What to Know About PCI DSS Compliance

All companies that process credit card transactions are required to adhere to the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). Since payment hacking has afflicted many businesses, PCI compliance standards are strict. For any person pondering on starting a business abroad, here is an overview of PCI compliance requirements.

What Exactly Are PCI Compliance Requirements?

Any businessman who accepts payment through debit or credit cards is charged with keeping their client’s data safe. Merchants are also required to observe correct measures when handling a cardholder’s information. The PCI Security Standards Council is the authority involved with establishing and maintaining PCI Data Standards. The council lays out the requirements for merchants to ensure cardholder hacking activities are prevented, detected, and responded to accordingly.

These PCI standards were developed for the protection of both businesses and their clients from cyber-crime activities. Adhering to PCI compliance is crucial for any business, even though it is often disregarded by many businesses. PCI compliance is hence regarded as the golden standard for processing payment information with utmost discretion without discarding away papers with personal information on it or exposing your profile, transaction history, or account numbers.

What Are The PCI Compliance Levels?

PCI compliance comprises of four levels. The size of your enterprise, the number of transactions you deal with, and the type of transactions you complete every year will determine your level of PCI compliance. Every business falls into one of these four levels of compliance.

Level 1 is for businesses that transact over 6 million credit card transactions annually. Level 2 is for transactions of between one and 6 million per year, whereas level 3 is for transactions of from 20,000 to one million per year. If you are opening a small business abroad, level 4 may be suited for you if your transactions are less than 20,000 annually.

Why Is PCI Compliance Important?

Cybercriminals take advantage of security gaps. These vulnerabilities can arise from card payment processing or if you are in an inadequately secured environment where credit card data is being processed. Credit cardholder data entails the primary account number or PAN, and components such as the cardholder’s name, the card’s service code, and the card’s expiration date. 

Cybercriminals also watch out for vulnerabilities in the payment chain so they can steal details like personal data like your names, phone numbers, and addresses, and credit card details. Therefore, businesses should secure cardholder data to ensure controls are put in place to handle personal information securely. Cyber-attacks are not the only motivation for PCI compliance. Data can be compromised through an intentional or accidental employee error.

Failing to comply with PCI standards can cause a damaging fallout for many merchants if the cardholder’s data has been breached. It can lead to monetary losses, penalties, and termination of the authority to process credit card transactions. Most importantly, not complying with PCI standards can cause the loss of customer confidence and will damage your business’ reputation and brand.

How Can You Get Started With PCI Compliance?

The first step towards PCI compliance is establishing a committee. The committee will be charged with gauging the PCI compliance level and requirements that apply to the organization. The committee is also responsible for:

  • Establishing and testing controls that apply to secure payment processing
  • Gathering evidence that demonstrates compliance efforts
  • Identifying and rectifying security loopholes and control gaps
  • Ensuring the company’s compliance with PCI DSS standards all the time.

How Does One Instill PCI Compliance In Your Everyday Processes

Some of the few steps of instilling PCI compliance in your daily processes is through taking the following measures:

  • Make sure you collect credit card data on a secure web page. Make sure you search for the lock icon and the https in your browser bar.
  • Make sure your payment processing systems are PCI compliant.
  • Always ask for a CVV security code when you are processing payments online or via telephone. Make sure your payment processing method does not maintain this information. Request for this code every time you are confirming that the one authorizing a transaction has its credit card.
  • Always remind your customers never to send their credit card information through regular email and never to reply with sensitive information like account numbers.


If you are planning on opening a new business that will be dealing with credit and debit card processing abroad, PCI DSS compliance is not important for your benefit but also for your customers. Compliance helps you gain credibility with customers and also helps you secure sensitive customer data from cybercriminals. It also prevents you from closing up prematurely and avoiding huge losses and penalties. PCI DSS compliance is the golden standard for any business that cares about its future and the welfare of its clients.

Author Bio:

Jordan MacAvoy is the Vice President of Marketing at Reciprocity Labs and manages the company’s go-to-market strategy and execution. Prior to joining Reciprocity, Mr. MacAvoy served in executive roles at Fundbox, a Forbes Next Billion Dollar Company, and Intuit, via their acquisition of the SaaS marketing and communications solution, Demandforce.

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