Managing guest-payment systems poses a host of challenges as hotels strive to operate efficiently while keeping guest information secure. But an explosion of increasingly sophisticated technology — everything from contactless debit-card machines, mobile payment solutions, virtual credit cards and increasingly efficient POS systems, to management and booking systems — is giving hoteliers the tools to surmount these challenges, improve their operations and enhance the guest experience.
The sophistication of point-of-sale (POS) systems, for instance, has grown by leaps and bounds. Mississauga-based POS Canada offers POSePAY, which facilitates the integration between the company’s POS systems and the payment processors with whom the company works (Moneris, Pivotal Payments, Chase Paymentech and First Data). With POSePAY, authorizations and approvals are fast, improving customer throughput and server efficiency. On those occasions when Internet service may be unavailable or temporarily interrupted, POSePAY switches over to backup dial mode, ensuring uninterrupted service until Internet connectivity is restored.
A payment method interfaced to the POS system translates to seamless reconciliation and helps properties reduce staff errors, increase customer service and provide accurate tip-outs to staff.
In partnership with Pivotal Payments and its dedicated integrated payments division, FlexPoint, POS Canada is bringing mobile wallet integration, including Apple Pay and Google’s Android Pay, to the hotel, restaurant and hospitality industries across North America, according to Louis Georgakakis, Pivotal Payments’ director of marketing. The addition of mobile wallet acceptance will help Canadian business owners in these industries streamline their transaction processing, enhance customer service, expand their payment capabilities and protect against payment fraud, said Georgakakis.
Moreover, Global Payments Inc., a leading worldwide provider of payment technology services, announced in November that it is offering its Canadian merchants the ability to accept American Express mobile payments made with Apple Pay.
Apple Pay uses highly secure fingerprint authentication technology, as well as a unique device account number that is assigned, encrypted and safely stored in the secure element of the Apple device, ensuring actual card numbers are not stored on the device or on Apple servers. Each transaction is authorized with a one-time unique dynamic security code, instead of using the security code on the back of the payment card.
Raising the bar for safeguarding guests’ financial information are payment solutions providers Elavon and Moneris. In June, Elavon announced a multi-year agreement with Wyndham Hotel Group to integrate secure payment technology for about 4,500 of the company’s hotels during the next 18 months. The integration leverages Elavon’s Fusebox gateway and Simplify payment security software application to remove cardholder data from each hotel’s property management system. Using Fusebox, Elavon’s proprietary gateway solution, hotels mitigate the risk of having cardholder data stolen, since they never have access to the data.
When a customer pays with a credit or debit card for accommodations, goods or services via Elavon’s Simplify payment software, Fusebox immediately creates a token (a randomized number) that replaces the actual cardholder data, essentially isolating the real information from the hotel’s systems.
This layered approach to security includes encryption, tokenization and EMV (major credit card) acceptance devices and helps hotels lessen the risk associated with PCI compliance and the EMV liability shift that occurred in autumn. (As of October, liability for counterfeit card fraud at the retail level will shift to the merchants in certain cases unless they have replaced or upgraded their card acceptance and processing systems to use chip-enabled devices and applications to process payment transactions.)
In both the U.S. and Canadian markets, Moneris integrates the Oracle Opera property management system featuring secure back-end payment hosts, according to Jeff Guthrie, chief sales and relationship officer at Moneris.
A lodging-specific software, Oracle Opera helps hotels manage their day-to-day operations, including reservations, rooms, customer profiles, reporting and cash registers. Moneris solutions offer top-up payment functionality and process accounting reconciliation, night audits and reservation transactions, and help to manage hotel rates. Additionally, Moneris works with electronic payment solutions provider ACI Worldwide to connect the Oracle Opera software with its payment terminals. This plug-in enables hotels to conduct business efficiently through the communication between their business management software and payment processing systems.
