Is PCI Compliance cost really worth the investment?

Published on : 01 Dec 2021

PCI Compliance Cost

PCI Compliance is a complex payment security standard that service organizations are required to meet. Achieving compliance is difficult as the standard outlines a wide range of security requirements that should be met that involve a heavy investment of resources.

Meeting these security requirements can be quite challenging, especially for small and mid-sized organizations having budget constraints.  Setting a budget for compliance can be tricky for organizations as it involves the process of scoping that can itself be quite confusing. So, setting fewer resources will result in the IT departments not being able to implement additional security measures or upgrading of equipment that may have a direct impact on payment security standards and compliance. Covering this in detail, we have shared the tentative investment required for PCI DSS Compliance Audit and some factors that determine the cost of PCI Compliance. 

Factors determining PCI Compliance cost

PCI DSS Compliance can be an expensive affair for organizations looking to be compliant with the standard. But, that said, the cost for PCI Compliance can drastically vary based on the organization’s scope and various other factors.  So, let us take a look at some of the factors that can impact the cost of PCI DSS compliance. Considering these below-listed factors will be crucial for your organization to set a budget for the compliance process. 

Business Size– 

The size of your organization is the key factor in determining the cost of compliance. The cost varies based on the volumes transacted every year. On that note, PCI SSC has classified 4 different levels based on the volume of payment transactions and size of the organization. Based on the number of transactions organizations fall under the specific level and so they need to meet the specific requirements accordingly. Depending on the requirements to be met the cost of compliance would accordingly vary.

Merchant Levels

Transactions AnnuallyValidation Requirement
Level 1Merchants that process over 6 million card transactions annually.(1). Annual Report on Compliance (ROC) by Qualified Security Assessor (“QSA”).
(2) Quarterly Network scan by Approved Scan Vendor (“ASV”).
(3) Attestation of Compliance Form
Level 2

Merchants that process 1 to 6 million transactions annually.

(1) Annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire (“SAQ”).
(2) Quarterly network scan by ASV.
(3)Attestation of Compliance Form.
Level 3

Merchants that process 20,000 to 1 million transactions annually.(1) Annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire (“SAQ”).
(2) Quarterly network scan by ASV. (3) Attestation of Compliance For
Level 4Merchants that process fewer than 20,000 transactions annually

(1) Annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire (“SAQ”).
(2) Quarterly network scan by ASV.
(3) Attestation of Compliance Form

Small and medium-sized businesses may have to bear the cost of the Self-Assessment Questionnaire and Quarterly network scan while large enterprises will need to bear the cost of ROC.  So, apart from the validation requirements, this too affects the cost of compliance.

Business Type

The type of business and industry also matter when it comes to considering the cost factor for compliance. So, whether you are a merchant, service provider, or a larger enterprise, the amount of cardholder data you have in your environment varies and so does the scope of compliance. Besides, small organizations may probably outsource cardholder handling to the third party and so incur less cost in terms of compliance. On the other hand, large organizations may have a dedicated environment for handling cardholder data that may be expensive from a compliance perspective.  So depending on the business type and operations, the cost of compliance may vary.

Security Program

Organizations that have securities embedded in their work culture will have to deal with fewer expenses. This is because they will already have a good head start with the compliance process and may not require additional investment. Having a strong security program in place may result in organizations automatically meeting certain security requirements outlined in the PCI Compliance guidelines. This would result in organizations incurring less cost on additional security implementation required to meet the PCI requirements.

IT Environment

IT environment and infrastructure play a crucial role in PCI Compliance. The design of your network, the technology used, systems in place, etc. all have an impact on the overall PCI cost. Further, based on the audit results the organization may have to upgrade its systems and applications accordingly to address all security gaps in the infrastructure. This will result in additional costs or expenses for the organization. 

In-house Experts or Consultants

Organizations have the option of either hiring an in-house expert to manage their compliance program or collaborating with an expert third-party PCI compliance consultant. This is a crucial factor that affects the cost of your compliance program. Organizations will at times require collaborating with third-party consultants despite having a dedicated team for the program. This will factor in the additional expenses for the audit and consultation process.

How much does PCI DSS Compliance cost? 

PCI DSS Audit cost for an average-sized company may start at around $12000. Then as mentioned earlier, depending on the scope and other factors, the cost would vary accordingly. However, the cost of the PCI DSS Compliance audit will not be as significant as it would be for your organization in case of non-compliance. Explaining this, we have shared some details on the cost of non-compliance with PCI DSS.

Cost of Non-compliance to PCI DSS

Cost of Non-compliance to PCI DSS

The cost of non-compliance to PCI DSS can be significant for an organization not just in terms of fines and penalties but also in terms of reputational and other financial loss that comes with it. The most common outcome of non-compliance to PCI requirements is the possibility of a data breach that compromises cardholders’ data. 

Data breaches are costly, and can severely impact the reputation of your organization. In the most extreme cases, your organization may face loss of revenue, the legal cost for settling data breach, and may even be barred from engaging in any future transactions and handling of cardholder’s data. There are even monthly fines that the company may have to bear for continued non-compliance which may result in a long-term financial loss. 

PCI compliance fines may vary anywhere from $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 and even more a month depending on the size of the company, duration of non-compliance, and scope of your non-compliance. Banks may also impose penalties in terms of increased transaction fees or even in extreme cases terminate business tie-ups with the organization. 


PCI DSS Compliance is definitely not an option but a highly recommended industry best payment security standard that organizations must comply with. So, it goes without saying that investing for compliance is a must for businesses dealing with cardholder data. Scoping and budgeting is a preliminary stage in the Compliance process and crucial for ensuring the PCI compliance audit to be a success. So, organizations must consult with experts when they plan to kick-start their compliance journey.

Experts have a better knowledge and understanding of the standard and so they can guide you in the right direction. As Qualified PCI QSA, we recommend all organizations be it small, medium-sized, or larger organizations consult with industry experts for reviewing their IT Infrastructure, scoping, and setting the budget for PCI DSS Compliance. This gives a good head start to their compliance process.

If you wish to learn more about the compliance and audit process or need guidance for scoping and budgeting then you can contact our in-house compliance experts at VISTA InfoSec.  Do drop us a mail on [email protected] or drop in a comment in the section below for any queries. 

PCI Compliance Auditor

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Narendra Sahoo
Narendra Sahoo

Narendra Sahoo (PCI QPA, PCI QSA, PCI SSF ASSESSOR, CISSP, CISA, CRISC, 27001 LA) is the Founder and Director of VISTA InfoSec, a global Information Security Consulting firm, based in the US, Singapore & India. Mr. Sahoo holds more than 25 years of experience in the IT Industry, with expertise in Information Risk Consulting, Assessment, & Compliance services. VISTA InfoSec specializes in Information Security audit, consulting and certification services which include GDPR, HIPAA, CCPA, NESA, MAS-TRM, PCI DSS Compliance & Audit, PCI PIN, SOC2 Compliance & Audit, PDPA, PDPB to name a few. The company has for years (since 2004) worked with organizations across the globe to address the Regulatory and Information Security challenges in their industry. VISTA InfoSec has been instrumental in helping top multinational companies achieve compliance and secure their IT infrastructure.