What Is PCI Compliance? A PCI DSS Overview

September 7, 2021

Every time a new data breach hits the news, business leaders feel a fresh sensation of stress in the pits of their stomachs: the fear that they could be next. Data breaches can destroy a company’s reputation and ultimately its future. How can you protect your customers’ payment data and protect your business from a breach?

One way to know if you’re secure is by maintaining PCI compliance. Let’s break down the details of what PCI compliance is and how you can use it as an asset for your business.

What Is PCI compliance?

You’ve probably heard the term “PCI compliance,” but the full name is PCI DSS compliance, which stands for payment card industry data security standard compliance. That name makes it much clearer: PCI compliance involves adhering to a specific set of standards and practices that are meant to protect payment data.

PCI DSS includes 12 specific requirements that a company needs to meet to be PCI compliant. These standards are developed and maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council. This independent council was formed by the major credit card companies such as Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and others in an effort to better secure consumers’ payment data.

It’s important to note that PCI compliance is not a legal requirement. It’s more of a requirement throughout the payments industry. If you process payments or accept credit card payments in any way, PCI compliance is a way to ensure that major credit card companies and banks will continue working with you. It also proves that you are maintaining trust with partners throughout the payment industry.

Does my company need to be PCI compliant?

PCI compliance is considered to be a necessity within the business world for anyone who processes, stores, or transmits payment information. As we noted, it isn’t a legal requirement, so you won’t face direct legal or criminal consequences for skipping PCI compliance. You may, however, end up with fewer payment options or with fines of thousands of dollars per month from payment brands like Visa and Mastercard.

Benefits of PCI DSS compliance

The idea of hefty fines from major banks could be enough of a reason to put PCI compliance on your priority list. But you don’t just want to adhere to PCI DSS to avoid penalties. There are strong benefits of PCI compliance too.

Selling to the enterprise

One of the biggest motivations for PCI compliance is the ability to sell to large enterprise companies that require their vendors to be PCI DSS compliant. “Are you PCI compliant?” is one of the first questions that an enterprise asks before moving forward with a financial partnership. Some organizations will require PCI compliance to even sign a contract or consider a vendor during the RFP process. Companies use PCI compliance to prove trust during the sales process and as a way of establishing security assurance throughout the partnership.

Open options for payment processing

In any type of business, the easier you make your payment process, the more likely consumers will follow through with a purchase. One way to make your payment process easier is to give customers plenty of payment options. Being PCI compliant allows you to work with more payment brands so you can offer your customers all of their favorite payment options.

Enhanced consumer trust

Data breaches are all over the news, and many of your customers have probably dealt with the hassle of a data breach personally. They know the frustration of cancelling credit cards, disputing purchases, potentially sending evidence to dispute those purchases, waiting for new credit cards, changing their payment information on online platforms, and so on.

If you’re PCI compliant, you can ensure customers that you are adhering to the most respected standards to protect their data. This builds more trust and may lead to more loyal customers.

Lower risk for data breaches

PCI DSS exists for a reason: it’s protecting your customers’ payment data. If you fall victim to a data breach, it damages your company’s reputation and hurts your profits because you may be financially liable for any damages. If you adhere to the standards of PCI DSS, you’ll know that you have secured the safety of your consumers and your own business as much as you can.

Learn more about PCI DSS

Guide to PCI compliance costs

PCI compliance in 3 steps

Automate your PCI DSS compliance

“Vanta's expert team helped analyze our compliance requirements and shared what was needed to complete a SAQ-D. Because of this, we accelerated our timelines, saved hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in costs.”

Klas Hesselman
Co-founder  |  Flow Networks
Vanta automates security compliance.
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