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How To Start Taking Card Payments Over The Phone

how to take card payments over the phone

How to Take Card Payments Over the Phone

Customers want and expect quick and easy purchasing power. One way to ensure that your customers can buy from you quickly is to understand how to take card payments over the phone.

To take card payments over the phone, follow these steps:

  1. Obtain a merchant account: Sign up with a payment service provider or a merchant account provider to establish a secure account that enables you to accept card payments.
  2. Ensure PCI-DSS compliance: Familiarise yourself with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) requirements to protect customer card data and maintain compliance.
  3. Set up a virtual terminal or payment gateway: Use a virtual terminal or a payment gateway provided by your merchant account to process card payments over the phone. This software allows you to enter customer payment details manually.
  4. Collect customer payment information: Ask customers for their card details, including the card number, expiry date, CVV code, and billing address, over the phone. Ensure you have a secure process in place to handle and store this sensitive information.
  5. Process the payment: Enter the customer’s payment information into the virtual terminal or payment gateway and initiate the transaction. The system will process the payment and provide you with a confirmation of the transaction.
  6. Provide a receipt: Once the payment is processed, offer a receipt to the customer, either via email or by mailing a physical copy if required.

Phone payments allow small businesses to make a sale when customers want to place an order, make service bookings or pay outstanding bills in a convenient way from wherever they are, without needing to come into the store or workplace.

Options include manual key-entry or integrated IVR payments systems. Read on to learn more about the equipment required, legal compliance to be aware of, and tips for implementation if you want to be able to accept fast and secure debit and credit card payments over the phone from your customers.

Is Taking Telephone Payments Legal in the UK?

Accepting card payments over the phone is perfectly legal in the UK, but there are clear financial regulations that must be adhered to which can make it feel daunting to some risk averse business owners.

Noting the following steps will ensure you’re set up and good to go in no time:

Obtain a Merchant Account

A merchant account is needed for phone card processing – just like in-person card transactions. Your merchant account will provide the equipment and payment network required and popular options include Square, Stripe and PayPal. All of these enable remote terminal ID access – required for card payments.

Follow Security Rules

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) must be adhered to by businesses wanting to take payments over the phone. These standards set the protocols for businesses to follow so that they can keep cardholder information safe during voice calls. Examples of steps to follow include only holding necessary customer details and never recording CVV codes.

Validate Participating Banks

Make sure that you check if your bank supports telephone card payments. Not all major credit card brands do. This means you should check first before assuming your bank participates!

Telephone Payment Processing Equipment

Obtaining sensitive credit card and debit card information over the phone requires payment acceptance tools such as call recording functionality and data encryption capability, along with the ability to store the data securely.

Core solutions include:

Manual Key-Entry Terminals

A touch-tone phone line paired with a secure card reader device with manual key entry is the most cost effective way to start using phone payments. If using this set up, you or your employee would collect payment details from the customer on the phone verbally whilst manually keying them into the payment terminal.

This option keeps confidential information free from recording systems. Just be sure not to write down the customer’s details on any paper, or if you do, ensure that they are properly destroyed via confidential waste methods.

Integrated Voice Response (IVR) Systems

If your business takes lots of payments, the manual key-entry method might be too slow for your needs. Higher volume payments can use automated IVR systems that integrate the phone and payments into a single system via voice prompts. They then collect and process the payments without human involvement from the business side which can reduce staffing costs. The customer simply has to add their payment details into the system by using the keypad on their phone when prompted.

Landline/Mobile Payment Apps

Apps and cloud based payment solutions allow call centre agents or those in the field with customers to launch a secure method to collect payment details whilst ensuring that cardholder privacy is maintained with data encryption.

Implementing Card Payments Over The Phone

Once you have the right equipment for your business needs – it’s important to set the right policies and processes internally so that all staff are aware of what they need to do when taking card payments over the phone.

