Why Do I Need to Sign the Back of My Credit Card?

May 21, 2019

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It used to be that signing the back of a new credit card was the first step before using it. Nowadays, that isn’t the case. In fact, I have never signed any of my credit cards. I’ve never been questioned about it, so I don’t find it necessary. So why do credit card companies still include a bar for your signature on the back of your card?

What That Signature Bar is For

Interestingly enough, the signature box on the back of the card is intended to verify your agreement with the credit card company. While major credit card companies continue to produce cards with this blank space, they have also released updates to discredit their validity. The major reason is the rise of EMV chip cards that have caused a large decrease in fraudulent activity.

For example, back in April 2018, Visa said it was making “the signature requirement optional for all EMV contact or contactless chip-enabled merchants in North America…”

As an example of this, on the back of my U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card, it actually does say “not valid unless signed.” As you can see, I have not signed it.

The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

It’s hard to fit a long name in that small box. (Photo by Brett Holzhauer)

However, some people have said writing “see ID” on the back as some sort of security protection if your card falls in the wrong hands. In most cases this is actually against the terms and conditions of your card though.

Whether you decide to sign your card or write “see ID,” both are extremely dated security measures for two reasons:

  1. For in-person sales, nearly all transactions have a point-of-sale payment terminal in front of the customer. You very rarely hand the card over to the cashier. It is even rarer for someone to ask to see your identification. And it’s even more rare for someone to actually check to see if it is signed.
  2. As we become more reliant on purchases through the internet, it is impossible for vendors to check for a signature or to identify if the purchaser is using a stolen credit card. This is why online identity theft is becoming more prevalent than someone using a stolen physical card at a brick-and-mortar retailer.

So Should You Sign Your Card?

Nobody actually looks at the signature on the back of the card these days. As payment systems continue to evolve, we will see this outdated security system be phased out.

So if you feel like practicing your signature, go for it! If not, you should be just fine to continue earning valuable points and miles by making purchases with or without a signed card.

Featured image by TPG

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