Credit Card Payment Security: All That You Need to Know

Information is key and anything that is of value needs a good deal of protection. It is thus no wonder that credit cards, which involve transactions of payments made in the form of data stored in the cards, need a secured environment. Most of us, while happy to use our credit cards to pay for everything, don’t know or appreciate enough anything about credit card payment security.

It is, however, very useful to know as any breach of security can cause crippling financial losses and knowing about smart security tips can help you safeguard your money and give peace of mind.

Payment security

You may have heard of PCI DSS when there is any talk of credit card payment security. If you don’t know its significance, the following explanation will make you take notice. PCI DSS stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Its sole purpose is to help ensure payment system security for all businesses and enterprises that allow card payment. As a result, the risk of a data breach or identity theft of the cardholder’s information is cut down. Thus, it is evident that complying with PCI DSS protocols can lead to safer credit card payments.

PCI DSS compliance protocols

It doesn’t matter which credit card you use – be it American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa or any other, complying with PCI DSS protocols is crucial. The following key factors are considered the best business practices and essential to help credit card security.

  • The first step in ensuring card payment security is that you need to maintain a secure network and system.
  • Firewalls act as tools to prevent unwarranted access to your network. So, installing a firewall configuration can go a long way in protecting customer information.
  • When you are asked to create a password, sometimes default passwords are suggested. While it may seem easy to use that, it is better to come up with your own password for the system.
  • A proven method of protecting cardholder data is to encrypt it while transmitting using open and public networks.
  • Businesses are needed to devise and implement an effective vulnerability management system as part of their PCI DSS compliance. This enables maintaining secure systems and applications by regular updating of antivirus and anti-malware programs.
  • A vital aspect of these compliance protocols to have a strong access control system in place. There is no knowing how information can expose vulnerability. So, when credit card payments need information sharing during a transaction, it is advisable to share only that data which the business needs to know and restrict information flow about everything else.
  • An efficient access control is more than just restricting physical access to cardholder information. It entails a thorough identification as well as authentication of access to system components.
  • Any access to cardholder data or network resources has to be strictly monitored and all security systems and processes need mandatory testing protocols.
  • Having a robust information security policy and maintaining it is another major compliance factor for credit card payment security.

Compliance tips for validating credit card security

Knowing about what PCI DSS compliance protocols entail is only half the picture. Here, we have compiled a list of things you could do to become compliant. Regular review of the security measures and validating if the compliance protocols are met is a great way to go about this.

  • PCI has a self-assessment questionnaire that lets you evaluate the security measures surrounding cardholder data yourself.
  • If you have a business venture that wants to start PCI DSS compliant credit card payment system for secure and smooth transactions for your customers, having a qualified IT professional, who is up-to-date with all compliance requirements, is indispensable. Start-ups and small businesses are easier to achieve PCI DSS compliance as the complexity level of the enterprise is low, leading to better policy and control implementation in both technical and nontechnical aspects of PCI DSS.
  • Another useful tip is to work with a PCI DSS expert who can certify your compliance. This is a smart investment as the cost of liability due to data breach, even with cyber liability coverage, can be staggering.
  • For businesses, partnering with a bank or credit card processor is how they enable card payment facilities for their customers. As PCI DSS compliance is mandatory for such entities, the partnership between them and your business can help you attain and maintain compliance validation too.

You can even check if the hardware or software is compliant for safe credit card usage by checking that the service providers for terminals for points of sale, swipers, card readers or online applications are approved and listed on the PCI DSS website.

What habits can make online transactions using credit cards safe?

So, we have seen the scope, importance, and requirements for PCI DSS compliance related to credit card payment security. But what about the people who are using the credit cards? Are there any tips that can establish a safe credit card usage habit?

Yes, there are. Being proactive about how you are using credit cards to make payments and transactions online can prevent security problems even before they can happen. The basics of credit card payment security is rooted in common sense. However, having easy-to-remember pointers can be quite useful. That’s why we have prepared a 12-point checklist for you to ensure credit card safety.

