Getting PCI certified can seem like a lot of trouble to go through when setting out into the business world, but the benefits it brings with it outweigh the risks and costs tenfold. You will be able to help your business grow and become part of an international security environment that will be able to protect customers and business owners better alike; couple that with becoming an American Express merchant, and your business possibilities could be endless.
What Is The Difference Between Being PCI Compliant And PCI Certified?
Most merchants may not know that, although the process is the same, there is a fundamental difference between being PCI complaint and being PCI certified. The first thing that is similar in both cases is the process a merchant has to undergo to obtain its’ status. A self-assessment questionnaire is filled out. To correctly fill out the questionnaire, the merchant has to assess his business carefully. This shouldn’t take more than a month. Although a self-assessment questionnaire is a good start, merchants are advised to seek professional help in the form of a QSA (Qualified Security Assessor).
This is where the main difference between being PCI certified and being PCI compliant comes in—being compliant means that you have taken steps to respect PCI guidelines. Being PCI certified means that a QSA has reviewed your business and has noticed that you have already implemented those guidelines into your day to day business. A QSA establishes this by doing a rigorous audit of how the software you are using is developed, the way the developers are trained, and of the technical and procedural controls. This can take up to six months to complete but helps you much in developing your business.
The best way to remember the difference between being PCI compliant and PCI certified is by knowing that certification means proof of you being tested, whereas compliance is just your claim. Also, you should remember that being certified means that you are part of a global network of merchants that are creating a safer environment for customers everywhere.
Benefits of Being PCI Certified
Even though getting certified can seem somewhat of a hassle at first, and most merchants tend to avoid hassles, especially when they are starting, it can bring with it a series of benefits. It can improve a merchant’s standing among the community and even help him do business with more prominent and more reliable partners.
Reduces the Risk of a Data Breach
Cyber-attacks are omnipresent nowadays, and as a merchant, you should take all the steps necessary to fend them off. By implementing PCI guidelines, you can help create a healthy security environment and reduce the risks of data leaks and breaches, this way protecting your data and, more importantly, your customer’s data.
Certification can help you avoid getting fined for not conforming to community security standards. Although it is not a practice everywhere in the world, most international bodies have some regulations regarding the protection of sensitive customer information, regulation that, if violated, may result in fines and sanctions for the merchant.
Protect your Customers
The people you are doing this firstly should always be your customers. They are the ones that you need to protect to keep them happy and willing to do business for you. Data leaks and breaches can be very damaging to a company. This is why people usually choose to do business with certified or at least compliant merchants.
Your business can always use a better image among your customers as well as among your partners and even competitors. While you might not see the result immediately, and they might also be hard to quantify when you see them, investing in security always pays off in the end.
Peace of Mind
It might not seem much at first glance, but having a sound nights’ sleep knowing that your company has taken steps towards improving its security can be the most significant advantage of them all.
How Is An American Express Merchant Different Than The Rest Of Them?
The first thing that differentiates any American Express merchant from any other is the fact that Amex uses what they call a closed-loop network. That means that, instead of going through a merchant bank like MasterCard or Visa, Amex opens merchant accounts directly for the businesses that want to work with them. This is also the case with credit cards. Amex issues credit or debit cards directly to the card owners without going through a bank.
By doing so, any American Express merchant can avoid working with third-party card processors, but has to deal with the fees Amex sets for their services. Because the fees didn’t allow any other processor to work with Amex, they can get pretty high, but they do offer different pricing options nowadays.
Although things have changed since the introduction of Amex OptBlue, that let other processors work with Amex cardholders, being an American Express merchant is still something most merchants are interested in.
How to Become an American Express Merchant
Becoming an American Express merchant is a pretty straight forward process that any merchant can undergo. The thing anyone interested in an American Express merchant account has to do is go to their website and follow the steps described:
- Go to the site and submit the application form online
- Depending on what kind of business you have, select the appropriate merchant account.
- You will be asked to provide a series of confidential information, such as business structure, bank account number, routing number, tax identification number, and even some personal data such as social security number. This is why the form must be filled out by an authorized person. After you do this and submit the form, Amex will send you a personalized pricing estimate.
- All you have to do now is wait for their response and, if accepted, for further information.