most businesses do not have the resources, time, or budget to have a dedicated compliance department, instead opting to supplement this process with the services of a third-party processor like REPAY. Processors offer solutions that protect and securely store payment data and help you improve cash flow, reduce costs, and simplify the payment experience.

  • Convenient 24-hour access to payment processing and reporting
  • Omni-channel payment methods, including mobile, text, and web-based virtual terminals
  • Credit and debit card, ACH, and cash payment acceptance
  • PCI DSS compliance at no additional cost
  • Automated recurring billing
  • Fraud detection and prevention
  • Credit card tokenization for secure access to future customer transactions

Reach out today to learn how to make your business PCI-compliant and avoid the hassle of data breaches, fees, and other complications.

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