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Technology Focus: Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

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Electronic forms of money continue to displace paper for financial transactions. Applications that process payment card funds transfers can help your enterprise cash in.

 

As the Digital Age has progressed, electronic monetary exchanges have been increasingly displacing cash. For both businesses and individual consumers, the largest contributor to this trend has been the use of the credit card. Although the credit card started out as a device to stimulate retail trade, its ubiquitous presence in commercial transactions of all kinds today makes it a virtual requirement for businesses to accept this form of payment. The proliferation of similar devices—such as debit, loyalty, stored-value, and gift cards—has extended this trend, and such cards as a class are now called "payment cards."

 

Payment-card processing applications are software that automates the acceptance of cards as money, the settlement of transactions using them, and the maintenance of data security regarding those transactions. Although this kind of software is most easily recognized in point-of-sale (POS) activity, the growing use of cards in e-commerce and other business-to-business transactions makes the ability to handle cards as a medium of exchange more important than ever.

Basic Payment Card Transactions

In the most common consumer-type transaction, credit-card processing follows a familiar pattern. The consumer slides the card through a credit-card terminal that enters the sale amount. That information is relayed electronically to the bank or other card issuer to see if the card is valid and if the account contains enough credit. The card issuer passes back an acceptance code number or a declination message. If the transaction is accepted, the card terminal prints a receipt for the consumer to sign. When the card terminal is closed out for the day, a settlement process begins in which funds from all approved transactions are transferred from the card issuer to the merchant's bank account. The actual transfer of monies will vary according to the system used, the intermediaries involved, and the policies of the card-issuing banks or other institutions.

 

This process must also adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a commercial security requirement designed to make it difficult for fraudulent cards to be honored and for card account information to be stolen and misused. The PCI DSS requires merchants, who are categorized based on the number of transactions a year they run through the system, to meet certain security requirements. In general terms, these require merchants to maintain a secure network as well as applications to transmit transaction data, encrypt and safely store cardholder data, restrict access to the data by their own employees, and regularly monitor and test their systems and procedures. Specific requirements vary according to the merchant class in which a business is enrolled, and different payment card companies and issuers may have special additional rules. (If you need information beyond this grossly simplified overview, see the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council Web site.)

 

Payment card processing applications must perform all these functions, meet all the rules, and provide many security protections for the businesses that use them. Payment card applications for the System i are certainly no exception.

 

What follows is an overview of the applications that can provide those services to enterprises that need them. Unless otherwise noted, all applications offer audit trails and reporting tools and conform to PCI DSS standards. Product descriptions are briefly summarized from Web site information and don't represent all features of each product. Product names are hyperlinked, but additional links are provided for the vendor name when the product has a Web site independent from that of the company.

Payment Card Applications for System i

ACH e-Payment

inForm Decisions, Inc.

ACH e-Payment processes payment-card transactions through Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network, an interbank payment settlement service, by receiving payment card transactions from the user company and routing them to the appropriate banks. It also enables transfers of funds between companies (or tax payments) without using payment cards, automatically debits recurring customer bills, and provides email notification of activities. It supports OS/400 V3R7M0 and later System i OS versions.

 

Authorization Engine

Settlement Engine

ISD Corporation

ISD's Authorization Engine routes any type of payment card or stored-value payment to the appropriate processing institution. The product is flexible enough to integrate with other applications or be modified. IDS maintains compliance levels for the software at the highest levels in order to earn the best rates from all major payment processors.

 

ISD's Settlement Engine transmits data to banks for settlement and reconciliation. The product can capture settlement information from databases, POS terminals, or authorization messages routed through host servers. It automatically handles card rejections and chargebacks.

 

Both products run natively under i5/OS, Linux, and IBM AIX.

 

Curbstone Card

Curbstone Corporation

Curbstone Card is a veteran product started in AS/400 days that lets System i companies use the application's payment processing, card authorization, and automated settlement features. The app offers electronic approvals within three seconds, provides real-time reporting and auditing for up to a thousand transactions a minute, and has additional certifications from selected card providers.

 

EFT/400

3X Software Ltd.

EFT/400 handles payment card transactions via Internet, telephone sales, mail order, and PIN and onboard chip transactions. It can work with multiple national currencies, multiple companies and acquirers, and any industry sector. It includes 25 APIs and optional vendor custom programming for integration with existing applications. EFT/400 also features built-in checks for the Card Security Code (CSC) and Address Verification Service (AVS), which crosschecks additional information about cards held by their providers. The product runs under OS/400 V4R5 or higher.

 

IBM WebSphere Commerce

IBM Corporation

Although it's far more than just a payment card processor, IBM's WebSphere Commerce includes WebSphere Commerce Payments, a component that handles all such transactions. WS Commerce V6, the latest version, offers plug-ins for payment cards, electronic checks, bill-me-later purchasing, COD, and credit-line purchasing. It can process partial payments, lets users set payment rules via eXtensible Markup Language (XML) files, lets customers use multiple payment methods or instructions for purchases, and can process multiple releases of an order.

 

iPOSS Integrated Point of Sale

XKS Ltd.

XKS' iPOSS is a thin-client POS system that uses real-time connection to a System i being used as a back-office server. In addition to payment card services, it also supports POS hardware such as cash drawer, thermal receipt printer, bar code scanner, and mouse. It includes software that enables integration with other System i applications, supports chip and PIN pads, and completes all transaction checks in five seconds or less.

