How to Qualify for Level III Processing Rates

How to Qualify for Level III Processing Rates in 2024

Level III processing in credit card transactions offers enhanced data capture and reporting capabilities, significantly benefiting businesses. This advanced processing level helps reduce interchange fees, improve transaction security, and streamline expense management, ultimately leading to cost savings and increased operational efficiency. So, how do you qualify for level III processing rates in 2024?

Understanding Level III Payment Processing

Level III payment processing is a specialized type of credit card processing designed for high-value business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) transactions. Unlike Level I and II processing, Level III involves collecting and transmitting more detailed transaction information, such as quantities, purchase order numbers, and item descriptions. This comprehensive data collection is essential for providing detailed transaction information to the card issuer and merchant acquirer, thereby reducing the risk of fraud and chargebacks.

The term “Level III” signifies the advanced data requirements compared to traditional credit card processing. By providing this additional information, businesses can better track and manage their expenses. Processing fees for Level III transactions can vary, depending on the card type and transaction specifics, saving you as much as 1.50% per transaction.

Businesses need a specialized payment gateway to capture and transmit the necessary data to effectively utilize Level III processing. This gateway is crucial for accessing the lower processing fees associated with Level III transactions, thanks to the enhanced security and reduced risk of fraud and chargebacks in B2B settings.

Who Uses Level III Payment Processing?

Who Uses Level III Payment Processing?

As mentioned, level III payment processing is adopted by businesses and governmental organizations engaged in high-volume business-to-business (B2B) transactions. Here are some entities that typically use Level III processing:

  • B2B Merchants: Companies that sell products or services to other businesses often opt for Level III processing, particularly for substantial or recurring transactions.
  • Government Agencies: Various local, state, and federal government entities employ Level III processing for procurement and other financial dealings.
  • Manufacturers: Firms that produce goods for other companies use Level III processing to enhance their purchasing processes and cut costs.
  • Wholesale Distributors: These distributors, who provide products to other businesses, utilize Level III processing to reduce the expenses of accepting credit card payments.
  • Corporate Purchasing Departments: Large companies often use Level III processing in their procurement departments to efficiently manage and monitor purchasing costs.

Benefits of Level III Processing for Businesses

By adopting Level III processing, businesses gain enhanced control and precision in their payment systems. This deeper understanding of customer purchasing patterns enables them to pinpoint growth opportunities, refine pricing strategies, and evaluate customer loyalty. Additionally, the improved security features and reduced fraud risks associated with Level III processing enhance overall safety.

Large corporations and government entities benefit from increased financial protection. A robust credit card payment system allows them to monitor expenditures through detailed reporting, offering extensive control. It also protects against unauthorized fund access by adding stringent controls on company-issued cards, ensuring responsible use of granted privileges.

  • Get Paid Faster

The comprehensive data involved in Level III processing accelerates payment times. Card issuers can swiftly verify and approve transactions, facilitating faster merchant payments. For businesses facing cash flow challenges, the speedy processing of transactions can be a game changer, minimizing payment delays.

  • Enhanced Security and Fraud Prevention:

Level III processing introduces additional security layers to transactions, creating more obstacles for fraudsters to overcome before they can penetrate a company’s defenses. With fraud rates rising, this enhanced security benefits everyone involved — merchants, ISOs, and their customers.

  • Lower Processing Fees

Utilizing the detailed data fields available in Level III processing can help merchants reduce their transaction fees. Providing more information during a transaction decreases the risk of fraud and errors, reducing the likelihood of incurring higher fees from card acquirers.

  • Compliance with Government and Industry Regulations:

Level III data is not just advantageous but essential for large B2B and B2G transactions. Strict reporting requirements are often attached to institutional purchases, and merchants lacking Level III data capabilities are ineligible to bid, no matter the competitiveness of their pricing or services. Therefore, having Level III capabilities not only ensures compliance and minimizes risk but also opens significant opportunities for merchants aiming to participate in government and industry tenders.

