Merchant Services - Resources, Information, Education

Merchant Services - Resources, Information, Education

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Interchange Fee Facts for Merchant Consideration

Posted by Sharon Robb on

Bank Vault for Interchange Fee Collections The interchange fee –a fee within the overall cost of a single credit card transaction, is confusing to most merchants (rightly so).  But understanding the concept is doable and important, as it is undoubtedly the bulk of the cost in that transaction. Its management then, is essential to all payment card processing merchants.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of incorrect information defining the fee, and the complex relationships between the factors that influence it.  Let’s sort through it – in basic order.

Visa and MasterCard credit cards (called “bankcards”) are not issued by the company’s themselves, but by banks (and credit unions, organizations, retailers) all across the country whom they contract with to market and manage the credit cards.  American Express and Discover issue their own cards. 

The interchange fee/rate is one component of the cost of a credit card transaction.  It is determined by the interchange category the credit card transaction falls into. The interchange category and the interchange rate are set by the individual card brands (all of them).

These established interchange categories number literally in the hundreds (approximately 700 total).  Below are some of the complex variables considered by all the brands relative to the single transaction, that determine the transactions processing interchange category (whew, peter piper…) – keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list!)

  1. Card type – credit or debit? basic? rewards? higher rewards? government procurement?
  2. Method or how processed and “environment” – was the card swiped? Keyed?  NFC (Near Field Communications)?  Was it through an e-commerce site? mobile phone?
  3. Data collected on the transaction? Zip code? CVV code? Level 3?
  4. Size or amount of the transaction?
  5. Type of business processing the card?

*Noteworthy significance - when the credit card transaction is complete, the payment processor pays this interchange fee to the card issuing bank - NOT your bank, and NOT your processor.  That convoluted, substantial interchange fee goes to a bank that you have no business tie or relationship with - or of course - American Express/Discover. 

Many merchants we meet with seem to think their bank is receiving the interchange fees from their company’s credit card transactions.  It’s not surprising really – even Forbes contributors promote the common misnomer - see Colao’s 2013 – Interchange is for Suckers.  First paragraph – big mistake – “the lions share goes to your bank”.  Worse – see interchange in the glossary – UGH!

This misnomer however, creates a “value added” myth to the relationship between the merchant, their bank, and payment processing services.  The banks making money from your credit card transactions are all over the country, and yes, they make a lot of it, but again, it’s not your business bank, and it’s not for processing, it’s for issuance.  And while banks specialize in issuing cards – they rarely maintain expertise on staff knowledgeable enough about processing them to incorporate interchange control. Interchange fees are currently a fact of life in business for merchants who accept electronic payments (and it would be foolish not to). 

Interchange fee management is more than just possible despite this complexity - so choosing an experienced payment provider would be wise.  Remember XBS assists merchants in the reduction of interchange fees through intelligent payment processing.  Eliminate waste, and process profitably.

EMV Upgrade and American Express Incentive Deadline Looms

Posted by Sharon Robb on in

EMV Upgrades for Chip and Pin Processing​Time to stop dragging your merchant feet.  An EMV credit card processing equipment upgrade is on the docket, and although US credit card issuers have been slow to get chip cards out there – I assure you – they’re coming.  In addition, major card brands are pushing EMV implementation with cost incentive to merchants as well as a liability shift.

What’s the shift and why?  Covered.  See our April 2013 blog for the ditty on the details.  Liability shift for fraudulent transactions run on non EMV compatible terminals will become the responsibility of ….you, the merchant – effective October 2015.  Currently, the financial responsibility for a fraudulent card transaction (think stolen) was that of the card issuing bank – but no more.

What’s an upgrade to an EMV ready terminal or equipment going to cost me? 

One of the biggest misnomers I see out there, time and again, is the upgrade costs.  Okay – if you’re Target or Walmart – could get a little pricey.  But the reality is – for a small merchant looking for a basic EMV terminal – this is not a capital equipment purchase folks.  XBS has long been installing EMV ready credit card processing terminals at wholesale costs to assist our processing merchants.  Combine this with a $100 rebate offer from American Express – and cost should not be preventing your upgrade. 

Last week we blogged about how merchants love to hate American Express.  Still, we drummed up some oft overlooked company pros that we think merchants overlook.  Right now for instance – Amex has an incentive program for their small merchants to upgrade to EMV compatible equipment.  Small merchants = less than $3 million in annual Amex volume (this is many of you), can receive a $100 prepaid Amex gift card when proof of purchase for the EMV upgrade is submitted to the card brand by April 30th – 3 weeks!  If it has to be done – and it does – may as well take the $100 discount - am I right?

