Advice on taking payments over the telephone, in response to the COVID-19 crisis

Published: 10/Apr/2020

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Across the country, a large number of business owners have adapted to working from home. They maintained contact with their customers and innovated to keep their services in place. But then comes the issue of how best to get paid, in the absence of any face to face contact.

Many will have customers who are familiar with paying by card or by cash. These customers may be slow or unsure of how to set up payment via bank transfer.

The good news is that it is perfectly viable to take payment over the telephone, and there are a couple of different ways to do it, depending on individual preferences:

Working from home.

1. Key details directly into the card terminal

You can take your card terminal home from your business premises and just key in your customers’ card details (this is also referred to as 'Mail Order/Telephone Order' or 'MOTO'). This facility will have to be pre-arranged with your payment provider, which should be no problem in the current crisis. However, if you don’t pre-arrange this with your provider, your transactions would likely be rejected as being outside your terms of service. You would also need to follow some additional common-sense security procedures, and these are listed below.

2. Use a Virtual Terminal

A virtual terminal is basically a software programme that does the job of a physical payment terminal, and is run on your PC connected to a secure online portal. This is useful where you have more than a few transactions to put through.

Note: there is also a variation of the Virtual Terminal method, which does not require you to take card details over the telephone. This is called ‘Pay by Link’ and with this method you send a link to your customer via email or text. When the customer opens the link, they are brought to a secure payment page, with the amount and description already set-up by you and they just input their card details and click 'Submit'.

Take sensible precautions - there are some extra security procedures you will need to take when taking card details over the telephone:

  • Do not write down the card details at any point, just input them directly
  • Control who has access to your terminal, especially those with the right to make refunds
  • Avoid any larger than normal transactions from customers you do not already know

As we have seen, there are a range of options available depending on personal preference and the nature of the business. We would be happy to talk about your situation and advise on the best contactless or remote solution for you.