  • Access to Additional Customers

Level III processing enables businesses to cater to large corporate clients who demand the advanced data and security measures this processing offers. This capability broadens their customer base, increasing sales opportunities. With Level III infrastructure, businesses can unlock new customer segments, potentially boosting their revenue and growth.

  • Enhanced Reporting Capabilities:

Access to more detailed transaction data provides businesses with a comprehensive view of their spending patterns and activities, facilitating better decision-making and business forecasting. Level III reporting also streamlines accounting and reconciliation processes. By automatically generating and integrating data into accounting systems, Level III processing ensures records are precise and time-efficient.

How Do I Reach Level III Processing?

How Do I Reach Level III Processing?

Every transaction must include detailed line-item information to qualify for Level III processing. This information must be transmitted through a PCI-compliant payment gateway designed to handle this data. If the information is accurate and the card is eligible, the bank will process the transaction at Level III rates. However, the transaction will not qualify for Level III processing if any detail is missing.

What Are the Qualifying Requirements for Level III Processing Rates?

As mentioned in the previous section, to qualify for Level III processing, it’s crucial to have a strong system that can accurately fill in the required data fields. This involves having effective software and hardware solutions, as well as allowing purchasers to input the necessary information.

You must submit all required data from Level I and Level II processing to be eligible for Level III processing. For Level II processing, the required information includes:

  • Merchant Name
  • Transaction Date
  • Transaction Amount
  • Standard credit card information
  • Sales tax
  • Invoice number or Customer code

For Level III processing, the transaction must include:

  • All requirements from Level I and Level II processing
  • Merchant Name
  • Discount amount
  • Transaction Amount
  • Transaction Date
  • Customer Code
  • Ship From Postal Code
  • Destination Postal Code
  • invoice Number
  • Order Number
  • Duty Amount
  • Line Item Detail of Purchase
  • Freight Amount
  • Item Quantity
  • Unit of measure
  • Item sequence number
  • Unit cost

Depending on the credit card provider, the requirements for Level III processing may vary annually or every other year. The standards of various credit card companies vary. For instance, MasterCard requires (While Visa does not require these fields) fields such as:

  • Credit or Debit indicator
  • Product Description
  • Product code
  • Extended item amount

Mastercard and Visa provide Level II and Level III enhanced data programs, where programs offer discounts directly through interchange rates, eliminating the need for businesses to contact card brands directly for these savings.

Visa mandates that companies process between 20,000 and 1 million e-commerce transactions to qualify. Mastercard has similar criteria, allowing merchants to qualify under Visa’s standards or have a combined annual total of 20,000 to 1 million transactions across Mastercard and Maestro cards.

In addition to meeting the required transaction volumes, Visa mandates that businesses annually submit an Approved Scan Vendor (ASV) (to ensure data safety and integrity), an Attestation of Compliance (AOC), and a Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) is a must each year. Similarly, MasterCard requires all applicants to complete annual and online self-assessments. Visa also requires the same network scan to be performed.

While Discover does not offer enhanced data programs, since they only process Level I data, submitting additional data does not result in interchange rate discounts for Discover card transactions. On the other hand, American Express (Amex) provides a Level II processing option but does not have a Level III enhanced data program. Unlike Visa and Mastercard, merchants must contact Amex directly to get approval to access Level II processing rates before submitting Level II data.

What Are Level III Processing Rates?

What Are Level III Processing Rates?

Level III processing rates vary based on several factors, including the merchant’s industry, processing volume, and the pricing policies of the credit card processing company. It is advisable to contact a credit card processing company directly for precise details on their Level III processing rates.

