P2PE vs. E2EE: What’s the Best Payment Security Option?

If end-to-end encryption and point-to-point encryption sound like they could be the same thing, you’re not wrong. Continue reading “P2PE vs. E2EE: What’s the Best Payment Security Option?”

ACH Myths Busted: Clearing Up the Confusion on Clearing Houses

What’s the most valuable non-cash payment channel in the United States?

Most people would say credit cards—and most people would be wrong.

Continue reading “ACH Myths Busted: Clearing Up the Confusion on Clearing Houses”

What is WCAG and Why Does it Matter

Why should we talk about Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)? The present and future of engagement are online and web based. With the growth of the metaverse, ongoing drive towards digital transformation and meteoric rise in online purchases, the ability to deliver a great digital experience has become table stakes.

Trend trackers have pointed out how much more important the web experience has become since the start of the pandemic. But for the more than 1 in 5 people with a disability, these experiences might come with caveats. Worldwide, more than 220 million people have a vision impairment of some sort and over 2 billion have a disability of some kind. What implications does this have for web design? Quite a lot!

History of WCAG

The need for a set of web content accessibility guidelines was recognized decades ago. We’ll explore what those standards are, but how have they evolved over time, and when did they first come together?

To find the origins of WCAG we have to go back to before the Y2K crisis. Back to the previous millennium. The year 1999. On May 5th of that year, the HTML-focused WCAG 1.0 helped shaped the standards for web accessibility and digital experience. In 2008, those rules got an update in the form of WCAG 2.0.

Where the original had focused on HTML, the new guidelines (and the 2018 WCAG 2.1) expressed a technology-agnostic approach to accessibility for “web content on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices.” The goal of WCAG overall has not changed from creating a more accessible web environment, but each update has given additional guidance on this critical topic.

What Does WCAG Require?

The standards set out in WCAG 2.1 cover four key factors for accessible design along with a series of conformance criteria to evaluate WCAG compliance. In particular, WCAG 2.1 indicates web content should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. What do these mean?

1 Perceivable

“Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.”

If a user cannot see, hear, or otherwise interact with web content, it is not accessible to them. This means, for example, that non-text content should have transcripts, alt-text, or other features meant to enable screen reading. Perceivable design isn’t limited to text accessibility, but WCAG 2.1 has additional guidelines on creating more perceivable content.

Example: Thanks to labels for all text fields in the screens of CSG Forte Checkout, users can understand what information each field is meant to include, allowing them to complete the form.

image of input form with text labels, making the form screen reader friendly to meet WCAG requirements

 

 

2 Operable

“User interface components and navigation must be operable.”

If a user cannot interact with the interface or navigation as designed, then the content therein is not accessible to them. One way to address this is to ensure that all interfaces have keyboard-based alternatives to mouse-based operation. Other types of operability blocks exist, but WCAG 2.1 provides several ways to ensure operable accessibility.

Example: Thanks to correct contrast ratios and keyboard controls to the date picker tool in various CSG Forte offerings, users can input the date they want to pay their bill using only the keyboard.

Image of a calendar feature within CSG Forte, making it easier for customers to select a date using a variety of navigation tools, including the keyboard or mouse.

3 Understandable

“Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.”

If a user cannot understand the content or user interface, then it is not accessible to them. The most basic understandability feature is including language options and translation-friendly pages, but clear labeling and acronym explaining features are other techniques to make web content more understandable. Whatever web content you create, you want your readers and users to understand it. Following the WCAG guidelines makes this that much easier.

Example: Because CSG Forte error messages are described in text along with outlining for invalid input fields, users can parse error messages they might not otherwise understand.

Image demonstrates feature set that helps users identify areas for correction in forms, increasing understandability

4 Robust

“Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Where the other three factors are focused on making web content accessible to the user, the “robust” category of WCAG guidelines is focused on making content available to technologies used by those users. This means ensuring that pages are parse-friendly for text-to-speech and other technologies.

Accessibility Regulations

Where WCAG is a set of guidelines to create more accessible content online, there are other considerations for web content as well. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 (508) contain standards for web accessibility. Unlike WCAG, ADA and 508 have legal ramifications.

