4 min read

Accepting telephone payments

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Gone - in fact, long gone - are the days of businesses built purely on walk-in trade.

High streets began to struggle in the 1980s with the advent of out-of-town hypermarkets and ever higher city rents, rates and property prices. More shoppers had cars and needed car parks, and chain stores had more negotiating power than the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Another factor was the credit card: credit was cheap and everyone was using it - but small shops often lacked merchant accounts.

Much as it would be nice to reinvent the high street (perhaps one day) today's consumers have discovered new freedoms through technology. You can shop by computer and you can shop by phone. You can find the item you want before you ever leave the house and you can have it delivered - sometimes within hours.

There are also a host of ways to pay; by debit card, credit card, store card, cash, BACS, digital wallets, bitcoins, PayPal and even cheques. Our increasing freedom of choice is exhilarating and kinder to the environment - as the cleaner air during lockdown proved - but there are drawbacks, the biggest of which is fraud. Card numbers are easy prey for criminals, and remote shopping by internet or phone provides them with invisibility.

Benefits of payment by phone

The humble telephone has come a long way since 1876. We still call them phones but they are mobile computers with a host of uses. They are so inseparable for many people that they even provided a viable way to track our movements during the coronavirus lockdowns. Almost everyone has made payments using a phone, and no business can afford to ignore them as a channel for customers.

Telephone commerce, especially using VoIP, means that your customers can be anywhere and so can your salespeople and cashiers. Despite all the other apps on smartphones, the quickest way for customers and businesses to connect is by voice. That means your procedures need to flow seamlessly from enquiries into transaction processing.

How to take credit card payments by phone

Any business with a POS card terminal can easily take a number and key it into their own device. Simple, but in practice there are issues;

-       Thieves easily acquire card details that don't belong to them. Consequently, card fraud is rife.
-       Customers are obliged to read their details aloud and may be overheard. Lines are also easy to tap.
-       Your agents are strangers to your customers, so how can they trust them with their card details?
-       So many customers have suffered fraud that they are now becoming reluctant to share their details.
-       By handling the customer's data, you become legally responsible for its protection.

Paying by card needs to be safe for both parties, so for all these reasons we need better ways to do it.

Taking card payments by phone: UK regulations

In the UK, as soon as you handle a customer's data you are exposed to the GDPR and PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards). Unlike the old Data Protection Act, the GDPR applies even if all you do is jot the number onto a post-it note. The PCI covers the ways you solicit, process and verify the information even if you never record it at all. Thousands of firms fail to comply every day and risk enormous fines. Just having your merchant account revoked is enough to destroy many businesses.

Compliance is complicated, for example there are four "merchant levels" based upon the number of transactions you perform and the rules vary. If your trade is international, your compliance worries multiply. One thing that trips many businesses up is call recording. You should not be recording customer's private details, especially the card number and CV2, and leaving it in a voice archive.

Ideally, you should never expose your employees to card numbers. You can do that by using a secured third-party payment gateway like Paytia's virtual terminal. Customers key their own details into the terminal without interrupting your phone connection. The same system can protect you online and in bricks and mortar shops.

Taking payment over the phone: GDPR

Your duties under GDPR begin before you ever call your customer. How did you come by their contact details and when did they consent to receive a call? Some of the practical implications of GDPR are still being worked out, but the most serious clauses are those requiring you to protect their personal information. Card fraud is not the only danger, personal data can be used to perform identity theft or lead to blackmail, harassment and targeting for other exploits.

Commercial call centres already require their agents to read lengthy legal disclaimers and GDPR adds to them. If you don't frighten your customers away, you may lose them from sheer boredom! Isn't it better to minimise these legalistic formalities by dispensing with as many sensitive responsibilities as possible? Don't collect information you do not need - and that includes card numbers!

Accept credit cards by phone free

One of the ways you can use Paytia's services is called "Link-to-Pay" and is a free add-on for Secure Virtual Terminal. Providing the customer has a smartphone, you can send them a web link or QR code. Activating it directs them to a web-page that uses strong customer authentication to eliminate card misuse. There, they can safely key in their own personal details. Link-to-Pay is ideal for customers having difficulty proving their identity via standard call centre procedures.

Accept credit cards by phone with PayPal

PayPal has never attempted to compete with the charges and services offered by traditional banks, but has still become a world-leading payment provider because it won customer trust. It is a shining example of the importance of providing payment methods in which customers feel complete confidence. Fortunately, it is easy to connect PayPal with Paytia's Secure Virtual Terminal and receive payments from your PayPal customers.

Can you take payments over the phone with Stripe?

Stripe was designed for computers and mobile phones from the ground up. The Stripe platform is a collection of Cloud-hosted API's that enable different kinds of banks and payment systems to interact. Using Stripe, you can build platforms and processes for all kinds of markets, process over 135 currencies and automate them into your accounting and invoicing systems.

Stripe integrates fully with Paytia's Secure Virtual Terminal, and by performing your Stripe transaction through Paytia, you remain compliant with all the bodies of legislation that might apply in the different jurisdictions through which your transaction passes.