For example, the savings from interchange rates for Level III processing are notably substantial. Visa’s commercial card interchange rates for Level III are 1.90% plus $0.10 per transaction. At the same time, Mastercard categorizes Level III-eligible cards into more specific groups, with rates ranging from 1.75% plus $0.10 to 2.06% plus $0.10 per transaction. This can result in savings of nearly 1% per transaction in certain cases, significantly reducing fees over time. Diligently inputting details for all Level III eligible transactions can benefit merchants engaged in extensive B2B and B2G transactions.

Is it Worth the Extra Effort?

Businesses that often handle large transactions or deal with government entities can benefit from achieving Level III rates, especially if they have high average transaction values. Even a small savings of 0.8% can significantly impact the bottom line, as these savings add up quickly.

Take, for example, a business that processes a substantial volume of credit card transactions, with monthly totals consistently around $800,000, and exclusively deals with other companies. Upon learning about Level III processing, the business implemented it, recognizing the potential for substantial monthly savings despite the additional effort required each day. Originally, accepting payments through a common Visa purchasing card incurred interchange fees of 2.70%, totaling $21,600 monthly. However, with a Level III gateway, the rate was reduced to 1.90%, lowering the fee to $15,200 and accomplishing savings of $6,400 each month since the switch.

What Are the Best Payment Gateways Out There?

Recognizing the need for Level III processing is the initial step toward securing lower rates, enhanced security, and new sales opportunities. The next essential step is selecting a reliable payment partner with a solid reputation for delivering Level III processing capabilities—a feature not offered by all processors.

Thorough research, seeking credible recommendations, and querying potential partners about their advanced payment processing services are necessary to choose the appropriate partner. It’s important to note that even if Level III processing isn’t a current requirement, opting for a partner that provides it will allow for future operational expansion without the need to switch systems or partners.

Here are a few top gateways known for their Level III processing capabilities:

  • Host Merchant Services (HMS) Pay: This web-based payment gateway offers modern, flexible, and comprehensive processing solutions, including Level III credit card services. HMS also provides electronic payment processing and merchant account services for international transactions.
  • PayTrace: Known as a universal gateway supported by various processing companies, PayTrace informs you in real-time if a card is eligible for Level III processing. It offers both an auto-fill feature and the option for manual data entry of Level III information.
  • MX Merchant B2B app: Supported by many processors, this app integrates with the MX Merchant virtual terminal, which is necessary for its operation. The app enhances the processing experience by running and auto-filling data in the background autonomously.

Conclusion

Qualifying for Level III credit card processing rates offers significant advantages for businesses engaged in high-volume B2B and B2G transactions. By understanding the intricacies of Level III processing and meeting the necessary requirements, businesses can unlock opportunities for cost savings, enhanced security, and expanded customer bases. The comprehensive data collection and transmission involved in Level III processing not only reduces the risk of fraud and chargebacks but also facilitates faster payment times and improved reporting capabilities.

Despite the extra effort required to qualify for Level III processing, the potential savings and operational benefits make it a worthwhile investment for businesses seeking to optimize their payment systems and gain a competitive edge in their respective industries. Selecting a reputable payment gateway with Level III processing capabilities is crucial for businesses looking to maximize the benefits of this advanced payment solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the basic requirements to qualify for Level III processing rates?

    To qualify, your business must provide detailed transaction data beyond Levels I and II, meeting specific volume thresholds set by card providers like Visa and Mastercard. Compliance forms like an Attestation of Compliance (AOC), Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ), and quarterly network scans are also necessary​.

  2. Which types of businesses are eligible for Level III processing rates?

    Level III processing is often available for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) transactions. Eligible businesses include wholesalers, manufacturers, and government contractors​.

  3. What benefits does Level III processing offer?

    Level III processing offers reduced interchange rates, which are especially beneficial for high-value transactions. It also enhances transaction security and decreases dispute and chargeback risks​.

  4. How can a business start processing at Level III?

    To begin Level III processing, ensure your payment systems can capture and transmit detailed data. This might involve upgrading current systems or integrating with gateways supporting Level III data​.

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