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Accepting card payments over the phone is a convenient way for your business to make sales, take deposits and ensure a positive customer experience. 

In this guide, we’ll explain how to take card payments over the phone, as well as explore the benefits and safety considerations of this payment method. 

Is it possible to take card payments over the phone? 

As long as you have the right set-up, you can take payments over the phone without the customer or their card being present. This method is known as a Card Not Present (CNP) transaction. CNP transactions are ideal for situations where the customer cannot travel to a physical location, for remote businesses, when a deposit is required to confirm a booking, or for businesses looking for more flexibility in accepting payments. 

Access PaySuite offers three main types of phone-based payment solutions which support CNP transactions: 

Staff-assisted solutions

These solutions are ideal for smaller businesses that take fewer payments and offer a more personalized service for customers. 

Semi-automated solutions

These solutions combine customer experience and payment efficiency, providing the best of both worlds. 

Fully automated solutions

These solutions involve no human interaction from your staff. They are available 24/7, offer greater flexibility for customers, and minimize human error, reducing the compliance burden for businesses. 

How to accept card payments over the phone 

Accepting card payments over the phone using a payment service provider typically involves the following steps:  

1. Choose a payment processor 

When choosing the right payment processor, it’s important to consider the unique needs of your business, as well as the differences between the services offered by each provider, as these can differ. The details and steps involved with accepting card payments over the phone may also vary, depending on the specific payment processor being used. 

For instance, Access PaySuite offers multi-channel payment solutions that provide a comprehensive payment processing solution. This means that whether your customers are making payments over the phone, online, or in-person, they can use their preferred payment method, increasing the likelihood of completing a transaction. 

By integrating multiple processes into a single platform, you can provide a seamless and convenient payment experience across various channels. Access PaySuite's income management platform centralizes payment data from different channels, enabling you to identify trends, track customer preferences, and make data-driven decisions to enhance the overall customer experience. 

Explore our income management platform

2. Set up a merchant account 

Once you have selected your payment processor, you will need to set up your internet merchant account with them. This process entails supplying them with information about your business, such as your banking details and billing address. Once your account is established, you will gain access to your payment portal, where you can conveniently view, manage, and process payments. 

If you do not already have a merchant account, you may be required to create one with the payment service provider. A merchant account enables you to accept credit card payments and receive funds from these transactions. Certain payment service providers even offer dedicated merchant accounts as part of their comprehensive services. 

3. Enter customer payment information into the virtual terminal

A virtual terminal, which is an online version of a physical credit card terminal or point-of-sale (POS) system will be provided by the payment service provider. This online software product enables you to input and process a customer's payment information even when their card is not physically present. This allows you to manually enter credit card information, facilitating seamless payment processing over the phone.  

Automated telephone payments work in a slightly different way and involve the use of an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, which allows customers to make payments for bills, fees, and other transactions over the phone by interacting with an automated system 

Before your business initiates accepting payments over the phone, it is important to ensure the operational readiness of your virtual terminal. It is advisable to conduct a test transaction prior to commencing live payments to verify its functionality. 

4. Process the payment 

Once you have entered the customer's payment information, you can initiate the payment processing through the virtual terminal. The payment service provider will securely process the transaction and verify the customer's card details. The payment will then be authorised, and funds will be transferred to your merchant account. 

Once all the transaction information has been entered and confirmed, the payment can be processed through the virtual terminal. Once the payment has gone through, an email receipt for the transaction can be generated and automatically sent to the customer. 

Regulations and considerations for ensuring secure payments over the phone 

Of course, taking payments over the phone is about more than just entering details into a system. Here are some of the key considerations to ensure that your phone payments are as secure as possible. 

PCI DSS compliance 

The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) outlines requirements for organisations that handle cardholder information to ensure secure processing, storage and transmission of payment card data. Key points include maintaining a secure network, protecting cardholder data, implementing strong access control measures, regularly monitoring and testing networks, and maintaining an information security policy. 

All of Access PaySuite’s payment solutions are PCI DSS compliant, providing our customers with enhanced security for their transactions. We also offer a comprehensive PCI service, assisting businesses in understanding and meeting their compliance requirements, as well as helping them achieve and maintain PCI DSS compliance.  

DTMF masking 

Implementing DTMF masking is a crucial step in preventing fraud and enhancing the security of phone payment transactions. By replacing audible tones with random or flat tones, DTMF masking ensures that sensitive card data remains protected, even if calls are recorded or intercepted. This technology provides businesses with a powerful tool to safeguard customer data and maintain the highest levels of transaction security. 

Access PaySuite’s suite of CallSecure solutions is used by our call centre staff so that when customers phone in to pay, at card entry stage the customer is passed to an automated system. The citizen then types in their card details using the telephone keypad. This means that the call centre staff neither sees nor hears the actual card details.

Ian Dyson, Assistant Chief Finance Officer (Assurance) at Oxfordshire County Council

What are the benefits of taking payments over the phone? 

Taking payments over the phone unlocks lots of benefits to your business, as well as offering advantages to your customers. 