Section 508

This regulation is meant to ensure that the federal government provides accessible services over all information technology communications channels. This extends from phone to web and beyond. Where WCAG provides wide reaching guidance on accessibility, 508 has specific requirements for federal offices and services. These include providing accessible computer, phone, and mobile services to employees and citizens.

Americans With Disabilities Act

ADA regulation is meant to prevent discrimination against Americans with disabilities by businesses, non-profits, and governments. While ADA regulations apply across more areas than web content, digital experiences should be made accessible as well. Although ADA has existed for over 30 years, many websites and digital products have no yet achieved ADA compliance.

OTHER READING: Did You Know CSG Forte is ADA Compliant?

Why WCAG Matters For Payments

With more than 2 billion disabled individuals around the world, creating an accessible experience isn’t just the right thing to do, it also means reaching a wider audience. Beyond compliance, accessible design allows consumers to do more online, including making purchases and using products.

For example, providing a secure way to validate payments inputs for blind customers can ensure that they enter the correct information. This then means that their transactions can processes correctly. Put in terms of WCAG 2.1, this means ensuring the input is perceivable by the user and that the validation option is operable for someone who cannot see.

As the world becomes ever more digital and with the continuing interest in the metaverse and other cross-platform digital content, being able to meet consumers, corporate clients, and users where they are will remain essential to business success. Providing accessible payment options does require a framework and WCAG provides a powerful starting point for better digital payments.

To learn more about how you can create exceptional accessible online payments, check out CSG Forte’s payment solutions.

What Can ACH Processing Do for Your Business?

ACH DRIVES POSITIVE REVENUE OVER TRADITIONAL CARD PROCESSING

From computer with physical data tapes that had to be driven from bank to bank, to modern, fully digital clearing houses, Automated Clearing House (ACH) processing has become an integral part of digital commerce. In 2021, over 29 billion payments valued at $72.6 trillion were processed over the ACH Network. To put this in perspective, the amount of money exchanged between consumers, businesses and governments last year could cover the cost of one 2022 Ferrari Portofino Ms for every person in the United States. Contactless payments especially have turbocharged this trend as more consumers seek out frictionless payments on the phone. Whether these take the form of tap-to-pay wallet type experiences or purely digital contactless payments, each of these frictionless payments is an opportunity to employee ACH in your business.  

But let’s get back on track. What is ACH processing, and how could ACH processing impact for your business

WHAT IS ACH?

ACH processing is one of the key ways to securely send and receive money, for credit and debit card payments For example, when your paycheck is deposited into your checking account, your employer is depositing your pay via ACH processing. Or, conversely, if a customer makes a payment for your goods and services, the bank associated with your customer’s credit or debit card can deposit your funds directly to your business account.  

ACH was designed to support increasing payment volumes as the world began to transition to automated payments. In the 1970s, financial transaction volumes were becoming difficult to manage with early computer infrastructure. As a result, the Federal Reserve stepped in to fund an automated system build and use computer programs specifically designed to process and settle payment claims between financial institutions.  

With ACH, merchants can process check and card payments without making authorization requests to credit card networks or issuing banks. Instead, ACH processing goes through the Federal Reserve or the clearing house to secure payments from a Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI). The RDFI then posts the payment into the requestor’s account.  

All of this means that instead of paying network fees to a credit card company, ACH payments cost much less to process. This ends up saving the merchant money with every transaction. And very soon, merchants will have a chance to collect even more money with ACH. 

The National Automated Clearing House Association (Nacha) has repeatedly raised the daily transaction limit for ACH. This means that not only do ACH payments cost merchants less, but they can also accept much larger payments (up to $1 million per day) and recognize revenue faster. 

ACH VS. CREDIT CARDS: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?  

No matter what payment options you offer, customers want to pay in the most convenient ways for them. Often, this means they will use a credit card or another form of digital and contactless payments. But added convenience can also add costs. So what happens when a credit card payment is processed in the traditional way?  

  1. The customer places their order or makes a purchase. The card information is received at point of sale.
  2. The merchant checkout accepts the card information and sends it to a service to manage the interactions with the merchant’s bank.
  3. The service sends the information securely to the merchant’s bank processor.
  4. The merchant’s bank processor then contacts the credit card network, like Visa or Mastercard
  5. The credit card network then sends the request to the issuing bank for the customer’s credit card.
  6. The issuing bank determines if the purchase is authorized and returns that information to the credit card network who sends it back to the merchant’s bank process.
  7. The merchant’s bank then sends to the merchant’s point of sale confirming if the payment is approved or declined.  