 

JetPayi5

JetPay LLC

JetPayi5 provides a completely native i5 solution for card processing that's accessible from green-screens, APIs, or Web interfaces. The product's gateway interacts directly with major card providers, offers a back-end reporting system that resides on a dedicated Web site, and automatically handles currency conversions for a truly worldwide solution. JetPayi5 conforms to all standards and uses a 15 GB bandwidth connection for maximum transaction volume.

 

NetCredit

CGI Group, Inc.

NetCredit helps users automate selected credit processes, manage multi-tier trading-partner relationships, tie in multiple credit-sourcing channels, and integrate with the system any number of products, policies, and business procedures. In addition to payment card processing, it automates workflow management, manual credit reviews, third-party service information retrieval, and credit bureau data retrieval and analysis.

 

NovaExpress 400

CFXWorks, Inc.

NovaExpress 400 is an RPG-sourced payment card solution that directly connects to the Elavon acquisition system for global account servicing. Elavon provides end-to-end processing for all payment card, e-commerce, hosted gateway, currency conversion, and electronic check services worldwide.

 

OpenPro

OpenPro, Inc.

OpenPro is an open-source enterprise resource planning (ERP) application that runs on any hardware and with any SQL-friendly database, but it includes a major module for POS operations that incorporates a payment card transaction system. Aimed at companies that combine wholesale distribution, will call, and retail sales, OpenPro provides a payment system that also interfaces with onboard inventory, tax and accounting, distribution management, and ERP functions. OpenPro is also flexible enough to be deployed as a Software as a Service (SaaS) or Application Service Provider (ASP) application for enterprise customers.

 

PAYware Transact

VeriFone

PAYware Transact uses a Java infrastructure and runs on any platform, including the System i. Certified by all major processors, it integrates with a wide range of applications, databases, and POS systems. It can handle checks as well as cards, offers multi-threaded processing and load-balancing features, and supports TCP/IP, TCP/IP SSL, and dialup connectivity.

 

Retail Pro

Systems Technology Group

Retail Pro is tailored for retail sales only but provides a complete payment card transaction system. Geared to handle operations at multiple retail outlets, it supports multiple currencies and national languages, features an open design for integration with other apps, communicates with other apps via XML, and accesses databases with SQL. Retail Pro also supports POS and store operations, inventory management, receiving, replenishment, employee management, merchandising, and retail planning.

 

SmartVista Suite

BPC Group

BPC Group is a Russian company with an office in Nebraska. Its SmartVista Suite handles any kind of electronic transactions, including payment cards, and uses customer choice of DB2 or Oracle databases. SmartVista is compatible with System i, Linux, and UNIX boxes, as well as IBM WebSphere and Oracle Application Server. The suite offers front-end and back-office applications for handling transactions and provides optional modules for Member Service Provider/Third Party Processor (MSP/TPP) prepaid services, enhanced loyalty scheme support, and retail banking features such as funds transfer.

 

STORE – Gift Cards

STORE – Mobile POS 

Island Pacific

If you're strictly in the retail sales market, Island Pacific's STORE – Mobile POS and STORE – Gift Cards applications provide PCI-compliant processing of payment cards, and gift cards and loyalty programs, respectively. They are also integrated with Island Pacific's suite of retail store operations software.

 

tekRETAIL Suite

tekserve POS

Aimed exclusively at retail operations, tekRETAIL Suite supports the System i and provides complete POS operations functionality in addition to payment card processing. The suite includes a client-based tekRETAIL Store app that offers POS functions under Windows and a tekRETAIL Central Office component that runs on the server. The framework also handles kiosk, catalog, and e-commerce sales and can manage customer loyalty programs and coupon redemptions.

Some Final Considerations

It's not uncommon for companies to design their own card payment system, particularly if the company's operations are simple enough to focus primarily on that main function. If you go this route, there are a few additional vendors to check out.

 

BVS Tools' Get URI is an HTTP client that can handle communications between your applications and payment card, shipping, and other commercial services. It's protected by Secure Sockets Layer security and stores returned results in user choice of a physical file, stream file, or screen display.

 

Patrick Townsend & Associates' Alliance AES and nuBridges' Protect are encryption applications for System i, both of which can securely handle payment card data and give users a broad assortment of options for encryption methods that meet the PCI DSS and other standards for data protection. Both products offer key management features and varying options for encrypting other data besides that for payment cards. If you're growing your own app, you should check both of these products out as a means of handling the critical data-encryption step of card transactions.

 

Vesta Corporation's Point & Pay isn't software; it's a service that acts as a go-between for companies that need to process card transactions and the card providers. It uses the Internet, works for electronic checks as well as cards, enables Interactive Voice Response (IVR) payments by telephone, and integrates with existing apps.

 

If you need a packaged application to help you streamline and secure payment card funds transfers, one of these products should be helpful.

 

And as always when looking for products or services, be sure to check the MC Press Online Buyer's Guide.

 

 

John Ghrist

John Ghrist has been a journalist, programmer, and systems manager in the computer industry since 1982. He has covered the market for IBM i servers and their predecessor platforms for more than a quarter century and has attended more than 25 COMMON conferences. A former editor-in-chief with Defense Computing and a senior editor with SystemiNEWS, John has written and edited hundreds of articles and blogs for more than a dozen print and electronic publications. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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