Which PCI SAQ Do I Need?

Which PCI SAQ Do I Need?

In the digital age, where online transactions have become increasingly prevalent, the security of sensitive credit card information is of paramount importance. To ensure the protection of this data, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was set. Compliance with PCI DSS is mandatory for organizations that handle credit card transactions. However, the specific requirements vary based on the size and nature of the business. This article aims to guide you in determining the appropriate PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) based on your organization’s characteristics and cardholder data environment.

Understanding PCI DSS and SAQ

Understanding PCI DSS and SAQ

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security requirements by major credit card companies to safeguard sensitive cardholder data. It encompasses a comprehensive framework of guidelines and controls designed to prevent data breaches and ensure the secure processing, storage, and transmission of credit card information.

A Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) is a validation tool provided by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) to assist merchants and service providers in self-assessing their compliance with PCI DSS. SAQs consist of a series of questions that evaluate an organization’s adherence to specific security measures outlined in the PCI DSS.

Different Types of SAQ

To accommodate the varying levels of complexity and risk associated with different business environments, the PCI SSC has developed several SAQ types. Each SAQ type corresponds to different validation requirements. Let’s explore the most common types of SAQs:


SAQ A applies to merchants who solely process card-not-present (e-commerce or mail/telephone order) transactions. It excludes the storage of cardholder data.


SAQ A-EP is designed for e-commerce merchants who outsource their payment processing to PCI DSS-validated third-party service providers. It covers the implementation of certain controls by the merchant.


Also, SAQ B is intended for merchants who process cardholder data using imprint machines or standalone dial-out terminals. It excludes the storage of cardholder data.


The SAQ B-IP is similar to SAQ B, but it is specifically tailored for merchants using standalone PTS-approved payment terminals with an IP connection.


The SAQ C is for merchants who process cardholder data using payment application systems connected to the Internet. It includes a limited scope of applicable PCI DSS requirements.


SAQ D is the most comprehensive SAQ, encompassing all the PCI DSS requirements. It applies to merchants who do not fall into any other SAQ category.


The SAQ P2PE-HW is designed for merchants who use PCI-approved point-to-point encryption (P2PE) hardware devices. It applies to organizations that have implemented a P2PE solution to protect cardholder data.

Which PCI SAQ Do I Need? : Steps To Determine

Which PCI SAQ Do I Need? : Steps To Determine

Here are ten key factors to guide you in selecting the most suitable SAQ, along with detailed descriptions of each factor:

Cardholder Data Environment (CDE)

Assess the scope of your CDE, which includes any systems, processes, or networks that handle or store cardholder data (CHD). Understanding the boundaries of your CDE is crucial in determining the applicable SAQ.

Payment Channels

Identify the various payment channels your organization uses, such as e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS), mail/telephone order (MOTO), or a combination of these. Different SAQs help to address specific payment channels.

Cardholder Data Storage

Evaluate how your organization handles cardholder data storage. If you do not store any CHD electronically, it may significantly reduce the scope of your PCI DSS requirements and simplify the SAQ selection process.

Third-Party Service Providers

Determine if you utilize third-party service providers for any aspect of your payment processes. If you do, assess the extent to which these providers are PCI DSS compliant, as it can impact the applicable SAQ for your organization.

Network Segmentation

Examine your network architecture and assess whether you have effectively segmented your CDE from other networks. Proper network segmentation can reduce the scope of PCI DSS requirements and influence your SAQ choice.

Vulnerability Management

Consider your organization’s vulnerability management practices. If you have robust measures in place for detecting and addressing vulnerabilities, such as regular vulnerability scanning and patch management, it may impact the SAQ category applicable to your organization.

Encryption and Tokenization

Evaluate the extent to which you encrypt or tokenize cardholder data in different scenarios, such as during transmission or storage. Proper encryption and tokenization practices can influence the applicable SAQ.

Physical Security

Assess the physical security measures implemented within your organization, especially for areas where cardholder data is processed or stored. The adequacy of physical security controls can affect the SAQ selection.

Personnel Awareness and Training

Evaluate the level of awareness and training provided to your employees regarding payment card security and PCI DSS compliance. Well-trained personnel can contribute to meeting the requirements specified in different SAQs.

Transaction Volumes

Consider the volume of transactions your organization processes annually. Higher transaction volumes may trigger additional requirements and potentially impact the SAQ category applicable to your organization.

By carefully evaluating these ten factors and their relevance to your organization’s specific circumstances, you can determine the most appropriate SAQ to meet your PCI DSS compliance obligations. It’s also recommended to consult with a PCI Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) or a qualified professional to ensure accurate SAQ selection and compliance with the PCI DSS standards.


Determining the correct PCI SAQ for your organization is crucial to ensure compliance with PCI DSS. By considering your business scenario, the scope of your cardholder data environment, and any third-party services or applications you use, you can select the most appropriate SAQ. Remember to regularly review and update your compliance measures to protect cardholder data effectively.

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