Each of these steps adds cost. Not only does the merchant pay a nominal fee, known as payment settlement or interchange, to process the transaction, but the credit card network and issuing bank charge fees to the merchant for each credit card transaction made by their customers.   

ACH PROCESSING 

At first glance, the ACH payment process looks very similar, but there are a few core differences. 

The ACH processing starts the same way at the point of sale before entering a processor’s system. But that’s where the similarities end.  

  1. The customer makes a purchase. The card information is received at point of sale.
  2. The merchant checkout accepts the card information and sends it to a service to manage the ACH transaction.
  3. The ACH processor handles confirmation by contacting the Originating Depository Financial Institution for origination of the payment.
  4. The ACH payment request is sent through the Originating Depository Financial Institution which then requests settlement from the Federal Reserve.
  5. The Federal Reserve then confirms that the payment is valid with the Receiving Depository Financial Institution.
  6. The Receiving Depository Financial Institution (RDFI) then responds, sending confirmations back down the chain in reverse to approve or deny the payment.
  7. Funds are sent directly to the merchant’s bank account.  

These last three steps are what make the difference in cost and security between ACH and traditional credit card payments. Because ACH avoids navigating several fee-incurring steps, the end result is less costly and more reliable, especially when dealing with high transaction sizes as large as one million dollars. 

STANDARD VS. SAME DAY ACH PROCESSING 

One major benefit of ACH processing is the speed with which a merchant can receive customer funds. For most ACH processors, this means that funds may be available as soon as the next day, depending on when the transaction occurred. However, Same Day ACH is a newer process, one that allows merchants to receive funds the same day the purchase was made.

Why does Same Day ACH processing matter? It’s simple. Same-day processing means merchants collect funds faster. This maximizes the benefit you can generate from ACH payments. Effectively, Same Day ACH lets merchants access their payment funds quicker so that they can invest in their businesses quicker. The increased cashflow from faster processing and fewer fees than processing credit card payments means that businesses who use Same Day ACH can get back to doing what they do best and worry less about transaction costs.  

However, most payment processing companies do not offer Same Day ACH. And if they do, they do not own the technology. This means that merchants working with payment processors not owning the technology receive additional fees for processing Same Day ACH.  

CSG Forte is different. CSG Forte owns the Same Day ACH technology and can offer merchants the ability to receive funds quicker and at a cheaper price than working with other payment processors. 

WHY GET ACH PROCESSING FOR YOUR BUSINESS? 

Simply put, ACH processing allows businesses to receive and have access to payment funds faster. Not only that, but the larger daily transaction limit means merchants can access more payments funds via ACH quicker, as well. Beyond the speed and convenience of ACH, businesses save money on each ACH transaction. Because they don’t need to pay settlement or interchange fees that arise from merchant networks, merchants can secure a larger chunk of each transaction. Especially when considering that compared to cash and paper checks ACH is also more secure and cannot be physically lost, it’s a powerful tool for businesses in many industries, from retail to healthcare and from financial services to real estate and telcos.

With the power that a great ACH solution can bring to your payments, it is no wonder that so many brands are adding it to their toolbox. However, if you’re interested in learning more about ACH processing or how you can get the most out of ACH with Same Day Processing, CSG Forte can help.

Ready to learn more about ACH and how it can drive more value for your business? Check out CSG Forte’s ACH processing capabilities.  

Million Dollar Payments: Nacha Boosting Same-Day ACH Maximum

Think of your favorite news outlet, any news outlet. Chances are, if you visit their site right now, the leading topic will be the economy. From inflation to new job numbers, several metrics and topics are commonly discussed when analyzing the economy. However, the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network often goes overlooked in economic discussions. And it definitely shouldn’t—with over 7.5 billion payments valued at $18.9 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2021 alone.  

With payment volumes and values continuing to grow, new rules are needed to foster the growth of the ACH network. The National Automated Clearing House Association (Nacha), an organization that governs and facilitates the ACH Network, develops standards and rules to ensure the ACH Network operates smoothly, and that payment information transfers securely and quickly.