Finally – besides the “risk”, (which should be enough) - what’s the cost if the merchant doesn’t upgrade? 

In recent years, in retail circles, we’ve met many a merchant whose ONLY focus is cost when it comes to credit card processing.  Keeping overhead costs low is resourceful strategy in business of course – but not the only one. 

I couldn’t help but compare this cost/expenditure dilemma for our retail merchants to our B2B clients, during a read in Industrial Engineer – Lean is Not Cheap.  In manufacturing, and many industrial environments, Lean is quite simply, a systemic approach to eliminate waste, reduce costs, and improve quality (sounds good doesn’t it?!) The article was literally a case study of a successful global manufacturer overwhelmed with excess inventory...”money parked on the shelf that otherwise should be reinvested” according to the CEO.

The solution from global operations, after an intense week long gathering of all departments, shared data, examination of customer service levels and the supply chain, and even job swaps?  Established principle, “that managing the company’s “cost to serve”*, is not always about making everything cost less.” 

Maybe sometimes – we have to look at the “big picture.” Seriously. 

*Cost to Serve is a process-driven accountancy tool to calculate the profitability of a customer account, based on the actual business activities and overhead costs incurred to service that customer

American Express - the Company and Credit Card Everyone Loves to Hate?

Posted by Sharon Robb on

American Express Cards and Merchant AcceptanceLarge successful for profit companies do not inspire sympathy when marketing strategies go awry, stocks drop, or well, for much of anything really.  But seriously, what's with the American Express (Amex) animosity? (check out Dave Danforth's Boston Fee Party Put Amex in its Place in the Aspen Daily News). Ouch. Maybe this guy's app for a card wasn't approved?

The recent loss of Costco and JetBlue relationships - not to mention the road weary DOJ lawsuit for violating antitrust laws and prohibitive merchant policies (see Zacks Feb 2015, "Will Amex Continue to Skid?":...), is adding to all the joy.  But is all that merchant animosity really justified?

For years it's been our experience that many merchants balk at the cost of accepting American Express credit cards when compared to costs for Visa and MasterCard acceptance.  But are overall costs and profit margins really that simple? Are comparisons apples to apples?

Let's take Danforth's raging example comparing Visa and MasterCard's discount rate for a transaction (fee imposed on the merchant to accept the card at the point of sale - a percentage of the transaction)1.2 to 1.5% to that of 4% for Amex.  American Express is a rewards card, and a good one - cost of acceptance for years was a flat 3.5% - cost of a comparable Visa/MasterCard rewards card - about 2.5%.  It's called a non qualified transaction.  Reward program's cost money - merchants bear the cost.  You will not wrestle reward cards from the hands of the consumer - they love'em, so card issuers market them.  Heavily. 

It's true, the American Express model is unique from Visa/MasterCard (see the Trefis Team's description for both in Forbes - excellent). It's also true that credit card processing is big business.  Loaning money (which is what banks do when they issue credit cards) is also, well, risky business.  Risk vs. reward business model and all that stuff. 

Keep in mind that American Express card members are fiercely loyal.  Amex has been ranked #1 for the last 7 years in overall customer satisfaction, and their card wielding members spend a lot (the average Amex purchase is $150 vs $50 for Visa/MasterCard users).  Merchants like customers who spend more - don't they?

So what's a merchant to do?  XBS advises.

1 - GOOD NEWS!  American Express OnePoint and OptBlue have arrived! These programs mark a substantial change in the old Amex pricing model - with new, lower interchange rates AND combined monthly statements for all deposits and credit cards - further lowering overall monthly costs.  We've been converting our merchants like mad - call us - we'll do this for you too.

2 - Customers are valuable.  Try not to alienate.  Accept all payment forms at the point of sale.  Do it with a smile - not a lecture on merchant fees or a request for different form of payment.  Yawn.  What's next? - a rant on your employee benefit costs? Put your consumer shoes on.  

Payment processing technology and flexibility has greatly enhanced merchant ability to grow their business through increased sales and revenue.  It brings substantial value and customer satisfaction to today's market place.  Its costs, like all big business, fluctuates with provider increases, government regulation and acceptance methodology, amongst other things.  Payment processing is complex, rapidly evolving, with ever increasing options, and merchants and consumers will of course bear the cost of the developing technology - as well as the remarkable benefits.