Write Phone Payment Policies

Create protocols around collecting sensitive customer data on the phone without the customer being present. Document this in company policies and make sure those who need to be aware of the steps to follow have a copy close by.

Train Staff

Staff training is key to ensuring that the correct steps are followed. Introducing mandatory training on collecting customer payment data, providing PCI violation incident response plans and refreshing this training regularly are all good steps to take.

Use Business-Only Lines

Dedicated business phone numbers can offer an enhanced level of security for business owners looking to protect their customers’ data. When checking your set up or installing new telephony systems, always be sure to check the security available on the lines.

Call recording encryption and the ability to disable call recording are both key features to look for and you should never store unprotected recordings that contain card data.

Share Payment Links

Another way to allow customers to pay you easily is to email them links to online payment forms which allows customers to directly input their details without the need for your staff to be present.

Best Practices For Managing Phone Payments

Try these measures to ensure smooth that your customer experience and business operations run smoothly for phone payments:

Read Alerts Aloud

It’s good practice to verbalise approval codes or denial warnings from payment devices. This ensures that the customer is aware of what is happening even if they can’t see the device that is being used to process the payment.

Describe Process & Security

Similarly, keep the customer in the loop of the steps that you’re taking with the payment when they’re on the phone. Explaining what you’re doing such as ‘I’m just going to enter your card number on the payment terminal’ or ‘I’m just waiting for the payment to be approved’ can be helpful in making customers feel taken care of and in safe hands as they part with their money remotely!

Offer Multi-Payment Flexibility

Offer customers the chance to try another payment method if the first fails for any reason.

Save Tokens When Possible

One-click payments for repeat customers removes the need to get them to repeat their payment information every time they place an order. Tokenisation is a great feature of phone payment processing that allows for quicker future checkouts.

Issue Same-Day Receipts

Always check if the customer wants a receipt and ensure that you email one across to them on the same day as the purchase was made. You can also give them a reference code for the payment at the time of the transaction for their records.

Review Decline Root Causes

If certain cards always seem to be declined or you regularly have issues processing payments from certain banks, consider changing your phone payment merchant account. Different suppliers may provide more reliable service which in turn helps you to help your customer enjoy a smooth purchasing process.

Updating terms of service

Revise company purchase terms outlining current cancellation, returns, refund policies and payment liability placements to safeguard merchant interests as laws progress.

Retaining transaction records securely

Logs containing customer details, card numbers and verification data require encryption with limited internal access to mitigate the likelihood of data breaches. Ensure that you use the most up-to-date standards for payment information storage.

Restrict unsupervised system access

Tighten privileged payment systems controls through measures like device passwords, multi-factor logins, behavioural monitoring, and timed access revocation to safeguard critical financial data.

Renewing credentials proactively

Complete annual security awareness education addressing social engineering, suspicious behaviour identification and incident reporting for all employees interacting with sensitive cardholder records.

Scheduling external risk assessments

It’s good practice for businesses to set up regular independent audits focused on identifying control gaps or risks across payment systems, policies, hardware, employee habits and data flows. This can provide actionable security roadmaps that will protect both your business and your customers data.

Selecting Telephone Payment Processors and Equipment

It will come as no surprise that choosing the right payment processors and equipment is key to the success of your ability to card card payments over the phone.

When choosing your suppliers, consider the following criteria:


See whether systems will integrate directly into your existing business phone setups or if they require standalone equipment with audio bridging. It will be easier and more cost effective to choose options that work well with the kit you already have. Particularly if you are on an existing lease agreement.

Platform Accessibility

Make sure that the system is easy to use and accessible to you wherever you’re working from. Make sure you can see your phone payment system from desktop, tablet or smart phone to ensure that operations run smoothly in or out of the office.


Tokenizing card details for repeat one-click customer checkouts boosts sales from existing buyers. Verify processors enable this or similar automation for frictionless future payments.


Being able to access reporting and analytics around payment volumes, peak calling times, top-earning locations, and processing costs is key information for your business. It can provide insight that is useful for setting staffing levels, business line requirements and marketing initiatives.


