What is a credit card vault?

In this article, we’ll explore what a credit card vault is and its benefits for your based business, as well as the role Checkout.com can play in supporting you.

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Rob Binns
January 8, 2024
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What is a credit card vault?

Whether you’re selling software, gym memberships, or any other form of repeating service, all subscription-based businesses have one thing in common: the need to process recurring credit and debit card payments without friction.

But to be able to do that, you need to have your customers’ payment card data saved and ready to go – and to do that, you need a safe place to store it.

Enter: a credit card vault. As the name suggests, a credit card vault is a secure digital repository for your customer base’s most sensitive information.

In this article, we’ll explore what a credit card vault is, and its myriad benefits for your subscription-based business – as well as what role Checkout.com can play in supporting you.

Where to store cards?


One option is to store payment card information in local systems. This has a few obvious benefits – immediate access to those details when you need them; plus more ownership around your payment processing, and control over your data – but also introduces some issues.

For one, your business will be fully responsible for PCI compliance. PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) regulations require all businesses accepting debit and credit cards to adhere to strict protocols around how they handle that data. The more data you process, the more stringent your compliance obligations will become.

Storing sensitive data locally will not only mean you filling out one of the lengthiest, most complex PCI SAQs (Self-Assessment Questionnaires), but also shouldering the risk of the hefty financial penalties of non-compliance. Operationally, assuming the entire burden of PCI compliance – which involves quarterly scans, malware testing, and encryption, to name a few – adds plenty of unwanted extra tasks to your business’s to-do list, too.

Secondly, storing payment card information locally – particularly if you aren’t tokenizing that data; a process we’ll explain shortly – puts the target of a potential data breach squarely on your business’s back. If hacked, your systems could leave your customers’ most sensitive information being stolen and exposed, putting them at risk of payment fraud.

As for your business, data breaches can lead to both reputational and financial hits – and potential legal ramifications, too.

With a payment service provider or third party credit card vault

Another avenue is storing your customers’ sensitive card information with a payment service provider or with a specialist credit card vault provider.

This offers many benefits, including shifting much of the load and liability of PCI compliance off your shoulders.

Storing card information with a payment provider also ticks the boxes of simplicity – they’re easier to get set up with than to develop and maintain local systems – and scalability. Security, too: because payment providers utilize the very best in anti-fraud and data protection technologies, there’s little chance of your business or customers losing out in a data breach.

What is a credit card vault?

A credit card vault – sometimes known as a token vault or a payment vault – is a secure digital database which stores your customers’ sensitive card payment information: including credit card numbers, expiration dates, and cardholder names.

Think of it as acting like a real bank vault – a safe, sturdy underground locker clad in iron and protected with a combination. (And maybe some security guards…and perhaps a laser or two as well.) This vault stores hard currency until the bank needs to access the money; keeping it safe in much the same way your business safeguards your customer base’s credit and debit card details, until you need them to process a transaction (such as a recurring payment).

Instead of lasers, though, a credit card vault protects those details through a process called tokenization. This involves replacing the actual data with ‘tokens’: randomly, algorithmically generated alphanumeric strings that stand in for the card details within.

What this means is, should your vault be breached in a hacker-led heist, there isn’t anything for the would-be thieves to steal – except the tokens. Yet these are indecipherable, with no way of decrypting them or connecting them to any real cardholder data, and are thus useless to anyone on the outside looking in.

It’s as though the thieves, having gained access to the vault, find there nothing but the kind of poker chips you’d find in a casino. You know exactly what they mean, and what they stand for – but they’re of no value to larcenous bad actors outside your business’s ecosystem.

To dive deeper into how tokenization combats fraud, our guide offers an in-depth take.

Why is a credit card vault important for merchants?

Credit card vaults are crucial not only for safeguarding your customers’ details and providing a better experience at the checkout – but for growing your business internationally, cutting costs, and combating fraud, too.

Let’s take a look at the many reasons why your business needs a credit card vault.

