Table of Contents

Guide to PCI Compliance Cost

When you think about the pros and cons of PCI compliance, you think about the worst case scenario: how terrible it would be to be affected by a data breach. It can devastate your reputation and lose the trust of your customers.

At the end of the day, though, everything comes down to dollars and cents when you’re running a business. So it’s important to know what you’re getting into before your PCI compliance process. Learn about the cost of a Report on Compliance (ROC), various documentation factors, and the potential large-scale needs associated with compliance. Let's take a deep dive into what you can expect from your PCI DSS costs.

How much does it cost to become PCI compliant?

It should come as no surprise that there isn’t a singular average cost of PCI compliance for all businesses. Costs vary considerably from one business to another based on many factors, such as:

  • The number of transactions you process annually
  • The size of your network
  • Your organization and its current security readiness
  • The size of your organization

Those are only a few factors that impact your initial on ongoing costs.

It’s important to note that there are two types of costs that you could incur: costs to implement the PCI DSS standards and costs to certify or document your compliance. Your costs to implement the PCI standards will vary considerably based on the size of your network and how secure it already is.

The cost for documenting your PCI compliance depends on the size of your business. Businesses who process under six million credit card transactions per year will have minimal costs, often just a few hundred dollars per year or less. Businesses that process over six million annual transactions must pay for an onsite audit, which costs thousands each year.

To help you budget for your PCI compliance, let’s break down the typical expenses you can expect for both documentation and implementation.

Costs involved in PCI documentation

PCI documentation can be time consuming without an automated system. The job of figuring out PCI compliance and then following through with documentation usually falls to the hand’s of the company’s head of engineering. This person will then have to spend several hours, weeks, or even months researching, documenting, and then solving the PCI compliance issues that arise. That is a lot of time spent on PCI documentation that could have been spent on building products. It might cost your organization a lot of money spending more time on PCI compliance than on product growth.

The costs listed above will bring your business security up to speed so that you’re adhering to all the PCI DSS standards. However, there’s one more step involved. There are processes you need to follow to officially document your PCI compliance.

This PCI certification cost varies considerably depending on how PCI DSS classifies your business. If you’re a level two, three, or four merchant or a level two service provider, you only need to complete a self-assessment questionnaire, purchase a vulnerability scan, and sign an attestation of compliance form. If you’re a level one merchant or level one service provider, you have the added PCI assessment cost of an onsite audit.

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning involves paying an approved scanning vendor, or ASV, to scan your system and check for security vulnerabilities. These scans are only available from providers that the PCI Security Standards Council has already reviewed and approved. The scans typically cost around $200 and up. Merchants and service providers at all levels need to receive these scans.

Onsite PCI audit

For level one merchants and level one service providers (that is, merchants who process over six million transactions per year or service providers who process over 300,000 transactions per year), an audit is a necessary yet costly part of the PCI compliance process.

You’ll need to hire a qualified security assessor or QSA to conduct an onsite audit of your system and your security practices. This audit report is known as a ROC. You’ll have to choose an assessor that appears on PCI SSC’s approved vendor list. Prices are typically quoted from $30k to $200k annually to complete a ROC. Shopping for a QSA can be an opaque and confusing process. A PCI compliance platform can help identify appropriate assessors and ease the stress associated with PCI compliance costs.

Costs involved in becoming PCI compliant

When we ask, “How much does it cost to become PCI DSS compliant?,” there’s not a simple number we can average out for all businesses. While the PCI standards are the same for all businesses, larger organizations usually pay more to secure their networks because of their large-scale needs. In any case, there are several costs you can expect to pay.


PCI DSS requires that you have a firewall to protect your customers’ data. For most businesses, this involves paying an ongoing monthly or annual fee for a pre-developed firewall and paying your developers to update it as needed.

Data encryption

Another requirement of PCI DSS is that you encrypt any payment data as it is transmitted. Typically, this is a process that your internal or outsourced developers will put in place, so you will incur the cost of your developers’ time.

Antivirus software

PCI DSS requires that anyone accepting or processing payments maintains an antivirus software to block viruses from invading their networks and accessing customer data. This is typically an ongoing subscription fee that you will pay.

Identity verification and access control

To be PCI compliant, you need to limit which employees have access to sensitive data within your network. To do this, you need an identity verification system to make sure that those who are accessing the data are truly those who are authorized to access it.

While some organizations choose to have their internal developers create an access control system, most businesses opt to purchase it instead. This is typically a continuous licensing fee that you will pay annually or monthly.

Network security

Your company’s network needs to be set up in a secure way and continuously monitored to make sure it lives up to the latest security standards. While this isn’t a product or service you can purchase like a firewall and antivirus software, it does cost you in the form of your developers’ time.

Training and policy development

PCI DSS doesn’t only outline specifications for your technical system. It also requires certain policies your staff needs to develop and maintain. The process of creating appropriate policies, designing ways to implement and enforce them, and training employees on the new policies can add up in the form of labor costs.

Learn more about PCI DSS

What is PCI DSS?

PCI compliance in 3 steps

Automate your PCI DSS compliance

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Vanta's PCI Compliance Selection Guide

Determine Your PCI Compliance Level

If your organization processes, stores, or transmits cardholder data, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a global mandate created by major credit card companies. Compliance is mandatory for any business that accepts credit card payments.

When establishing strategies for implementing and maintaining PCI compliance, your organization needs to understand what constitutes a Merchant or Service Provider, and whether a Self Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) or Report on Compliance (ROC) is most applicable to your business.

Answer a few short questions and we'll help identify your compliance level:


Does your business offer services to customers who are interested in your level of PCI compliance?


Identify your PCI SAQ or ROC level

The PCI Security Standards Council has established the below criteria for Merchant and Service Provider validation. Use these descriptions to help determine the SAQ or ROC that best applies to your organization.

Good news! Vanta supports all of the following compliance levels:


Card not present Merchants (eCommerce or mail/telephone order) that have fully outsourced all cardholder data functions to PCI DSS compliant third party Service Providers, with no electronic storage, processing, or transmission of any cardholder data on the Merchant's system or premises.

Learn more about Vanta's SAQ A solution.


eCommerce Merchants who outsource all payment processing to PCI DSS validated third parties with a website(s) that doesn't directly receive cardholder data but can impact the payment transaction's security. No electronic storage, processing, or transmission of cardholder data on the Merchant's system or premises.

Learn more about Vanta's SAQ A-EP solution.

for service providers

All Service Providers defined by a payment brand as eligible to complete a SAQ.

Learn more about Vanta's SAQ D solution.

Level 1 for service providers

Entities that process over 6 million transactions annually (Merchant) or 300,000 transactions annually (Service Provider) must complete both an annual Report on Compliance (ROC) and Attestation of Compliance (AOC).

Learn more about Vanta's ROC solution.


In addition to speaking with our PCI DSS compliance experts, you can find information on understanding your PCI compliance level at the PCI Security Standards Council website or contacting your payment processing partner.

Download this checklist for easy reference


Related guides


Vanta's SOC 2 Guide


Your GDPR Compliance Checklist


The SOC 2 Compliance Checklist

Vanta automates compliance starting with SOC 2
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