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Why PCI Compliance Matters

If your business accepts credit card payments, then you’ve probably heard the term PCI compliance before. Unfortunately, for most business owners, the first time they hear about PCI compliance is when they're being charged PCI non-compliance fees on their month processing statement.

PCI compliance is a complicated topic at best, and without a clear explanation as to why it's important, it can be hard to understand why PCI compliance should matter to your business.

Below is an overview of what PCI compliance is and why it's important to both your business and your customers.

What is PCI?

Let’s start off with the term PCI, which stands for Payment Card Industry.

The PCI DSS, or Data Security Standard, is a set of rules and standards for businesses to follow to make sure they’re safely storing customer credit card information. The PCI DSS applies to any business that accepts or stores cardholder data, regardless of their size or industry.

The PCI DSS was developed by the PCI Security Standards Council, a group formed by the five major card brands (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and JCB). This council was created to improve data security standards for credit card payments, educate business owners, and hold companies accountable to the DSS to help keep customer credit card data safe.

Now that we know what the PCI DSS is, let’s get into some of its implications.

What happens if you don’t follow the PCI DSS?

The PCI DSS is not a law, but there are penalties for not becoming compliant with the standard. If your business doesn’t follow the PCI DSS, you may be forced to pay a steep fine, and your bank may end your banking relationship or raise their cost of transaction fees. The penalties incurred can vary, and some can be devastating for small businesses. It’s always best to be fully compliant in order to avoid expensive fines.

Of course, a business that’s not PCI compliant is also vulnerable to data breaches. Such a breach could cost you thousands of dollars in damages, lose the respect and trust of your customers, and decimate your reputation.

Becoming PCI Compliant

So how can you become PCI compliant? The process is different for each business, but overall, there are two main steps that you will need to take.

First, you must complete an online PCI SAQ, or self-assessment questionnaire, which guides you through a series of questions concerning your business, existing practices for accepting and storing credit card data, and your current network security. This questionnaire serves as a quick audit of your payment infrastructure and helps you to report on whether or not your business complies with the PCI DSS.

Second, depending on the size of your business, you may need to pass a vulnerability scan. This scan is performed by an approved vendor who will remotely review your local network to look for any weaknesses that could be exploited.

Why PCI compliance matters

Ultimately, PCI compliance matters a great deal for both you and your customers.

Adhering to the PCI DSS means that you’re vigorously protecting your customers’ card information and defending against data breaches. You’ll earn the respect and trust of your customers when they learn that you go to great lengths to ensure their sensitive information is kept safe from hackers and would-be thieves.

And, of course, becoming PCI compliant means you won’t have to pay any expensive penalties or fines. You’re investing in the long-term health of your business and stepping up to a higher standard of payment security.

Although PCI compliance is a complicated topic, it’s important that your business does the work to reach compliance. Whether you choose to upgrade your own system or use a third-party company, PCI compliance is a crucial requirement for ensuring the safety of sensitive cardholder information.

Have more questions? Need help finding out if your business is PCI compliant?

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