In response to substantial increases in ACH payments, Nacha announced a rule that will increase the same-day ACH spending limit. Beginning March 18, 2022, businesses will be able to transfer same-day credit and debit payments up to $1 million, up from the current $100,000 cap.

And with more verticals likely to adopt this because of the increasing amount of payments they can accept, there’s never been a better time to start offering this payment option. Get paid faster, lower payment processing costs and easily manage recurring payments.

As a Nacha preferred partner, CSG Forte is the leading payments provider of same-day ACH, supporting over 73,000 merchants. With a best-in-class solution and decades of experience, we deliver a scalable and seamless solution to companies operating in a wide variety of verticals, including integrated software vendors (ISVs), healthcare, property management, government, insurance, enterprises and utility organizations.

Our payments platform can turn what was once an operational expense into a revenue generator through our revenue optimization solutions. Our platform optimizes ACH payments by validating payments in real-time, automatically re-presenting failed payments and keeping recurring payments on track.

Want to learn how you can optimize your ACH payments and take advantage of the rule change? Click here to learn more.

 

 

 

Payment Basics: NSF Re-presentment

What is NSF?

NSF stands for “non-sufficient funds.” An NSF check is a returned check. This means the bank has refused to honor the check because there isn’t enough money in the account to cover it. These are often also simply called bad or bounced checks.

What happens when an NSF check is written?

When an NSF check is written, a number of negative consequences may follow. The financial institution of the person writing the check makes one of two choices:

Allowing the check

The bank of the check writer may also decide to let the check push through. This, however, would put the check writer’s account into an overdrawn status. For some banks, this means they will charge the account holder fees simply for overdrawing, but may continue to charge for each day or certain amount that they are over. It can end up burning quite a hole in the wallet.

Refusing the check

For the check writer, the bank may refuse to honor the check. The bank will not allow the funds to process, and the writer will likely be charged a fee just for writing the check.

If the bank chooses not to honor the check, they will return the check to the depositor (the person cashing the check or depositing it into their account as a payment). When this happens, the check will not clear, and the depositor’s bank will also tack on a “Deposit Item Returned” fee (DIR). Potentially, the returned item could sink the depositor’s account into overdrawn status, also initiating an overdraft fee.

Banks consider both the depositors and the check writers as being responsible for the NSF check – and they have no problem making it a very expensive mistake.

How do you protect your business from NSF checks?

NSF checks can be very frustrating and costly to businesses that need to process payments. Some decide not to accept checks at all as a last resort, but this is choice limits the payment options of your customers.

For many businesses, it’s a wise decision to accept paper and eChecks, or electronic checks. This allows customers the flexibility of selecting a payment option that works for them – and many people just want to simply have a payment come right out of their checking account.

But how can business handle NSF checks? It’s wise to have a plan set into place so that when NSF checks appear, it isn’t a complete disaster. NSF re-presentment is your best option, as it allows you to recover the funds for each check.

What is NSF re-presentment?

When an NSF check is written, re-presentment will simply “re-present” the check to the writer’s bank at a later date. This way, the check has another shot to clear. CSG Forte’s NSF re-presentment option lets you select the date you wish to re-present the check, which enables you to choose a time when you think there is a stronger likelihood that the funds are available. You may know, for instance, when your customer gets their paycheck. Scheduling NSF re-presentment on or directly after this date increases your chances of accessing the funds and clearing the check.

 

What’s a payment channel?

Since all of our recent chatter about omni-channel is centered on multiple channels, here’s a quick breakdown on payment channels and what we offer.

A payment channel is basically any way that a customer might make a payment or anywhere that you (as a merchant) might accept a payment. This is slightly different from retail channels, which might include bricks-and-mortar, catalogs, and online shopping/eCommerce sites. Payment channels are generally related to these retail channels, but are more specifically how the payment might be made: physical POS systems, phone/IVR payments, online checkout solutions, and mobile payment options, for example.