  • You should start practicing security measures from the first day you get a credit card in your hands. Many people neglect to put their signature on the back of their cards where the blank space is provided just for that purpose. You must remember that a signed credit card is the first line of defense if someone unscrupulous has got hold of your card.
  • It is important to be alert on possible suspicious activities on your card and spend some time in devising strong passwords and PIN. Consecutive numbers, personal numbers like birthday or digits of your Social Security don’t make a secured PIN. Moreover, the alpha-numeric password must also be strong and set carefully so that in an attempt to make it easy to remember, you don’t make it easy to hack. A common mistake to avoid is to use the same password and PIN for all your accounts. In this respect, wherever multifactor authentication is available, you should opt for it for enhanced security.
  • You must always keep your account number private. This may seem an obvious tip, but you will be surprised how many people neglect doing it and pay the consequences. It is better to be cautious, so when you are using your credit card at a public location, make sure you don’t display it in a way that anyone can see, read and memorize the numbers. Sometimes you may be in a situation where you have to divulge your account details over the phone. It is advisable to do so if you were the one to make the call in the first place, and then too only with the bank or merchants who you trust.
  • Nowadays, we spend so much time online that inculcating secured credit card usage habits in the middle of our online activities have become essential. One should be wary of any dubious communications that ask you to share your personal details or click on a suspicious link.
  • Physical communication can often be a weak point. So, you should opt for paperless statements for your credit cards and make digital payments at all times. If you deem the sensitive information on paper you have related to your credit card as not needed because you have everything online, then it is wise to shred the documents and not just throw them into the trash.
  • Contact information such as address, phone number, and email should always be updated in case of any changes. This can prevent identity theft and fraud related to credit card data.
  • Checking your receipts and verifying with your account regularly is another obvious but important practice to identify and preempt credit card fraud. As with information details, old or duplicate receipts should also be shredded before throwing them out.
  • A smart way of ensuring credit card security is to use protection for your devices and networks. It is thus always advisable to avoid storing credit card details online for quick transactions, as this can be vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Using autofill options are discouraged due to the same reason.
  • If you are not already using digital wallets for secure online credit card payments, do consider it. Remember that digital wallets use high-level encryption, token protocols, and authentication to carry out electronic transactions. Using passcodes and fingerprint unlock further enhances the security aspect. As a result, they are safer to use than carrying a credit card around. You can also think about using virtual credit cards linked to digital wallets for all payments made on the internet.
  • Best security practices for online credit card payments can be implemented through some basic safety measures. If you are engaged in online shopping, before whipping up your credit card details for payment, ascertain that the URL is safe and using ‘https’ in the address to indicate it is secure. We have already reiterated that typing credit card details manually may seem cumbersome, but is safer, and also that using digital wallets adds to an additional layer of security, as without credit card details entered for a transaction, the details don’t get leaked in case the merchant site is hacked. But did you know that using your mobile data is preferable to logging into possibly unsafe public Wi-Fi for financial transactions involving credit cards? It is wise to avoid using public networks as much as possible so that your details are safe from getting leaked by inadequate safety protocols.
  • Credit card account hacks and fraudulent activities can happen without warning. So, it is a smart move to keep monitoring your account activities periodically. Credit card issuers usually offer text and email alerts whenever there is an activity using the card, which is a fundamental and effective method of checking up on your account and verifying every time the card is in use. People, who have experienced credit card fraud, are most wary of security. If you have been a victim in the past, it is wise to sign up with a credit monitoring service for fraud detection and protection.
  • An advice that most people find obvious but can still make mistakes on practicing is to report the loss or suspected theft of your credit card without delay. The longer you wait, the chances of the card being used become higher, so blocking it as soon as possible is recommended. Federal laws stipulate that charges for hot-listing credit cards must be nominal, and most credit card issuers waive that too in case you notify them promptly.

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