How to Take Payments Over The Phone

Learn how to accept card payments over the phone and ultimately provide your customers with more options for making payments.

Updated: May 22, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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It goes without saying that the more payment options you're able to provide for your customers, the more likely you'll have a stable cash flow.

Fortunately, there are plenty of different options at your disposal — from contactless payments to online payments — so let's walk through one of the most popular methods you can use to accept credit card payments: the telephone.

For any of the novice business owners currently reading, the overall process of taking credit card payments over the phone might sound a bit convoluted, but it's actually relatively simple.

We'll start things off with some fundamentals before getting into our step-by-step procedure on how to accept payments over the phone.

Grasping the Essentials of Over-the-Phone Card Payments

Put simply, over the phone debit card payments are pretty much exactly what it sounds like — you're on the phone with a customer, and they're providing all of their card details to you verbally rather than typing them out, allowing you to process the payment without ever needing the physical card at hand.

Obviously, the main reason why you'd opt for this method is the flexibility — especially when dealing with remote or phone-based transactions — but a lot of customers tend to have concerns when reading their personal card information aloud, so it's pretty important you handle the situation properly.

Setting Up Your Over-the-Phone Payment System

Before you're ever able to accept card payments online or over the phone, you're going to need to set up a system that will let you process transactions securely, so let's get into how you do this:

1. Merchant Accounts

This all starts by setting up a merchant account with any reputable payment processor; PayPal is a solid option, for instance.

The processor that you choose is slightly important as you'd ideally want something that specifically caters to over the phone transactions (as well as complying with all the various security standards like PCI DSS), but the main reason you need this account is so that you're able to facilitate card transactions in the first place.

Once you have this sorted, you'll then be able to transfer all the funds from that merchant account into your business bank account without any kind of hassle.

2. Virtual Terminal Integration

Aside from the merchant account, you're also going to need some kind of virtual terminal for accepting credit or debit card transactions over the phone.

If you're unfamiliar with this, it's an online platform that essentially mimics how physical card terminals work, allowing you to input all of your customers' card details manually so they can be processed.

Just make sure whichever virtual terminal you choose is easy to use and comes with plenty of security features so the sensitive card information is safe.

Initiating Over-the-Phone Card Payments

So, now that you've got a system in place, let's walk through the process of how to accept a card payment over the phone.

1. Customer Verification

When the customer first opts for an over-the-phone payment, you'll naturally have to verify their identity first — this means asking for their name (politely, of course), address, or any other additional information that might be linked to their account.

This might sound like an unnecessary extra step, but it's basically just so you can be sure that the person making the payment is actually the legitimate cardholder, ultimately reducing the risk of fraudulent transactions.

2. Gathering Card Details

Obviously, you're going to need the customer's card details in order to actually process the payment, so just kindly walk them through providing details like the card number, expiration date, CVV code, and also their name (the exact way it's written on the card).

At this point, it can usually help to assure your customer that all of their information will naturally be handled with the utmost confidentiality and that they don't have anything to worry about.

3. Virtual Terminal Transaction

Moving forward, simply type all the information that they've given you into the virtual terminal once you have the card details.

Generally speaking, this whole process should feel pretty intuitive now that you've set up your merchant account and virtual machine, so just continue to initiate the transaction, and the system will then securely process the payment — giving both you and the customer immediate confirmation that the payments actually went through.

4. Verbal Confirmation

Then, after the transaction is finally complete (this should only take a few seconds from the point of you entering their card details), you'll need to verbally confirm all of the details with the customer so they can be calm, knowing everything's alright on their end.

Ask them if they'd like to have a receipt or some other kind of confirmation number for their records — they're not always obliged to take this receipt, but it certainly helps to offer it in terms of improving the overall trust customers have in your payment process.

Once you've done this, you're all finished! The customer's funds should then be sent to your merchant account, which you'll be able to withdraw and store wherever you like — presumably your business bank account for safe keeping and so that your business funds are separated from your personal finances.

Optimising Over the Phone Transactions

Although the process we've outlined should be all you need to facilitate over the phone card payments, that doesn't mean there aren't still a few more ways you can optimise your overall payment process for both you and your customer.

So, to round the article off, let's walk through a few final tips and additional options that might be worth exploring:

1. Offering Alternatives

Credit or debit cards are certainly still the go-to payment method for most people, but you should also consider expanding your payment options to include a few more alternative methods — something like Apple Pay, for instance, or any other kind of digital wallet that your customers can make contactless payments with little effort.

Of course, this is something that's going to cater to any of your tech-savvy customers, but it's also adding another layer of convenience to your payment process in general, making it worth adopting.

2. Streamlining the Process

The whole payment process being over the phone might be a little bit jarring for your staff to handle at first — especially if they're used to in person sales — so it's always helpful to train your staff so they're able to efficiently guide customers through all the steps.

3. Compliance With Regulations

Finally, the regulations in the UK regarding over the phone transactions tend to change every so often, so you're going to need to ensure that your processes always comply with the current industry standards.

In essence, this means regularly reviewing and updating your security measures so they're protected against any potential risks.

Related Guides:


Can I Accept Recurring Payments Over the Phone for Subscription-Based Services?

How Can I Handle Over-the-Phone Transactions During Peak Business Hours?

Are There Any Specific Industries That Benefit More From Accepting Card Payments Over the Phone?

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