Stay educated and lean.  Control costs.  Grow.

That's what we're here for. 

EMV, Card Security Standards, and US Merchants

Posted by Sharon Robb on

What is EMV?

EMV smartcard with chip technologyEMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa - and represents the founding entities of a global card security standard - already widely adopted "abroad" - using chip card technology for both contact and contactless transactions.  Cardholder verification - similar to our current magnetic stripe cards - use both pin and signature verification methods. 

The chip or smartcards, contain an embedded microprocessor (the equivalent of a small computer - no kidding!) with strong security features.  EMVco - an organization that consists of the major card brands - exists to ensure specification standards for the chips/cards as well as card acceptance devices.  The increased security gained with these cards is due to unique dynamic digital data for every transaction - reducing the overall risk of fraud (the changing data makes duplication difficult unlike data stolen from cards with magnetic stripes).  Payments are getting both smarter and safer.

How do EMV standards impact US Merchants? 

Chicken or the Egg?

US Banks have definitely been slow to implement widespread EMV chip card technoloy in their consumer issued credit cards but card brands continue to push for migration to the new technology because of the increased security.  Effective this past April 2013 - processors (that's us) are required to support merchant acceptance of EMV chip transactions - a deadline XBS and Priority Payments has met. 

The April 2013 deadline however, was in preparation for a liability shift for fraudulent transactions/activity from issuers to merchants who do NOT process at least 75% of their transactions through an EMV enabled device, by October of 2015 (with an exception for fuel dispensers who have longer).  Visa and MasterCard issuing US banks are substantially increasing issuance of cards with the new technology.  The liability shift adopted by the major card brands is in place to strongly encourage merchants to upgrade to terminals enabled for EMV technology. While merchants must still adhere to PCI DSS standards - VISA is relaxing annual validation requirements (think SAQ) for merchants who meet the 75% of all credit card transactions being EMV authenticated criteria.

Priority Payments XBS and XBS are already placing terminals/POS equipment that is enabled with chip card acceptance technology.  There is a direct correlation between EMV implemenation and reduction in fraud loss.  There's a good deal of time of course, before the liability shift occurs and some kinks that need to be worked out regarding the new technology and current US regulations (Durbin Amendment) - but no doubt,  credit card payment processing in the US is making the move to safer, smarter payment processing with EMV card security standards and technology.  See this chart for more information on key dates for EMV adoption and call us at 800-347-1090 with any questions!

Additional Resources

Click Here for a comprehensive list of EMV FAQ's by Smart Card Alliance - a non-profit, multi-industry association working to promote understanding, adoption, and use of smart card technology.




Visa and MasterCard Settlement and Merchant Surcharging

Posted by Sharon Robb on

MasterCard Visa LogoWe first briefed you on pending antitrust litigation launched by retailers against the card brands Visa, MasterCard and American Express and brought on by the US Justice Department back in October 2010.   Visa and MasterCard settled the class action suit in mid 2012 to the tune of billions in merchant refunds and major regulatory changes.  In addition, the card brands will reduce interchange fees going forward, temporarily, until the new regulations resulting from the settlement - are implemented.    There were two primary issues at play -

  1. A money issue - in short that merchants were charged excessive fees to accept the two cards - and that in charging the fees - the two card brands (Visa/MasterCard) and their respective banks violated antitrust laws.
  2. Excessive regulations imposed on merchants who wish to accept the cards.

Todd Zywicki of Forbes followed up the settlement news in August of 2012  by asserting that consumers will be winners in this latest round of interchange attacks.  We agree with his points that free markets and consumer choice should drive interchange fees not politics and judges - and now hopefully - this quick settlement will put an end to the US Governments dabbling in credit card processing and the issue of interchange.   Zywicki points to the disastrous effects of  the Durbin Amendment in the Dodd Frank Financial Reform Act - resulting in a the transfer of billions in profit from big banks to big retailers.  The Act regulated debit card interchange fees, a move that impacted consumers with a barrage of new banking fees - the very "group" Durbin claimed would profit from the new legislation.

By now, all merchants should have received notice of the class action suit and preliminary settlement.   Merchants interested in getting their share of the "refunds" can find the details at Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement.  

