Certified Payments Professional

The Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) offers the Certified Payments Professional (CPP) designation to individuals who demonstrate both the skills and knowledge necessary to perform well in the field of electronic payments. Many first-time CPPs are sales professionals with one to three years of experience who have specialized knowledge related to technology, risk, security, operations or compliance. The designation may apply to functional specialists and professionals who want to have a credential that verifies industry expertise.

The ETA began administering the CPP in 2011, and merchant demand for the credential has increased. According to experts, many independent sales organizations (ISO) and other processing agents may have to obtain the CPP designation in order to remain competitive. The ETA website hosts a registry for CPPs that is searchable by last name and state. In addition to demonstrating individual expertise, the CPP delivers a training and retention tool for ISOs and agents. These organizations can use the designation to train their personnel and to promote a standard of professionalism within the industry.

Critics of the designation point out that becoming a CPP is a good starting place for payment processing professionals. However, they argue that while the credential tests business knowledge well, it does not offer enough ethical policing. Currently, the ETA currently does not have a procedure to decertify CPPs who practice unethically. Also, the designation may develop limited value if companies do not reward employees who obtain the credential.

Objectives of the CPP and Reasons for Certification

The ETA has developed the CPP to implement uniform standards of practice and knowledge for ISOs, sales personnel and other payment industry employees. At the same time, the education associated with the credential discourages both inappropriate and unethical practices. The credential also quantifies the expertise of professionals, enhancing both productivity for individuals and credibility for the industry as a whole. For professionals, becoming a CPP signified recognition of expertise from a well-respected organization. Also, the designation represents knowledge, skill and dedication to the profession. In some companies, certification may lead to promotion or increased earnings. The ETA structure for continuing education allows for ongoing professional development throughout a CPP's career. Employers that promote the credential within their organizations receive a boost to professional reputation, which will enhance customer satisfaction. Also, employees can be directed into an existing professional development structure to lessen learning management requirements for companies. Industry-wide, the CPP shows the ability for self-regulation within the field. The credential identifies competent service providers as well as enhancing knowledge of industry and government regulations.

Certification Requirements

Payments processing professionals must have three years of industry experience to sit for the CPP exam. Alternatively, with a high school diploma, associate degree or a baccalaureate degree, candidates need only one year of experience. The ETA defines industry experience as full-time work in a payments-related company selling electronic payments products, service or solutions to other businesses. Additionally, professionals can work for a company that either services or delivers consulting to a payments processing company.

Other CPP requirements include signing a candidate attestation and obtaining a recommendation from a supervisor or manager in the industry. All documentation must be submitted to the ETA, which will evaluate candidate eligibility for the CPP exam within seven business days. Then, 30 days before a testing window, qualified candidates will receive a Notice to Schedule (NTS) delivered via e-mail. The NTS contains information about setting up a testing appointment. Testing can be scheduled no later than seven days before the test date.

The CPP exam covers eight subject areas, or domains, including Security Principles and Practices, Business Principles and Practices, Legal Aspects, Personnel Security, Physical Security, Information Security, Crisis Management and Investigations. The exam fees as of 2013 are $350 for ETA members and $450 for non-members. The ETA's CPP Candidate Handbook explains testing procedures and provides sample exam questions, which are largely scenario-based. In addition to the Candidate Handbook, exam candidates will receive a link to the ETA CPP Examination Study Guide. Some organizations plan group training sessions for employees including both content and test-taking strategies.

Continuing Education

Candidates who pass the exam to receive CPP designation will have a valid credential for three years. Within the three-year cycle, candidates must earn 36 credits of continuing education (CE) to qualify for recertification. Approved activities include attending industry-related seminars, workshops, webinars, conferences and other courses. CPPs can also take industry-specific college or university courses. In addition to learning activities, CPPs can earn CE credits when they lecture or deliver speeches related to the industry, publish industry-related articles under a byline or participate as members of ETA or related industry committees. CPPs can also earn CE credits for earning other industry-related certifications.

Certain activities are not considered by the ETA for CE credit. For example, attendance at presentations for marketing, business development, sales-specific or organizational products is not an acceptable CE activity. Taking introductory courses or exam preparation courses in similar fields does not count for CE credit. Career development topics unrelated to payments processing will not receive credit. CPPs also cannot time spent in CPP exam prep courses.

To document credits earned, CPPs should obtain signed copies of letters or program agendas certifying that they completed an appropriate CE activity. The ETA may audit any CE documentation and recommends that CPPs keep their CE documents for two years after recertification. If CPPs cannot provide verification of credits earned, then the activities will be disqualified.

Companies like Visa, MasterCard Worldwide, COCARD Marketing Group, Merchant Warehouse, First Data Corporation and National Processing Company/Fifth-Third Processing have endorsed the CPP credential. These endorsements could increase the industry's acceptance and promotion of the designation.