Moneris’ back-end payment hosts help hotels accept at-the-counter/table, online and over-the-phone transactions. The company’s solutions support EMV chip and PIN, chip and signature, contactless and pay-at-table (in hotel restaurants) processes, which are encrypted based on the highest industry security standards, so that customer credit card data is virtually impossible to duplicate by fraudsters at the time of transaction.
Moneris deploys EMV chip and PIN/signature solutions with property management software like Oracle Opera to many Canadian hotels via the company’s eSelect Plus product and various payment terminals. The company’s technology supports contactless-tap card payments, tokenization encoding for enhanced data security, supplemental lodging data and incremental authorization.
In addition, Moneris supports a number of hotels North America-wide to process transactions from China’s UnionPay credit card. According to statistics cited by Guthrie, total spending on UnionPay cards has increased by 30.23 per cent compared to the same period in 2014.
On the debit-card front, hotel guests using Interac can take advantage of Interac Flash, which allows guests to pay for smaller point-of-sale purchases (for example, at a hotel’s business centre, restaurant, cafe or spa) by holding their card in front of a contactless POS reader. Instead of magnetic stripe data type processing, Interac Flash uses secure chip processing, which protects transactions against counterfeiting and transaction-replay forms of fraud, including electronic pickpocketing.
Further streamlining transactions is BooknPay, a real-time online reservation system that allows operators to accept bookings with instant payments directly through their website. Through BooknPay, guests benefit from instantly confirmed, credit card-guaranteed reservations at the best rates online, while hotels minimize no-show risk and increase occupancy.
BooknPay enables hotels to update their room allotment and room rates and view the reservation with the extranet to all the hotel’s customers 24/7. With the reservation system, operators avoid third-party commission fees and aren’t restricted to a manually controlled allocation of rooms to sell (via a third-party website). Security features control room availability, preventing overbooking, and protect guests’ financial information.
Gaining traction in recent years are virtual credit cards, commonly used by online travel agents to reimburse hotels for pre-paid or merchant bookings. Growing in popularity, virtual cards are also used by global distribution systems for corporate travel. A virtual card is issued for a specific purpose or reservation that functions similarly to a credit or debit card, but without the physical plastic typically associated with major card networks. Removing the physical nature of a traditional credit card, issuers can generate card numbers dynamically. Typically, a virtual card features a traditional credit card number, but without a physical card; a transaction-specific, one-to-one payment; is supported by existing payment technologies; and is usually single-use only, set to expire after a specific length of time, for a specific expenditure.
According to information provided by the Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) trade association, properties struggle to handle these virtual card transactions properly because there is no systematic way to differentiate a virtual card from a standard card based on the information in the reservation, and there are specific business rules related to each payment that are currently being communicated through off-line faxes and emails. This creates inefficiencies and confusion, resulting in guest service issues and declined payments.
To provide hoteliers best practices, HTNG, in association with the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDA), issued, in September, a virtual payments card handbook. Once the new Virtual Payment Cards Specification standards are implemented around the systems involved, “distributors will no longer have to send faxes or emails to hotels to communicate the business rules for each payment, and hotels will find it much simpler to accept this type of payment,” according to the handbook.
VIRTUAL CREDIT CARD TIPS
The handbook offers hoteliers the following tips to manage virtual cards:
Generate daily or shift reports to identify newly-booked OTA reservations.
Establish proper authorization rules and procedures.
Collect a form of payment for incidental charges directly from the guest, if applicable.
When required, ensure the rate is suppressed for the guest folio and/or create two folios in order to separate the charges on the virtual card from those to be paid by the guest.
Upon check-out, provide the guest with only the folio for the incidental charges, if applicable.
If the guest calls after check-out to request a copy of the bill for the room and tax, advise the guest to contact the travel company that provided the card directly. Only the charges not included within the virtual card transaction can be shared with the guest.
If the hotel does not charge the virtual card within the validity period, the hotel should contact the travel company that provided the card to get a new virtual card, or at least a new validity period.
Amended bookings may be accompanied by a new virtual card. Hotels should be careful to use the current and correct virtual card.
— By Don Douloff