So these correlate to retail channels, but leave some room for overlap. For example, at a bricks-and-mortar retail channel, you might process payments on a physical POS system (ie the cash register), as well as on smartphones or tablets within the store. Your catalog might accept payments by phone, but also integrate nicely into the omni-channel concept so that customers could walk into your bricks-and-mortar store to pay at the POS, or they could shop the catalog online and pay via online checkout. There is a relationship between payment channels and retail channels, and since you definitely want to start creating a cohesive experience via omni-channel, it’s important to consider what payment channels you might implement.

CSG Forte offers full payment processing support for the following channels:

Physical POS

We can supply card readers, help build a solution with our Virtual Terminal that turns existing computers into instant workstations, and more.

Phone/IVR

Comes with your own toll-free number and script-building assistance.

Mobile payments

Use the iDynamo and our mobile app to instantly take payments on smartphones and tablets.

Online payments

Our new Checkout is smart, speedy, and stocked with options.

You can accept both credit cards and electronic checks on any of these channels, and each channel comes with our cloud-based Virtual Terminal for transaction management and our powerful payment gateway services. All of the reports funnel into the Virtual Terminal, so you don’t have to worry about piecing things together on your own.

These payment channels don’t necessarily have to correlate only to retail, as well. Government agencies could implement online payments to accept taxes on the web and build a smart physical POS system for in-office payments. Veterinary clinics, dance studios, and other businesses can all benefit from considering an omni-channel approach.

And what’s easier than setting up all of your channels with one company? Get started with CSG Forte today. Give us a call at 866.290.5400 to see what we can do for you.

 

Cryptocurrency: Explain it to me like I’m 5

If you were paying any attention to rumblings in the payments industry in the mid-2000s, you probably heard someone say the words “Bitcoin,” “cryptocurrency” or “blockchain.” Following these utterances, you probably met the stare of the person talking to you with either a blank look or a look of skepticism, as you probably connected these terms with the dark web and nefarious purchases.

Now, cryptocurrency, and Bitcoin in particular, is becoming more mainstream – even if many Americans are still confused by the mysterious world of digital currencies. Many skeptics consider digital currency to be a speculative bubble. Some consider cryptocurrency to be the future of payment processing. Either way, let’s hop into the discussion to explain what exactly cryptocurrency is and why it should matter to you.

What is a cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is the general name given to represent different digital coins. Many people are most familiar with Bitcoin, but there are various altcoins that compete with Bitcoin in different ways. Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin are some major altcoins you may have heard of (but there are others in the market).

Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin operate a bit differently from Bitcoin. Bitcoin operates off a blockchain, which essentially is a digital ledger of all transactions that occur with the specified cryptocurrency. To put it really simply, the blockchain is managed by ledger-keepers, who are also called “miners.”

While trying to explain the inner-workings of blockchain gets super technical (just think really, really big computers with lots of processing power), just know the ledger-holders must all agree on any changes to the blockchain for every transaction. This keeps everything (the ledger, your transactions and so on.) accurate and secure. For Bitcoin miners, they can earn a specific number of Bitcoin just by keeping track of the transactions that occur – also commonly called “mining.”

How does cryptocurrency work (and why do people like it)?

Cryptocurrency is founded off the idea of decentralization. Unlike most payment options to-date, cryptocurrency has no general need for the intermediary, i.e. the banking system. This intermediary system has been integral in maintaining the integrity of our monetary system.

Banks, especially when it comes to digital transactions such as stocks and non-cash transactions, help validate transactions. This is especially helpful in preventing “double-spending” in which a transaction is replicated, primarily through error or from a matter of hacking. The claim that Bitcoin makes, however, that that the blockchain system is more secure than any banking system, processes transactions faster than any bank can dream and gives the transactional authority back to the person who holds the money.

Cryptocurrency in its essence is a peer-to-peer method of transacting business – and it’s for this reason that cryptocurrency got a bad rap in some circles. People who have been in-the-know about cryptocurrency remember the coins being used to fund dark web transactions and other (sometimes illegal) enterprises. No longer is this the main use case, however. Now, people who own Bitcoin and other altcoins can use their money to purchase items found on the common market.

Whether you believe that cryptocurrency is just a flash in the pan of the payments industry, or you believe cryptocurrency to be the future of our global economy, most can agree that it’s an exciting time to witness the volatility and growth of these digital markets.

