3D Secure payments and the online shopping user experience


How often have you gone through a laborious shopping cart process only to ditch at the last minute when you are asked to remember your Verified by Visa/Mastercard Secure Code password/PIN combination? Given the number of passwords we are asked to remember these days, I know for one, that I am never able to come up with the correct details when prompted. What happens next? You try a few possible combinations of birthdays, wedding anniversaries or favourite football teams all of which end in failure. You then try and create a new password (that you haven’t used before – yes the system remembers) by which time you have long forgotten what it was you were trying to buy. In your frustration you give up and get back to you work whilst in the meantime the online merchant is sitting there scratching their head and frantically tweaking their site to ensure that they don’t lose you next time around. Shopping cart abandonment rates are already averaging a whopping 66% - a stat that I know brings a tear to my client’s eyes but that has the Googles and Facebooks of this world rubbing their hands with glee as more and more money is poured into driving traffic to this leaky sales funnel.

Whilst 3D Secure payments have been around for a while it is only recently that the payment processing companies are enforcing the implementation of this technology. Elavon, who provide merchant IDs for Bank of Ireland customers in Ireland, operate globallyand are already ensuring the implementation of 3D secure through their terms and conditions. (Failure to comply means your funds are blocked…) There has been anecdotal evidence of lenience being applied if direct contact is made but by and large all merchant IDs issued by Elavon need to be signed up for 3D Secure.

What does all this actually mean for the online merchants and their users? Below are a few pros and cons worth considering:


  • 3D Secure provides an added layer of security for the merchant as well as the customer.
  • Merchants are not liable for monthly charge backs if they have 3D Secure in place. Until now if a fraudster buys goods/services from your site with a stolen card the merchant has to pay the charge back that the credit card company paid to the owner of the card. For smaller merchants these charge backs can be especially damaging.
  • There is added incentive on merchants to ensure that their shopping cart experience is as seamless and user friendly as possible – a better general level of user experience can only be a good thing.


  • Website users hate 3D Secure payments… The Twitterati have a few things to say about it here (NB: some of these NSFW)
  • Are 3D secure payments really necessary in all cases? Lightbox work with a number of charities who take donations online. There are no products to be bought and the “customer” gets nothing for their money – they are giving their money to the charity. If I am going to commit credit card fraud I am unlikely to hot foot to the nearest charity website unless I am a particularly altruistic thief. (Update – having spoken with the team in Realex, fraudsters often bombard charity sites to generate valid credit card numbers using the Luhn algorithm and will then use those card details on a third party site where they can purchase something of real value).
  • Lead time for getting up and running online is now even longer. (Elavon have never been particularly speedy at issuing merchant IDs.) Now you will need to add on an additional 10 days as payment processing companies like Realex have to confirm with the bank before they can set your business up 3D Secure on their systems.
  • Additional development – if you already have an online shop you will most likely need to upgrade your payment process to comply with new terms and condition. For Magento developers, Studio 49 have already done some of the hard work by developing a plugin. Cost is €145. Alternatively merchants can use Realex Redirect for processing payments which is an easy to use alternative whereby Realex do all the processing and 3D Secure verification on their site and pass the user back to the merchant.

There will always be differing points of view when it comes to new technology but like it or not 3D Secure is here to stay. Whilst Elavon are the only merchant services company enforcing 3D Secure at the moment in Ireland other providers and banks will no doubt be following suit in the not too distant future.

  • Sean

    The issues are exacerbated by the banks typically saying nothing to clients when issuing cards. Here in South Africa, most often, the first time a customer finds out about 3D Secure is when they’re in the process of checking out. Banks need to recognize the burgeoning shift to online retail and educate their clients…

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