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Reclaiming Control Over Payment Card Mandate Testing

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We’ve written extensively about the ever-changing nature of today’s modern payments environment. More endpoints – many of them mobile wallet apps propagating beyond banks’ and processors’ control – mean more moving parts. Add the increasingly rapid release cycles in pursuit of the optimal customer experience, and payments system testers have little chance to catch their collective breaths.

Still, the greatest frustration tends to be reserved for payment card industry mandates – periodic changes to procedures imposed by any of the various financial networks (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, Pulse, STAR). Such mandates have been unusually visible in the US market recently given the high-profile EMV migration. Despite the main EMV deadlines having passed, there remains significant work to do given certification backlogs and additional looming deadlines for ATM compliance. High-profile change is on the horizon for the ACH Network as well, with same-day payment implementation and new third-party processor requirements.

Perhaps the reason these payment network mandates tend to be poorly received is that they are, well, mandatory. Network participants often perceive the new requirements as being done “to them” rather than “with them,” and doing more to add a compliance burden than to generate revenue. Such complaints don’t alter the need to implement them as efficiently as possible so that the organization’s focus can return to initiatives seen as adding more value.

First, understand the requirements

Paragon’s Industry Insight white paper, “Managing Financial Network Mandate Testing,” offers a handy framework for staying on top of such situations. The first step to a successful process sounds incredibly basic but can be surprisingly thorny. Network participants should keep tabs on all pending payment card industry mandates. Payment card associations typically provide ample lead time, often more than a year, for new requirements.

The problem is that mandates may be communicated to various points in the organization (e.g., product, client service, compliance) that don’t need as much lead time and can therefore lag in sharing the information. To deter this lag, devise a cross-functional process in your organization to compile and socialize all pending payment processing mandates as soon as they are announced.

The next step is to determine which mandates apply to your organization and which aspects of the operation they impact. For instance, some mandates may involve only business practices or network rules, with implications for Ts & Cs or signage, but not the processing systems. However, more commonly, the changes required impact message formats, reporting or the enablement of new products thus having a direct impact on the payment system.

Identify all the downstream impacts

At the end of the day, however, these requirements make a compelling case for the need to implement automated payment testing systems. Given the ever-changing set of endpoints noted above, it’s impossible to state with 100 percent confidence that any payment system change will have no downstream impacts. Automated payments testing systems, such as Paragon’s Web FASTest, enables coverage of a far greater range of test scenarios and can be configured to initiate testing whenever a system change is introduced. This approach provides higher quality and reduced cost for all payments testing, not just payment card industry mandates.

You can read more about Paragon’s recommended approach to payment industry mandate testing here.  

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