SEC Code Glossary: A Quick Guide to Entry Class Codes

In the world of electronic payments, NACHA (National Automated Clearing House Association) governs and dictates the regulations for processing electronic transactions through the Federal Reserve. The regulations are very serious, utilized in legal proceedings regarding transactions and relied upon by banks, payment processors, and both federal and state governments. NACHA keeps the order for the industry, and it’s important to abide by every one of their regulations.

Whenever a transaction is submitted, NACHA needs an SEC code along with it.

What is an SEC code?

SEC stands for “Standard Entry Class,” and is basically a code that denotes the way a customer authorized a payment. When you apply for payment processing, sometimes you will find that certain types of payment methods are associated with lower costs.

For now, we’re going to give you a quick glossary of SEC codes for easy reference.

POS/POP

POS (Point-of-Sale) and POP (Point-of-Purchase) entries refer to single debit payments made in-person via credit/debit card (POS) or converted check (POP). Both the card and/or the check are used to record the account information in association with the payment, and the original method of payment is then returned to the customer.

PPD

PPD (Prearranged Payment and Deposit Entry) refers to Direct Deposit entries and any Preauthorized Bill Payment applications. In this way, these payments can be both debits or credits (meaning funds can be removed or deposited into an account) and either single or recurring (occurring as a one-time payment or scheduled multiple payments).

WEB

A WEB (Internet Initiated Entry) is simply any debit via the Internet. These entries may be single or recurring.

These debits must be authorized by the receiver via the Internet. In other words, if the authorization itself was actually received in person, via U.S. Mail or by phone, for example, even to actually suffice for a payment from the Internet – it’s not really a WEB entry. However the authorization was received is how the transaction must be classified via the SEC code.

Also bear in mind you may only initiate a credit here as a reversal of a WEB debit. You can’t submit a credit using the WEB entry code.

TEL

TEL (Telephone Initiated Entry) entries are single debit entries authorized via the telephone. In this oral authorization entry there must be a pre-existing relationship between the receiver (person authorizing the payment) and originator (person/entity receiving the payment). If there is no relationship already in place, then the receiver has to make the phone call.

Additionally, all TEL transactions have to be recorded and kept on file for a minimum of two years from the date of the transaction. If the transaction is not recorded, then the originator needs to provide the receiver with a written notice that confirms the oral authorization before the payment settles.

CCD

A CCD (Corporate Credit or Debit) is also known as “Cash Concentration or Disbursement.” These entries can be either a credit or debit – and occur specifically between corporate entities. It can be a single entry or recurring.

All business bank account transactions are listed under this SEC code. A signed authorization has to be obtained either separately or included in the contract between the businesses prior to the transaction date.

ARC

An ARC (Accounts Receivable Entry) is defined as a check conversion that is originally received via the U.S. Mail. This includes the USPS (United States Postal Service), as well as courier services like FedEx and UPS. According to NACHA, this does not include personally delivered or night drop-box items. Corporate checks are also not included.

There’s also a slight change you’ll run into these less common SEC codes:

CTX

CTX (Corporate Trade Exchange) entries are initiated by originators to pay or collect their obligations. The funds are transferred to other organizations and so mirror the same business entity requirements as the CCD entry code. Both credits and debits are allowed.

RCK

The RCK (Represented Check Entry) entry refers specifically to single debits that occur as a result of check representment. Check representment occurs after an item is returned NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds), or is bounced. The service will simply represent the check at a later, scheduled date after it is returned. Some businesses choose to initiate check representment in order to attempt to recollect their funds. For merchants that use RCK entries, a notice must be displayed visibly at the POS.

BOC

BOC (Back Office Conversion Entry) entries are single debit entries that are initiated by source documents (checks) received at POP or manned bill payment locations (in-person). These checks are collected first then converted to ACH during back office processing.

CIE

A CIE (Customer Initiated Entry) is a credit initiated usually through a bill payment service by an individual. These are meant to pay an obligation.

XCK

The XCK (Destroyed Check Entry) refers to a replacement entry that is initiated when an original check is unreadable, lost or destroyed and cannot be processed.