Improved cash flow: 

Over the phone transactions allow businesses to take payment for transactions immediately, so you get a cash injection more quickly. It also means that there’s less time chasing debtors and waiting for payments to clear, which reduces labour costs associated with administration. 

Convenience and inclusivity for customers:  

Phone payments not only offer benefits for merchants but also provide quick and convenient options for customers and citizens. This is particularly true for fully automated systems, which are available 24/7. These transactions can be conducted anywhere with a phone signal, eliminating the need for internet access. Such ease of use can potentially foster repeat business, leading to long-term benefits and increased profits. 

Moreover, over-the-phone payments help break down barriers and ensure inclusivity for all customers. By offering this payment method, businesses cater to individuals who may lack internet access or prefer not to use online platforms. This promotes equal participation and enables customers from diverse backgrounds to effortlessly engage in transactions. 

Increased transactions:  

The convenience and accessibility of phone card payments allows you to attract business from a wider customer base. This is particularly beneficial if your target audience is less likely to have access to the internet, or less able to travel to your physical location. It also allows you to make sales that might not have taken place without a phone payment option. 

Risks and considerations for accepting payments over the phone 

Like any type of payment solution, there are various things to consider when choosing whether to offer over the phone payments. 

Data security 

Payments made over the phone are susceptible to data breaches, and it is crucial to have additional security measures in place to combat this risk. Our payment processing software ensures that businesses adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) rules, minimizing the risk of fraud. By implementing robust security measures, payment processors protect both businesses and customers from data breaches 

Manual entry errors 

Manually entering card details over the phone increases the risk of human error. Payment processing software helps mitigate this risk by providing secure and user-friendly interfaces for entering payment information. Additionally, Access PaySuite offers features like automated address verification and card validation, reducing the chances of mishearing or mistyping card details. By minimizing transaction errors, businesses can maintain brand trust and avoid potential lost sales. 

Higher processing fees 

Due to the potential risks associated with over-the-phone payments, payment processors implement slightly higher processing fees. This serves as a safeguard against fraud and chargebacks, protecting both businesses and customers. By allocating these fees, payment processors can invest in robust security measures to ensure the integrity and safety of transactions. 

In summary, payment processing software like Access PaySuite, helps reduce risks and challenges associated with accepting payments over the phone by ensuring data security, minimizing manual entry errors, and implementing measures to protect businesses and customers. By leveraging these software solutions, businesses can offer secure and convenient payment options to their customers while maintaining brand trust and minimizing the potential for fraud or data breaches. 

What regulations are there for taking card payments over the phone?

Payments made over the phone are considered cardholder-not-present (CNP) transactions. Specific standards and regulations are in place to protect consumer rights in these types of transactions. 

Businesses that take card payments over the phone are required to adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance regulations. PCI DSS was created to prevent credit card fraud and ensure the security of cardholder data. 

Is it safe to take card payments over the phone?

It is safe to take card payments over the phone if the proper security measures are in place. This includes using a secure phone line and encrypted payment processing systems. Personal and card data taken over the phone shouldn’t be stored after the transaction has been completed. 

Which businesses can take over the phone payments?

Almost any type of business can take payments over the phone. However, they are most beneficial for those offering products and services from a remote location, such as takeaways, telehealth services, telemarketers or catalogue businesses, as the customer doesn’t need to be present for the transaction. Phone payments are also useful for securing bookings and taking deposits for hotels, home repairs or professional services, and for public sector organisations looking to offer payment flexibility for all payers. 

What information do I need to take credit card payments over the phone?

From the card, you’ll need the long card number, expiration date and CVV code. You’ll also need the billing address and the cardholder’s full name, both of which must match the registered card details. Finally, you’ll need to know the amount to be charged. 

How can I provide a receipt for over the phone payments?

Many payment providers allow you to automatically send a digital receipt via email. If it’s not stored in your system, you’ll need to take the customer’s email address over the phone. If you or the customer prefer, you can send a physical copy of the receipt in the post. 

Can you process refunds for transactions made over the phone?

Yes. As long as you follow your company’s refund policy and uphold the customer’s statutory rights, you can process refunds for payments made over the phone just as you would with any card-present transaction. Make sure to provide confirmation of the refund via email. 

How much does it cost to take payments over the phone?

The cost of accepting over the phone card payments depends on your payment processor and the specific terms of your agreement. These types of transactions are considered to be higher risk than in-person transactions, so are generally charged at a higher rate. The fees you pay per successful transaction are usually calculated as a percentage of the transaction amount plus an additional standard charge. Depending on your agreement, there may also be additional fees for chargebacks, refunds or international transactions. 

Can I charge additional fees for taking credit card payments over the phone?

It depends on local regulations and your merchant agreement. You may be allowed to charge additional fees for taking card payments over the phone to cover your own costs under certain circumstances. Check with your payment processor for specific details. 

Looking for an over the phone card payment solution for your business?

Get in touch to find out more about our tailored phone payment solutions. With the ability to scale up or down, easy installation, and compliance with PCI DSS Level 1 standards built in, our solutions are designed to accommodate businesses of all types and sizes.