After jumping into the class action fray - merchant attention should turn to new regulations  - specifically, and for purposes of this blog - merchant surcharging.   The regulatory change allows retailers/merchants to tack "surcharges" on to any purchase made with a credit card (NOT debit card).  The change takes place January 27th 2013 and the basics are listed here -  

  • Merchants can surcharge - if they do so - it must be the same across all card brands.
  • Merchants must notify Visa/MasterCard and their acquirers in advance of the decision
  • The surcharge cannot be more than the transaction fee charged the merchant (it is not meant to be an additional "profit" area
  • Merchants must notify customers of the surcharge upon store entrance , website page, at the point of sale, and on the receipt.

Showing the surcharge on the receipt is a challenge for processors and acquirers.  It is the reason the card associations are implementing temporary reductions in interchange rates  - to allow time for system and POS updates.  Tricky.

We wonder how consumers will react though, to the big sign in the window or at the register that warns about surcharges on credit card transactions - it's a little weak as a marketing strategy. 

Some folks are NOT happy with the settlement (Walmart, Target and of course, Durbin) - insisting that it is not in the best interest of the consumer.  Others feel that opponents of the regulatory changes are far more concerned about their own wallets.  It's worth mentioning that part of the settlement is that the card associations will not be subject to further litigation regarding the credit card interchange issue....

If you are a merchant with questions and you should be, go to the Visa or MasterCard sites for the ditty on the details.  Priority Payments XBS  and XBS Global anticpates that our merchants will have surcharging capability by mid to late 2013.  Please feel free to contact our customer service with any questions you may have regarding the changes @ 800-935-5961.



USPS Changes Reignite Need for Electronic Payments

Posted by Sharon Robb on

Pony ExpressRecent announcements by the USPS, experiencing huge losses still, reflect once again the dramatic global change and an inevitable trend towards electronic and/or digital business operations.  The announcement outlined cost cutting changes in operations including eliminating Saturday mail delivery (excluding packages) and of course, yet another increase in a first class stamp price.  The PMG (Postmaster General) has stepped up the campaign to make this reform a reality - something that in past years the US congress has put a stop to.  

The changes are scheduled for implementation the week of August 5th - 5 day letter delivery (M-F).   Letters will still be delivered however to PO Boxes on Saturdays, and any Post Offices currently open on Saturdays will remain so - so we have that going for us.  Different from reform requests in the past, the PMG claims the legal ability to implement the change without  congressional approval.

Please tell me you're not still driving to the post office to get your "checks" in the mail!  It's 2013!  May as well wait for the Pony Express.  How will this impact your business?  Your collections and accounts receivables?  Cash flow? 

The writing is on the wall - conversion to electronic payments is inevitable.   XBS Global recognized this trend as far back as 2009 - the question is - are you out in front of it or....behind the curve?

Ned Smith - Sr. Writer for Business News Daily gets it, and spells it out clearly in his article Will Business Go Postal When Post Office Nixes Next-Day Delivery - a possibility still looming as Congress continues to drag it's feet leaving the USPS in dire financial shape.  Note these numbers Smith quotes from REL Consultancy - a division of the Hackett Group -focused on maximizing cash flow through working capital improvements.

  • 60% of all invoices are still delivered by mail
  • 40% of all first class mail is currently delivered next day
  • Most businesses typically take 5 weeks to collect payment

How will this all this UPS reform impact your business?  Your accounts receivables and collections?  Cash flow?  It's pretty straight forward - paper invoice delivery will take longer,  mailed payment will....take longer, and so on.  REL Consultancy and Smith both point to electronic solutions - email for invoice delivery and ACH and credit cards for payment of invoices - an inevitable reality (see our 2011 blog).

No more waiting, no more paper invoices, or checks!  Businesses, especially B2B merchants, should be working their way towards their own reform - the switch to electronic invoicing,  and ACH and credit card payment processing.


Can You Benefit from B2B/B2G Level 3 Payment Processing?

Posted by David Robb on

manufacturingIs your company established to process credit card payment transactions as a "retail" or “B2B” merchant account?  

Are many of your customers businesses as compared to individual consumers?  Are you a manufacturer or distributor?

If so, your account should be established as a B2B merchant account, not as a "retail" merchant account.

 Nearly 100% of businesses are setup as "retail" - a setup that results in 30 to 50% higher costs to process commercial and purchasing cards.  Credit cards that are increasingly presented for payment to B2B merchants.

 Why do “retail” merchants pay higher fees than “B2B” merchants to process the exact same credit card and transaction?