Credit card vaults are fully PCI compliant

We’ve already discussed the importance of PCI compliance, and alluded not only to the costs of non-compliance, but of achieving PCI certification in the first place – a process which can be extremely costly and tim-consuming for businesses to achieve.

When you use a PCI compliant vault, though, you’ll shift your responsibilities here to the provider you choose. These companies – such as Checkout.com, which has Level 1 (the highest) PCI compliance – are already meeting the requirements.

Credit card vaults bolster your security

Ever, as a customer, had your card details stolen or exposed in a data breach – through no fault of your own? It’s not a nice feeling and, as a merchant, it isn’t one you want your customers to experience. (Especially because it can bring huge financial fines for your business.)

Fortunately, a credit card vault – through techniques such as tokenization – safeguards your customers’ data and makes it indecipherable to hackers and thieves. This protects your revenue and reputation – formalizing your commitment, to your customers, to the most stringent data security protocols.

Credit card vaults provide a better customer experience

Storing your customers’ payment card details in a credit card vault provides a wealth of benefits for the customer.

For one, they’re not required to provide their details – which can be a long and laborious process – every time they make a repeat purchase. For another, storing card data facilitates recurring transactions (such as monthly subscription payments for streaming services or gym memberships), removing the onus on the customer to remember to do this manually.

All this equates to a better experience for the customer: and a safer, more secure, and utterly seamless one to boot.

Credit card vaults reduces payment friction

Storing card details in a credit card vault means that, when your customer comes to make a repeat purchase, they can access benefits such as one-click payments, or auto-filled payment form fields. This leads to a faster, friction-free payment flow, leading in turn to reduced abandoned cart rates and – for recurring billing – less customer churn.

Credit card vaults prevent fraud

By vaulting your credit card data with the right provider, you can slash the risk of data breaches: and avoid your customers’ information ending up on the Dark Web, where it can be sold and used for fraudulent purposes.

Through this lens, you’re not only protecting your customers, but your own business – preventing fraud from coming back to bite you in the form of chargebacks.

Credit card vaults permit global expansion

If your business has international expansion in mind – or already deals with customers from different countries around the world – then good news: credit card vaults know no borders.

Credit card vaults enable you, as a merchant, to tap into a litany of different payment gateways: including those that fall outside of your geographic remit. With a credit card vault, you can scale your cross-border payments strategy quickly by connecting to a mix of payment service providers that meet your needs – not the other way around. And, in doing so, open your business up to a wider, larger, global customer base to grow your revenue and reach.

Store cards with Checkout.com

Checkout.com is a Level 1 PCI compliant credit card vault and tokenization provider. That means you can store payment details in our credit card vault: enabling you to access them quickly when it’s time to charge your customers, and avoid friction or churn.

Our PCI compliant vault utilizes tokenization to safeguard your customers’ details: making them unassailable to data breaches or hackers, and alleviating your compliance duties.

Checkout.com’s credit card vault enables you to store your business’s:

  • Customer objects: these contain the data of a particular customer, such as their name, email address, and phone number. We assign a unique ID (for example, cus_y3oqhf46pyzuxjbcn2giaqnb44) to each.
  • Payment instruments: these are details pertaining to a particular customer’s bank account or payment card, and also have a unique ID. These serve as the source of, or destination for, payments. You can associate multiple instruments with a customer, and add a default payment instrument to each – this will be used for recurring billing.

Better still, Checkout.com offers a wide range of other, equally vital tools for businesses that rely on subscriptions. Our real-time account updater service, for example, automatically refreshes your customers’ debit and credit card information – avoiding lost revenue and churn due to expired or replaced cards, while helping you sidestep the hassle of doing this yourself.

To get up to date with all the tools and information we offer for businesses like yours – and to learn more about how the right credit card vault service can elevate your sales and revenue – get in touch with our friendly team of payment experts today. Or to learn more review our documentation on stored payment details.

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January 8, 2024 18:38
January 8, 2024 18:38