Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that by the end of 2012, there were 383 million credit card accounts open in the US. Liz Caracciolo, VP of Corporate Development at BillingTree takes a look at how credit cards present a huge opportunity for utilities to embrace multiple payment options for consumers to choose from.
Alongside existing payment channels such as check, cash and ACH payments, credit cards present a huge opportunity to take payments conveniently for consumers, especially if adding the ability to take a payment out of office hours via a website that accepts debit or credit cards. To the customer, the payment website can look and feel just like one of the utility provider's services – and this is something most customers will soon demand.
Yet one of the key barriers for utilities to accepting credit card payments is often the regulation and concerns around security which surrounds this practice.
Maintaining PCI compliance
Remaining PCI compliant when accepting credit or debit cards is an absolute must in today's economic climate. By making sure that payment processing software security is current and is Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) certified, utilities can remain compliant.
PCI certification provides a level of confidence and assurance to customers that the processor has allowed and passed a robust set of best practices for securing the information being processed when credit card payments are made. Utilities have a responsibility to protect customers' credit card information, just as much as protecting customer data.
One thing that's key to best practice, and key to avoiding one of the biggest PCI compliance risks, relates to the storing of credit card details. Payments processors should be able to process customer transactions and then provide an encrypted ID, so that when utilities want to complete another transaction for that same customer, the company's software can pass the payments provider the encrypted ID so utilities never come in contact with the stored credit card data.
Experience an uptake in customer e-billing
One utility company which has addressed these security issues is Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water in California.
The organization recently opted for a full electronic payments processing solution, and has since experienced a significant uptake in customer e-billing. One of the key considerations for the company was ensuring regulatory security issues over handling customer credit card payments were compliant. The company has significantly increased the number of customers paying remotely with debit and credit cards, resulting in a decrease in their late and NSF (non sufficient fund) payments.
More choice with less risk
It's essential that utility companies can offer customers a variety of payment options, including online credit card payments. There are undoubtedly a number of security issues which arise when doing so, but by ensuring that the processor is PCI compliant, utilities can advance their payment options without risking any loss of customer data.
If you would be interested in speaking with Liz Caracciolo or would like further information please do let me know, as I'd be more than happy to help. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +1 561 228 1940.
I look forward to hearing from you.