Incentive program could bolster future smartphone-based payments

Visa today announced plans that will let qualifying merchants in the U.S. eliminate the need to annually validate their compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standard.

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One of the main reasons Visa is initiating the incentive program is to make sure POS terminals will be able to support mobile payments through smartphones, says Nelsen. “The NFC capability of your smartphone will have the same chip technology your card will have,” he says. NFC is the near-field communication standard now widely regarded as the future for mobile payments, especially using smartphones equipped with NFC.

By offering Visa merchants the chance of avoid annual PCI validation costs — Visa says at present it doesn’t envision setting a timeline in which PCI validation requirements would be re-imposed in the coming years to merchants achieving its EMV and NFC goals — the question is raised of how committed Visa is to PCI DSS.

Visa, among with other payment card brands such as MasterCard, is a founding member of the PCI Security Standards Council, which over the years has issued strict information-technology security standards that any organization processing payment cards must follow.

Nelsen says, “We do think data security is still important. We still believe in PCI DSS.” But getting merchants to move to EMV and NFC is seen by Visa as critical to establishing the next generation of payment technologies in the U.S.

Since the PCI standard and the annual validation is supported by MasterCard and other brands as well, it remains to be seen if they will embrace any similar incentive program for EMV. Nelsen says he can’t comment on their behalf but that the payment card brands tend to try to keep pace with each other’s incentive programs.

“We’ll have to see how this plays out,” said Bob Russo, general manager of the PCI Security standards Council, noting “Visa still mandates you have to validate once.”