Pay attention to customer reviews and testimonials online. An even better step is to contact other businesses who have used the same phone payment supplier to ask them directly how the system has worked well for their business.

Roadblocks When Taking Payments Over The Phone

Whilst the ability to take card payments over the phone is commonplace these days – there are some limiting factors that you should be aware of when setting up your system.

Long Calls Impacting Operations

If your phone card payments take a long time to process, it can clog up business lines for other incoming calls. Consider having a dedicated payment line or multiple payment lines if you have relatively high payment volumes over the phone.

It’s also best practice to inform customers on how long it may take to process the payment. Setting expectations around wait times during peak times in advance is always a good customer service skill.

Difficult Customer Authentication

If you have any doubt over the validity of the information being given to you for payment, you should not proceed with the transaction. Without being able to see the customer face-to-face, simple customer ID checks are more difficult to make. Ensure that your team understand the questions they can ask to check credentials before taking money over the phone.

Testing Multiple Cards

Though permitted by card brands, trying numerous cards to force transactions to go through after the initial method declined, can cause potential fraud flags. This might block the customer’s card from future transactions until they clear the flags with the bank.

To prevent this from happening, keep customers in the loop and set limits on the number of consecutive attempts you will make because asking for an alternative payment option.

Knowing what to say in advance of this situation happening can prevent any embarrassment to the customer on the day whilst ensuring that your customer service is helpful.

Scaling Up Staff and Systems For Phone Payments

If your ability to take payments over the phone results in higher sales, it makes sense to scale up the staff and systems you have in place so that you can increase your sales further.

If scaling up your phone payment operations, consider;

Build a Dedicated Payment Team

Rather than relying on general customer service teams to handle payments, construct a specialist group exclusively focused on optimising payment systems uptime, monitoring transaction analytics, and providing purchasing support across channels. This will ensure subject matter experts and the best service for your customers.

Automate With IVR

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems add automation for collecting and routing customer card details into payment platforms with less human involvement needed. As a result, IVRs minimise costly staff overhead as call volumes continue to grow. The automated system can be customised via voice recordings to ensure that it still reflects your brands values though.

Outsource Overflow Expertise

If call volume becomes so high, you could consider using the services of a third party call centre or virtual PA service. This may also be a great option for seasonal peaks in call volume. To ensure customer continuity, you should make sure that anyone who is working on behalf of your brand understands your customer service style and adheres to your brand’s values.

Install Contact Centre Tech

Incorporate AI-enabled call routing, real-time transcription/translation, conversation analytics, and callback functionalities via cloud contact centre systems providing feature flexibility difficult to achieve using legacy telephony setups. Improved customer experiences drive sales.

Build Compliance Protocols 

Add dedicated team members who are responsible for continually training teams on newest payment rules and ensuring that the systems and processes in place align with any industry requirements for data security.

This could be monitored by random call sampling, keeping merchant accounts updated with business growth and directing responses when a breach of security occurs.

Create Support Documentation

Centralise known technical issues, terminology definitions, regulatory requirement overviews, process maps, contact lists and other key subject matter into on-demand internal wikis or knowledge base libraries. Consistent access to reliable documentation minimises repetition in answering frequently asked questions.

Bottom Line on Phone Payments

Nowadays taking phone payments is a very common business practice. Simple to use integrations between phone line providers and payment merchants make in-call purchases easier than ever to process. This means that as a business, you no longer have to limit customer shopping needs to online or in-person.

As mobile communication continues to dominate daily interactions, customers expect seamless payment options from wherever they are. Small businesses can meet this demand with automated voice systems, manual card number entries, one-touch voice transactions, or visual interactive voice response (IVR) systems allowing customers to navigate payments via two-way video interactions with personalised avatars.

As long as businesses adhere to the best practices outlined by Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), they can offer customers quick and easy payment options which can in turn help to scale up business sales.



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