Consider -

The average storefront retail merchant processes credit cards by swiping the card at the point of sale.  This payment processing environment is referred to as card present or swiped.  Swiping a credit card is considered a low risk transaction - the card is there, you can request ID and compare signatures if you choose.   

When a retail merchant keys (types) in a credit card number (like a B2B/B2G, manufacturer or distributor typically does) - it's processed as a keyed or card not present transaction - the cost charged to process the card goes up significantly to a mid-qualified transaction.  The cost to process credit cards increase - along with the risk and/or costly programs associated with specific card types (rewards, detailed procurement reporting, etc.).  

 In addition to higher costs for card not present processing - retail merchants also pay even higher non-qualified interchange rates to process Commercial/Corporate Cards, regardless of swiped or keyed.

These are exactly the cards most often used for B2B payments/purchasing. Examples of these common cards are P-cards (Purchasing & Procurement), Commercial, Corporate or Business cards. 

MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover all provide drastically lower interchange rates (for substantial savings) for merchants properly set up as B2B and processing Commercial Cards.   The low level 3 rates are provided as merchant incentive to provide the data in the proper B2B format. 

 How do you know if you are improperly set up as a “retail” merchant, when you should be set up as “B2B”?  

1 - If you are keying transactions into a standard credit card terminal, you’re processing payments as a retail merchant. 

2 - If you are keying transactions into a Virtual Terminal (at a computer) that does not prompt for Level 3 B2B data, you are processing payments as a retail merchant. 

3 – If your costs for processing credit card transactions seem much higher than they should be… retail merchant? 

What can you do?  

Connect with an electronic payments professional that specializes in B2B/B2G to analyze your current processing statement and methods.  Analysis will include a breakdown of the ratio and types of cards presented to your company for payment.  If the analysis suggests a B2B solution with Level 3 processing, our electronic payment professionals will ensure a seamless transition for your company to B2B payment processing.  There are typically no costs or change in business operations associated with the transition. 

Being classified as a B2B merchant and implementing these best business practices can save your company 30 to 50% on current payment processing costs… a significant savings.  That's what you do. 

In fact, that's what we do.  B2B merchants should contact Priority Payments XBS at 800-347-1090 or to learn more about processing payments at the lowest rates available for B2B merchants like yourself.  Lower B2B/B2G rates that are established for companies just like yours. 

Mobile Payments with Contactless or NFC Technology

Posted by Sharon Robb on

The term mobile payments refers to several types of transactions that originate from mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets. However, making headlines as the next possible "big" trend in payment processing in the US - is mobile payments using NFC or near-field communications (contactless).

Michael Koploy an ERP Analyst for Software Advice gives a comprehensive overview in his recent article (January 2012) of the components required to pull off utilizing contactless technology at the point of sale -

  • A consumer/buyer with a smartphone outfitted with NFC technology or radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips.
  • The smartphone requires an application such as Google Wallet, a "virtual" wallet that stores the credit card information (only works for Sprint Nexus S users who also have a Citibank Mastercard or a Google prepaid card - limited to date, but a competitive program is in the works in ISIS)
  • A merchant with an NFC enabled credit card processing terminal or a stand alone NFC reader (MasterCard PayPass)

At the point of sale, the consumer uses a pin to access the information in the virtual wallet, waves the smart phone in front of the terminal (close proximity, 2-4 inches) and voila! a mobile payment transaction occurs.

Many of us in the industry are keeping our eyes on this technology, but few believe 2012 will be the year it takes off - there are a number of things impeding quick adoption in the US.

  1. We sorely lack the payments infrastructure. Most merchants do not have a reader or an integrated NFC terminal and so far consumers are not pounding on the sales counter insisting on using their virtual wallet and smartphone for payment.
  2. Liability and cost (ah ha!) - Angela West of PC World points out that NFC transactions are CNP (card not present), similar to e-commerce, as vs. CP (card present) which is typical of retail merchants. CNP transactions, where mag stripe data on the back of the card is not read/swiped at the point of sale, are processed at a higher interchange rate (i.e. cost the merchant MORE) and transfer the liability for fraud, from the card issuer, to the merchant.
  3. Does contactless payment increase sales? In Amy Gahran's article (Nov. 2011) she quotes Google's VP of Payments, Osama Bedier "Merchants adopt new payment systems because they increase sales." Will customers buy more? Will ticket averages grow? Merchants will want answers to these questions before adopting new contactless technology.
  4. Are applications like Google Wallet secure? See Keith Wagstaff's Feb. 10th online article for TIME... hardly.

