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What Is 3D Secure?

Stephen Hart

Stephen Hart

Founder - Cardswitcher

Former - Chief Financial Officer @ Worldpay

Online business is booming, and everyone from SMEs to large scale corporations are receiving an influx of online card payments.

But with customers completing so many online transactions, how can they remain secure?

One popular method for fraud prevention is 3D Secure.

What is 3D Secure?

This is a system where customers are directed to an additional verification site before they can complete their transaction. Initially launched by Visa in the early 2000s, 3D secure has now been widely adopted by other banks to step up security.

Typically, when you buy a product or service online, you’ll be directed to the payment gateway or virtual terminal. There you can complete your purchase.

But with financial fraud related to payment cards and remote banking in 2020 totalling a whopping £783.8 million, it’s clear that additional steps are necessary.

3D Secure stands for 3 Domain Secure, and refers to the three parties involved in the security of the transaction’s process:

  1. The vendor
  2. The acquiring bank
  3. Visa/MasterCard/American Express

making secure payment on laptop

How does 3D Secure work?

With 3D secure, you enter your details and are then redirected to your card provider’s site. Here you will typically be asked for:

  • A password or code that you use for online banking.
  • A one-time authorisation code, usually sent to your mobile or email.

With the rise of mobile banking, some banks like Clydesdale and Santander also offer the option to log into your mobile banking app. This offers an alternative way to confirm the payment.

However, if these are entered incorrectly on too many occasions, or fail to be verified, the transaction will be cancelled. You may also receive a notification from your bank.

When the code or verification is completed successfully, the bank approves the transaction. You’ll then typically be directed back to the site you ordered from with confirmation of your purchase.

Visa and Mastercard now both offer 3D secure systems, respectively named Verified by Visa and SecureCode. Cards by these providers are automatically 3D secure, and you do not need to register or sign up.

How is 3D secure beneficial?

If it’s not evident from the name alone, the biggest benefit is the additional security it provides for both merchants and customers.

Benefits for customers

Though it adds an extra step to the payment process, 3D secure prevents card details from being stolen and used repeatedly online. Each one time passcode or authorisation code is valid for only the transaction that you make. This makes it more difficult for fraudulent payments to occur.

As only the customer with access to their mobile banking, email or texts can enter the verification details, purchases are automatically more secure. Consumers can buy with ease, reassured that they’re buying from a legitimate site.

Benefits for merchants

These steps allow the bank to verify that it’s definitely legitimate customers making the payment. It equally relieves some of the pressure from merchants to verify transactions.

Banks take responsibility for verifying the payment, so merchants are no longer liable for any disputed refunds or chargebacks. The card issuer is responsible for any disputes, and will handle these separately, meaning no funds taken from your merchant account.

Alongside regular PCI compliance, systems like 3D secure can go a long way in increasing your transactions. Though it might be the last thing you’d consider to boost sales, up to 85% of online shoppers avoid sites that are not secure. Improving your site’s security will reassure your customers that they’re shopping from a trusted and legitimate site.

credit card payment

Can I opt out of 3D secure?

When shopping from sites that support their online payment systems with 3D secure, you will not be able to opt out of verifying your purchase. The system offers additional protection to both customers and merchants, and without completing it you'll be unable to process transactions.

However if the merchant you shop from is not 3D secure compliant, you won’t need to enter a verification password.


A little extra hassle goes a long way when it comes to card security. Taking the time to become 3D Secure authenticated could significantly improve your transaction security.

If you’re interested in making your payments as secure as can be, check out our SME’s Guide To Online Payment Security. We provide you with all the top tricks and tips to keep your business’s transactions safe. At CardSwitcher, we care about helping SMEs save money. With extra costs involved in getting 3D secure authentication, we’re here to help you save up to 40% on your current credit card processing costs. Compare prices with us with ease.

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Written by:
Stephen Hart

Stephen Hart

Founder - Cardswitcher

Former - Chief Financial Officer @ Worldpay

Stephen brings a wealth of experience honed through years in the financial sector, particularly in the card processing payments industry. His illustrious career spans key roles at PwC, Natwest, and the role of CFO at WorldPay, before going on to found card processing comparison site, CardSwitcher. He is passionate about helping growing businesses to understand the card processing landscape so they can make savvy financial decisions.