PCI Data Storage Do’s and Don’ts

June 9, 2019 Megan Sibaja



Requirement 3 of the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is to “protect stored cardholder data.” The public assumes merchants and financial institutions will protect data on payment cards to thwart theft and prevent unauthorized use. But merchants should take note: Requirement 3 applies only if cardholder data is stored. Merchants who do not store any cardholder data automatically provide stronger protection by having eliminated a key target for data thieves. For merchants who have a legitimate business reason to store cardholder data, it is important to understand what data elements PCI DSS allows them to store and what measures they must take to protect those data. To prevent unauthorized storage, only Council certified PIN entry devices and payment applications may be used. PCI DSS compliance is enforced by the major payment card brands who established the PCI DSS and the PCI Security Standards Council: American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc

Basic PCI Data Storage Guidelines for Merchants Cardholder data refers to any information contained on a customer’s payment card. The data is printed on either side of the card and is contained in digital format on the magnetic stripe embedded in the backside of the card. Some payment cards store data in chips embedded on the front side. The front side usually has the primary account number (PAN), cardholder name and expiration date. The magnetic stripe or chip holds these plus other sensitive data for authentication and authorization. In general, no payment card data should ever be stored by a merchant unless it’s necessary to meet the needs of the business. Sensitive data on the magnetic stripe or chip must never be stored. Only the PAN, expiration date, service code, or cardholder name may be stored, and merchants must use technical precautions for safe storage (see back of this fact sheet for a summary). The matrix below shows basic “do’s” and “don’ts” for data storage security.