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How to safely accept credit card payments over the phone

With the right process in place, you don’t have to worry about fraud


To help avoid falling prey to fraud during phone transactions, you can use a virtual terminal to process transactions safely.

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As a merchant, you want to make payments as easy as possible for your customers. If they want to make a purchase with a credit card over the phone, you might be nervous about putting your business at risk for fraud. So, how can you provide your customers with the most convenient service possible without putting your business at risk?

Keep reading to gain insight into how you can safely accept credit card payments from your customers over the phone.

Know the rules for card-not-present transactions

Before you ever accept a payment over the phone, it’s a good idea to check out the major credit card issuers’ merchant guidelines, like those from Mastercard (page 85) and Visa (page 519).

It’s important to read the rules for card-not-present or “card absent” transactions and make sure each member of your team is familiar with the card acceptance guidelines, too, and are trained to follow them to the letter.

Factors such as increased online ordering have contributed to credit card fraud, but phone orders are part of the problem as well. Rigorous verification can help you identify fraudsters before you process a transaction – so you don’t become just another statistic.

How to accept credit card payments over the phone

Once you’re aware of the various merchant guidelines, you’ll need to work with a virtual terminal – also known as a point of sale (POS) terminal – where you’ll have a merchant account.

Use the following steps to safely accept credit card payments over the phone:

Step 1. Determine what credit card information you need

All payment providers and POS systems have their own requirements for collecting credit card data. Generally, you’ll need to get the following information from a customer paying over the phone, so you can manually enter it into your virtual terminal:

  • Credit card number
  • Expiration date
  • Security or CVV code
  • Customer name
  • Billing ZIP code

You might also have to ask for the card type (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, etc.) and the customer’s phone number or email address. This information will come in handy when it’s time to issue a receipt.

Step 2. Add customer order to your system

Add the customer’s information and their order to your system to make sure you track the sale and can calculate taxes and/or shipping costs. This way, you can clearly communicate with your customer what the total cost of their purchase will be before you submit the transaction to the virtual terminal.

Step 3. Ask for their credit card information

Now it’s time to collect their credit card information and add it to the virtual terminal so you can submit the payment. The virtual terminal will notify you once the transaction is approved. If the transaction is declined, double-check the customer’s credit card details to make sure you got them correctly over the phone. If the transaction still isn’t approved after that, the customer will need to use another card to make the purchase.

Step 4. Complete the order and issue a receipt

Now you can wrap up the sale. Your virtual system may automatically email or text a receipt to your customer, but if it doesn’t you’ll need to do that manually. Also keep a copy of the receipt for your records.

Once you figure out the proper process for taking payments safely over the phone, it’s a good idea to train your staff how to as well, so anyone can process the transaction when a customer calls and wants to make a purchase.

What does it cost to accept credit card payments over the phone?

How much it will cost you to accept payments over the phone will depend on the virtual terminal you use. You’ll need to confirm what each transaction will cost with your specific provider, but these are some examples of what popular virtual terminals charge per transaction:

  • Square: You’ll pay 3.5% plus $0.15 per transaction.
  • Payment Depot: Plans start at $59 per month and come with a fixed fee per transaction ranging from $0.07 to $0.15.
  • Clover: Paid plans start at $9.95 per month and 2.3% plus $0.10 per transaction.

Bottom line

Running your over-the-phone purchases through a virtual terminal can help you avoid fraud. In addition, it’s a good idea to keep a log of any phone transactions and details about the call – and the transaction receipt – in case any issues arise down the line.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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