Becoming a Merchant
Learn about the process of becoming a Merchant, creating a Merchant Account, Payment Processing Service, outsourcing credit card payments, payment gateway, complete set forms, credit card transaction process, Merchant training, and PCI Compliance Assessment.
Merchant application process steps:
- In order for a department to be able to accept credit card payments, they must obtain receipt center approval from the University Controller or designee. A form BA-114 Request/Authority to Establish Receipt Center needs to be completed and forwarded to the Controller or designee for review and approval. The form can be downloaded here: BA-114.
- Once approved as a receipt center, Contact Merchant Services Section at the Controller’s Office to discuss the line of business, description of transactions, capture acceptance methods (Payment Applications, Payment Gateways, Point-of-Sale Terminal, etc), volume of business, go-live.
- Complete request form, Request for Credit Card Outlet Authorization.
- Upon acceptance as a merchant, the Merchant Service Section at the Controller’s Office will provide installation/setup and training.
- PCI compliance evaluation and monitoring will be discussed with the merchant and will be continual while the merchant account remains active.
Timeline for creating a Merchant Account
A merchant account can take a minimum of six weeks to complete from the initial meeting until the account is in production and the first transaction has been accepted.
Payment Processing Service
All University merchants are set up through the State of North Carolina’s Master Service Agreement (MSA) with SunTrust Merchant Services (STMS), a partnership between SunTrust Bank and First Data Merchant Services (FDMS). STMS provides merchant card payment processing services. The North Carolina Office of the State Controller (OSC) has mandated that all agencies and universities of the State use the MSA unless an exemption has been approved. A University department may request an exemption from this requirement by providing a business case justifying an alternate vendor or process to Merchant Services in the Controller’s Office. The business case will be reviewed by the University and the State Treasurer’s Electronic Commerce Section. If approved, the Merchant Service Section will work with the department to implement, monitor, and maintain security and compliance in accordance with University policy over the alternate vendor.
Without prior approval, university departments shall not enter into an outsourcing agreement with a third-party provider, including software applications for credit card processing.
Outsourcing Credit Card Payments
The University is required to participate in the Master Service Agreement (MSA) for merchant services provided by OSC due to Cash Management Law (General Statutes 147-86.10 and 11). An exemption from participating may be obtained from OSC if a suitable business case is presented. (See Payment Processing Service).
This requirement applies to all contracts, including outsourced functions, if they involve credit card processing. The requirement does apply even when the University is not the merchant for credit card processing.
Any area of campus involved in or negotiating an outsourcing agreement that involves processing credit cards through a processor, not under the MSA, should forward an exemption request to Merchant Services. (See Payment Processing Service).
NelNet is the University’s preferred payment gateway and is required to be used for all internet credit card transactions. A University department may request an exemption from this requirement by providing a business case justifying an alternate vendor or process to Merchant Services. The business case will be reviewed and forwarded as appropriate to the PCI Team to request approval. A University department shall not enter into an outsourcing agreement with a third-party provider, including software applications for credit card processing until the business case is approved. Upon approval, standard purchasing policies apply. Please see Merchant Procedure regarding The University’s Payment Gateway, Nelnet, for more information.
Complete Setup Forms
Once the department has completed the initial meeting with Merchant Services and decided on the capture method, the department must complete the appropriate setup form and documents. Merchant Services Section will identify the appropriate PCI Self Assessment (SAQ) questionnaire to be completed, and the department will need to provide a workflow diagram and description. These forms are reviewed and approved by the Merchant Services Section and PCI Team. Once approved, the forms are submitted to the NC Office of the State Controller to be reviewed and sent to SunTrust Merchant Services for setup. The requesting department must complete PCI DSS training prior to ‘go live’ of the merchant account.
Credit Card Transaction Process
Method 1: Payment Gateway
The credit card transaction process begins when the customer purchases a product/event or makes a donation through a third-party hosted payment application/website. This application website has a “Pay Now” button and passes the customer to the hosted payment gateway to make the payment. The payment gateway interfaces with the payment processor. The payment processor interfaces with the credit card companies to validate the credit card and verify the address if address verification is used. The payment processor returns an authorization code to the payment gateway and settles the funds with the University’s bank account.
Method 2: Point-of-Sale Terminal
The credit card transaction process begins when the customer purchases a product/event or makes a donation, and their card is swiped or entered into a point-of-sale terminal. The terminal is connected through an analog or cellular telephone line to the payment processor for settlement. The payment processor interfaces with the credit card companies to validate the credit card and verify the address if address verification is used. The payment processor returns an authorization code to the point of sale terminal and settles the funds with the University’s bank account.
University departments approved as merchants shall ensure that all employees involved in the merchant service/credit card environment have completed the PCI training on an annual basis. These training sessions apply to any who participates in the merchant’s payment process. There are 3 different merchant roles.
- Department Head- Merchant Account Owner
- Site Manager-Functional Contact
These training sessions also apply to IT support/developers of applications and software that access or process credit card information or interface with credit card payment gateways. University departments shall also provide necessary training to employees to ensure staff members adhere to the policies and procedures for merchant services.
Currently, there are two online PCI training courses available that have been developed by NCSU Security & Compliance. Merchants can self enroll during the application process for these courses and are required to complete them prior to ‘go live’ of the merchant, or if a new user to an existing merchant, the training must be completed before handling any credit card information.
PCI Operator Training
Operator training is required on an annual basis for operators and site managers. An operator is defined as anyone in the business process which handles credit card information. Examples of operators include:
- Anyone who handles a customer credit card at a point-of-sale device.
- Anyone who processes faxed or mailed forms that contain credit card information.
- Anyone who accesses a web application that processes credit card information (such as CashNet).
PCI Site Manager Training
This is a required course for site managers and department heads annually to maintain PCI Compliance by the University. The purpose is to educate merchants of their role and responsibilities regarding credit card security, convey the responsibilities of central offices in relation to credit card security, and address the risks of becoming a merchant.
PCI Compliance Assessment
During the setup phase, the merchant needs to assess their initial Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) Compliance. Assessment consists of the following steps:
- Complete Initial SAQ – Before the merchant may begin accepting transactions, the merchant must complete their initial SAQ. The merchant should consult with Merchant Services, as required to verify which SAQ is applicable.
- Review PCI DSS Requirements – After completing the initial PCI DSS SAQ, review PCI DSS to make sure that the merchant meets all applicable requirements. PCI Compliance is not a point-in-time, but a continuous day-to-day process.
- Complete Compliance Documents – Merchants are required to have documented procedures for their business process related to credit card processing. A workflow diagram is a component of their documents.