 

Electronic Payments: A Brief History

Imagine. You want to purchase a doughnut at the local bakery, but instead of handing over your credit card, you reach into your pocket and pull out a few grains you picked on your farm earlier that day. After all, the baker can use the grains to make more dough. Seems crazy, right? However, the barter system was a cornerstone of transactions in our early history. Lucky for us, advances in payment acceptance means you no longer are tied to your farm (in fact, you don’t even need to have a farm nowadays). But the biggest advance in payment acceptance isn’t particularly tangible. Why? Electronic payments. The invention of electronic payments makes receiving and making payments online, via mobile and at the point-of-sale a whole lot simpler.

A Brief but Important History of Electronic Payments

Electronic payments have their roots in the 1870s, when Western Union debuted the electronic fund transfer (EFT) in 1871. Since then, people have been enamored with the idea of sending money to pay for goods and services without necessarily having to be physically present at the point-of-sale.  Technology has been a driving factor in the development of electronic payments. Today, making a purchase is as easy as tapping a button on your smartphone. Work with streamlining payment methods has been hard-won.

From the 1870s until the late 1960s, payments underwent a slow but gradual transformation. In the 1910s, the Federal Reserve of America began using the telegraph to transfer money. In the 1950s, Diner’s Club International established itself as the first independent credit card company, soon followed by American Express. In 1959, American Express introduced the world to the first plastic card for electronic payments.

Entering the 1970s, people became more reliant on computers as part of the buying process. In 1972, the Automated Clearing House (ACH) was developed to batch process large volumes of transactions. NACHA established operating rules for ACH payments just two years later.

The (Wide, Wide) World Wide Web

Then along came the Internet. In the 1960s, ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Web, was built as a military network to improve communication. In the 1990s, online internet banking services were offered to bank customers. Those first online payment systems were anything but user-friendly—users had to have specific encryption knowledge and use data transfer protocols.

Soon, development across the Web, and the eventual invention of Web 2.0, set the stage for online sites to participate in what’s now known as e-commerce. In 1994, Amazon, one of the pioneers of eCommerce, was founded, along with a slew of other websites that we know and love to purchase on.

Payment acceptance and securing payments has been a specific challenge for e-merchants and payment processors. In the early days of electronic payment processing, you needed special equipment and software to send a payment for goods. Now, payment acceptance can be integrated into websites, mobile platforms, and at the point-of-sale for scalability amongst merchants big and small.

Keeping Your Private Data Safe

As technology changes at an increasingly rapid pace, however, keeping your data safe has been at the forefront of most merchant’s minds. It’s easy to see why. Data breaches can have long-reaching financial and systematic impacts for businesses, and can damage the reputation of long-standing organizations. What’s more, breaches can also spell financial ruin for companies without the financial, legal and logistical bandwidth to weather the storms of a hack.

Regulations by both NACHA and PCI standardize how payment data is received, stored, transmitted and processed for each transaction, and help reduce the likelihood of an attack. However it’s important that payment processors who offer PCI compliance programs stay ahead of those who wish to do harm to hardworking business owners by hacking their systems.

For point-of-sale transactions, EMV-enabled (also known as “chip card”) transactions add another level of encryption to your sales when performing card-present sales. End-to-end encryption, like what CSG Forte offers, provides a level of security to your entire payment processing system from terminal to payment acceptance and beyond. When accepting payments online, SSL webpages and other methods of data encryption help ease the worry of consumers and take some of the burden off merchants to remain PCI-compliant.

What’s Next for Electronic Payments?

According to a new McKinsey study, 78% of Americans currently use at least one form of digital payments.  Offering consumers more ways to efficiently pay bills and purchase the things they want should be a key objective for all modern business owners.

Hot-button technologies like cryptocurrency and blockchain could be another way payment processing gets another technological push into a new era. After all, some cryptocurrency contenders aim to revolutionize the processing time for electronic payments, and if successful, can completely change the game for the payments industry. But in the interim, new trends like PIN on Glass acceptance to allow customers to use their PIN for mobile point-of-sale transactions, as well as contactless payments, same-day ACH and advancements in payment APIs all are geared towards making payment processing simpler, faster and more efficient.

For the last century and a half, the world of electronic payments has seen several notable technological shifts. As we speed through the industrial advances that the payment industry currently faces, we will only see a payment processing scheme that is safer, faster and operates how consumers and merchants need.