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It’s such a fiercely competitive world that modern businesses need to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy their products and services.

This means being able to take payments quickly and efficiently in a variety of ways so as not to deter them from making a purchase.

One of the most important is being able to accept payments over the phone, as it enables businesses to reach a global customer base.

However, over the phone payment processing can be fraught with potential dangers for both individuals and the companies selling goods if carried out incorrectly.

For example, there are regulations to follow when you process credit card payments over the phone that help reduce the risk of falling victim to crime.

So, what do you need to know before you can accept card payments over the phone? Here is our comprehensive guide to over the phone payment systems.

What are over the phone payments?

An over the phone payment is a type of card-not-present transaction. As its name suggests, this is when neither the cardholder nor the card itself is physically with the merchant.

One of the reasons why such payment methods are used is because of the increasing use of credit and debit cards around the world.

Popularity of card payment systems

Payment cards enable local, national and international transactions to be completed easily and that’s why they are so popular.

The total number of non-cash payments in the euro area increased by 10.1% to €67bn in the first half of 2023, according to the European Central Bank.

How to accept payments over the phone

Card payments accounted for 54% of the total number of non-cash payments in this period, while €29.8bn of transactions were processed by retail payments systems in the euro area. Their total value was €23.6trn.

Meanwhile, credit and debit card spending is up year-on-year according to data compiled by UK Finance, the trade body representing 300 firms.

What sectors accept payments via phone?

Just about every company you can imagine benefits from the ability to accept over the phone payments, but here are a few specific examples:


There are millions of retailers around the world selling items of every conceivable shape, size and cost. Being able to accept payments via phone is crucial to them.


Anyone wanting to book a taxi for the airport may be asked to pay in advance, particularly if it’s a long journey or scheduled for an unsociable hour.

Food outlets

Restaurants offering takeaway services often rely on being able to take orders by phone from customers wanting to book a delivery.

Holiday properties

Families looking to secure a holiday let for their family vacation may be asked to pay the full amount upfront – or even a deposit – over the phone.

Remote businesses

It’s no longer so important to have a physical premises, which means businesses may base themselves anywhere and deal with would-be customers over the phone.

Service providers

Businesses involved in everything from boiler repairs to household cleaning may require a deposit from customers that they can pay over the phone before accepting a booking.

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Why do businesses accept over the phone payments?

The simple answer is that it makes sense! Payment cards are relied upon by millions of people around the world so businesses need to embrace them.

However, it’s often the case that a potential customer is not in the vicinity and will expect the company to take payments over the phone.

Those who are unable to meet these demands risk losing not only that particular transaction but also the longer-term goodwill of the would-be customer.

These are the key benefits to businesses that take card payments over the phone:

  • Increased long-term income
  • More potential international customers
  • Earn the goodwill of clients
  • Diversify income streams
  • Enable the business to expand

What do businesses need to consider?

Of course, there are some factors that businesses need to consider when looking at how to accept payments over the phone.

While it’s a fantastic way of getting paid, there are some potential pitfalls that need to be avoided so it’s vital that merchants do their research.

  • The costs involved in processing transactions
  • Fraudsters using someone’s card
  • Mistakes in inputting the transaction cost
  • The regulatory factors that must be considered
  • How sensitive information and data is handled

Over the phone payment safety

Safety is of paramount importance – for both customers and traders – when it comes to how businesses accept credit cards by phone.

There are also online resources to help both traders and individuals avoid the problems associated with cyber crime.

For example, the National Cyber Security Centre has action plans on its site in the form of quick quizzes that highlight whether their existing approach has vulnerabilities.

So, what are the taking credit card payments over the phone regulations? Different countries and regions will have their own specific rules. However, there are a few non-negotiables.

This includes following the procedures laid down for such transactions by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).

This is a global forum whose role is to “enhance global payment account data security” by developing standards and driving education and awareness.

For example, the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) provides a baseline of technical and operational requirements that are designed to protect payment account data.

How to accept payments over the phone

So, what do businesses need to know in order to accept credit cards by phone? Well, the first task is to find a payment provider that meets their requirements.

They will also need to establish a merchant account, which is a type of bank account that enables them to take payments in multiple ways.

Of course, the following process may differ slightly, depending on your chosen payment processor, but these will be the main stages.

Step 1: Turn on your virtual terminal. This is an online version of the usual credit card terminals you see in physical stores.

Step 2: Type in the cost of the item and press ‘Enter.’ You’ll then need to ask your customer for the payment details they want to use for the purchase.

Step 3: The information required will include the 16 digit card number, expiry date and three digit security code (CVV) on the back of the card.

Step 4: You may also be required to supply other information, such as the house number and numeric digits of their postcode, as part of the provider’s security measures.

Step 5: If the information is accepted, then the machine will start to process the transaction and let you know when it’s completed.

Step 6: Provide a receipt to the customer. Depending on the provider, this can be done digitally via email. Some businesses will give customers a reference code.

Step 7: The final stage - apart from sending the goods or providing the services - will be to ensure you keep track of the transaction. You’ll also need to handle their data correctly, in line with regulations.