We can all agree,the current system of presenting credit and debit cards for payment at the point of sale is already quick and efficient - so do we really need NFC? We also know that merchants are resistant to change and in a payments world where most ISO's were giving equipment away - hesitant to invest in new hardware.

Koploy believes value added services that can be activated through NFC technology will drive consumer and merchant adoption of the new payments technology. Think daily deals, rewards and discounts. Payment industry professionals echo the belief that marketing will pave the path to acceptance, but discounts are not enough.

Grahn's article summarizing our sluggish trek towards NFC in the US, cites principal payment professionals who take Koploy's thoughts about merchant opportunity even further. Consider Dickson Chu, managing director of digital networks for Citi's Global Enterprise Payments unit -the NFC merchant opportunity is to "deepen the customer relationship" and David Marcus, PayPal's VP for mobile - "Today, retailers learn about customers at the least effective time -- just when they're leaving the store. They'd like to know about you when you arrive at the store, so they can customize your shopping experience and treat you properly."

Whatever happens - and we'll keep you posted, the indisputable march towards a cashless society moves forward, now inexplicably entangled with a rapidly declining privacy in the personal preferences, interests and wants that dictate our buying habits. Weird.

Recurring ACH and Credit Card Payment Vital with USPS Troubles

Posted by Sharon Robb on

The United States Postal Service (USPS), deep in the red, announced the closing of over 200 mail processing centers - a move  that will add at minimum an additional day for most first class deliveries.

That's another day for invoices to reach customers and another day for the returning check payment.  Cash flow will take another hit for businesses that continue to rely on this traditional method of customer payment.  FindLaw, a Thomas Reuters business, and a leading provider of online legal information and Internet marketing solutions for law firms, writes in an article on cash flow basics that "One of the first things businesses can do to maximize cash flow is to audit billing, collections and payables systems for efficiency" even "requiring up front deposits or credit cards."

Now is the time. The USPS is clamoring to raise prices for all forms of mail delivery - they must. Next year the price of a first class stamp will go up to .45 and experts say it is not enough.  For those merchants and businesses mailing invoices, statements, and repeat invoices and statements - the writing is on the wall.  Traditional paper invoice and check payment is no longer cost effective.

Utility and pest control companies, professional services, B2B companies, and many others need to adjust old processes and incorporate electronic invoicing, click and pay, recurring ach (automated clearing house - i.e. direct debit!) and credit card payments.  The cost of traditional collection methods is astronomical in comparison - and inefficient at best.  Collections can take 30, 60 and 90 days - why not collect immediately by drafting your customers checking account as soon as services are rendered or products shipped?

Electronic invoices have customizable templates to incorporate company logos, etc., recurring payments can be automated - entered and forgotten- reliably debiting your customers account month after month with no further input by the merchant - with customizable receipts emailed upon debit. 

With ACH payment processing and/or recurring credit card billing, collection costs can be reduced to a pittance with a transaction cost that pales in comparison to traditional methods. 

The PSI DSS SAQ - Is it Costing You?

Posted by Sharon Robb on

PCI DSSIf you are a credit or debit card processing merchant you should know - PCI DSS compliance and verification, and the SAQ or Self Assessment Questionaire, is an annual requirement.  Those merchants who forget to reverify will typically pay their payment processor non compliance fees monthly - IN ADDITION to their standard monthly PCI DSS fee.  As we review statements here at XBS Global, we are seeing monthly non compliance fees that range anywhere from $10 to $50.  I suspect there are merchants paying more.

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Self Assessent Questionnaire (SAQ) has caused a lot of angst for merchants attempting to keep up with PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). The standards are proving to be a moving target and the SAQ an exercise in frustration.  For the most recent information and updates merchants should definitely turn to thePCI Security Standards Council.

Card data security will not be going away.  Card data references any personally identifiable data associated with the cardholder such as account numbers, social security numbers, even names, addresses, expiration dates, etc.  The Sony breach in April 2011 was staggering and sobering, as was the May 2011 breach at Michael's stores nationwide (under investiation by the US Secret Service!). 

For the vast number of merchants who feel they are being squeezed by credit card processing fees - here is one you can eliminate.  If you need assistance with the SAQ -call your payment processor but for pete's sake - complete it EVERY YEAR.