Accepting online payments for your event

Updated: Apr 1, 2020

Successful events start from the moment a delegate enters their information and registers for a place. From that point on, data protection is obviously paramount but for many attendees, the biggest worry with online booking is payment. Submitting financial details such as credit and debit card information can be at best disconcerting and at worst off-putting for participants if they are in any way uncertain that your payment system is secure.

Fraud and data loss are persistent fears and many delegates will quite rightly not sign up unless they are sure your payment system is secure. Here are some of the things to consider to give you and your attendees complete peace of mind.

Setting up

If you want to accept online payments, you’ll need an “internet merchant account” (IMA) from your bank, which will receive any payments sent to you. You’ll also need a payment processor (the online equivalent of a card machine), such as WorldPay, SagePayBarclayCard ePDQ and many others, which acts as the glue between your IMA and EventHQ acting as a payment service provider (PSP).

Different providers use their own specific criteria to determine whether they will grant an IMA, so it really is worth looking around at the different options. If, however, you think it unlikely you’d be accepted or it isn’t a viable option for your event, there are a number of "full-service" payment processing companies like PayPal and Stripe that could help to do the job.

As well as the actual components of the payment system, you’ll also have to be aware of legislation such as the Data Protection Act, which is there to protect sensitive and personal information. It’s worth reading up on this - it will come in handy for the details you are sent during the registration process too.

PCI Compliance

Your payment system will need to be PCI compliant, meaning that it will have to conform to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This set of requirements is intended to make sure every company that processes, stores or transmits credit card information does so securely. Even if you use a third-party payment processor, you’ll need to demonstrate compliance.

The requirements are available online alongside advice on choosing a compliant PSP for businesses of all sizes. Among the criteria are basics such as putting a firewall in place on your computer network and updating it regularly and never using computer default passwords, alongside more complex issues such as encrypting data when it is sent across public networks and assigning unique IDs to every user with computer access so any breaches can be swiftly identified.

It’s vital that you ensure you are compliant before you begin accepting online payments, so have a look at the website and make sure you know where you stand.

Offer alternatives

Even with tight security, some delegates may be uncomfortable with paying on a credit or debit card to attend your event. It’s always wise to offer at least one alternative, whether that be sending a cheque or using a BACS payment. In these cases, as well as linking to your usual online payment system, make sure your online event registration system supports other payment systems and that the booking screen seen by your attendees includes a clear and visible option to use another form of payment.

Keep tabs

However your payment system is set up, once it is in place you need to be able to use it for effective financial management. This is one of the benefits of online bookings - data capture is so much easier than paper-based methods, meaning the information can be transferred to the right places automatically to generate invoices and receipts, giving your delegates peace of mind.

From an event planner’s point of view not only does this save valuable time and resources to protect margins and improve productivity, but it also means you can track outstanding and completed payments. A delegate registration system that accepts deposits and part payments as well as early-bird discounts will help you keep track of the revenue you have and what you are owed. Because reconciliation of payments is so much simpler with a event booking software, you have much greater capacity to chase payments and stay on top of your cashflow.

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