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Updated by 11.24.2023

How PCI DSS Protects Cardholder Data

Every company accepting credit and debit card payments for goods and/or services must adhere to the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) to safeguard customers’ personal details.

PCI DSS Protects Cardholder Data

Reviewing compliance basics including operation requirements for merchants and their chosen processors will help you avoid breaches. Each party’s transaction volume determines its specific obligations as minimally acceptable practices.

Personal Information

Cardholder data may include:

  • Name
  • Account number
  • Address
  • Card validation data
  • Expiration date
  • Service code
  • Social Security number
  • Sensitive identification and authentication details including magnetic stripe data, security code, and personal identification number (PIN)

As consumers provide more credit and debit cards to merchants, the chances of private information theft increase. Customers expect retailers to handle their confidential records in secure ways. When criminals steal cardholder data, victims go beyond feeling vulnerable. They may quit using associated cards and stop buying from sellers that didn’t protect their data.

Merchant Levels

To combat risks in 2006, major card brands established requirements to ensure that all organizations keep patrons’ transaction information secure during acceptance, processing, transmitting, and storage. PCI DSS combines operational methods with technical measures for retailers to follow when taking and processing cards.

The official standards divide merchants into four tiers by risk levels. To determine your classification, find your yearly card sales volume below:

  • Level 1: Includes vendors handling 6 million annual payments. Card brands may request firms with any transaction quantity to satisfy Level 1 conditions. Requires on-site inspections every year.
  • Level 2: Contains sellers processing 1 million to 6 million payments per year. Requires mandatory annual self-assessment.
  • Level 3: Affects establishments accepting 20,000 to 1 million payments annually. Demands self-evaluation each year.
  • Level 4: Comprises merchants taking under 20,000 online payments per year. Necessitates annual self-assessment.

If your company provides a client-facing internet protocol (IP) address, PCI compliance also requires network scans to appraise your shopping environment’s vulnerability quarterly. They detect possible weak points in your organization’s online system that hackers might be able to infiltrate.

Business Requirements

Your firm’s PCI responsibilities include:

  • Developing and maintaining your network environment securely
  • Safeguarding all cardholder details
  • Managing an ongoing vulnerability program
  • Controlling system access
  • Testing and monitoring your network
  • Providing a continuous data security policy

Even if your business processes card transactions by phone instead of online, following merchant obligations is still mandatory. Any breach compromising your customers’ personal data may move your company to a higher risk level. If you’re launching a new venture or your growing operation is changing tiers, you might want to engage a service provider that’s proficient at PCI compliance. Choose a third party specializing in assessing and remediating such issues.

Compliance includes these four stages typically:

  • Evaluate state: How has your firm positioned itself for PCI compliance currently?
  • Analyze gaps: Determine, document, and prioritize infractions the inspection uncovered.
  • Remediate weaknesses: Resolve all compliance deficiencies.
  • Ongoing appraisals: PCI DSS dictates quarterly and annual assessments. During business growth, new threats require you to deploy additional countermeasures.

Noncompliance Penalties

Monthly charges for not protecting cardholder data may be $5,000 to $100,000. Banks providing companies with merchant accounts incur noncompliance penalties typically. Those financial institutions tend to pass fines onto reckless firms and raise their transaction fees or close their merchant accounts. Other consequences include card replacement expenses, pricey forensic audits, and brand damage following security breaches.

Service Provider Tiers

When you outsource your customers’ payments, your partner must adhere to the PCI DSS and meet compliance obligations by the appropriate tier:

  • Level 1: Encompasses third-party providers processing, transmitting, and/or storing over 300,000 annual transactions. Qualified security assessors (QSAs) conduct on-site data security appraisals yearly. Approved vendors run network scans quarterly.
  • Level 2: Involves suppliers processing, transmitting, and/or storing under 300,000 payments per year. They must complete self-assessment questionnaires annually. Authorized vendors perform network scans quarterly.

E-Complish meets Level 1 criteria as a PCI-compliant service provider. Our popular payment solutions protect corporations and customers around the world against fraudulent credit card charges and data theft. All of our online and phone platforms satisfy the responsibilities of the four PCI compliance levels for healthcare, government utility, financial, ecommerce, and other large-scale business sectors.

Partner with E-Complish today to minimize your compliance liability while decreasing your firm’s overhead costs. Together, we can curtail your risks of experiencing audit failures, security breaches, reputation damage, and steep fines.

Amber Capece
Amber Capece
Amber comes to E-Complish with 12 years of experience in the Hospitality Industry. We are sure you are wondering how…