Do You Still Need to Sign Your Credit Card?

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A man pays for his meal with a credit card

Let’s go back 10 years to 2008. The iPhone is celebrating its first anniversary. Mobile apps are brand new. Facebook has just 100 million users worldwide and there is no such thing as Instagram or Snapchat. Need a ride? You can’t order an Uber or Lyft, because they don’t exist. And, everywhere, people are swiping their credit cards to make purchases.

The world has changed a lot in the past decade, and credit cards are no exception. In the past two years, we’ve seen EMV chips added to credit cards. We’ve seen cards become safer, smarter and more rewarding than ever before. Mobile apps allow us to make account payments no matter where we are. And online shopping makes it so many retailers never actually see our physical cards.

With all of these technological advancements, you may wonder: Does it even matter if I sign the back of my credit card?

Why is there a signature line on my credit card?

Have you ever really thought about why that signature line is there? The main reason that a signature has been required on credit cards is because it may help protect against fraud.

Credit cards had a signature line on them originally as a way to help protect consumers from fraud. The basic idea was that if someone stole your credit card and used it at a store, a cashier would be able to compare your signature on the back of the card to their signature on the receipt and see the difference. In fact, the main credit card companies had a policy that merchants were not supposed to accept a credit card that wasn’t signed. 

How has technology changed the need for a signed credit card?

While the reasons for a credit card signature may have been plausible in the past, the reality is that the way we shop and spend has changed in the past few decades.

One of the largest changes to credit cards in the recent years was the conversion to EMV chips. EMV chips are the computer chips on your credit cards that store your account information and create unique transaction codes. Credit card issuers have switched to the EMV chips because the technology is considered to keep your card information safer than magnetic stripes.

To make a purchase in a store with an EMV chip, you must use a payment terminal where you insert the chip into a payment processing machine. In today’s world, most retailers have the payment terminals in front of the consumers at check out. Instead of cashiers having to swipe a card, shoppers can now insert their own card without ever having to hand their card to the cashier. This means that most cashiers never even touch your physical card. So how can they make sure there is a signature on the back?

Similarly, many of us do a lot of our shopping online. Since online shopping requires you to enter your credit card information into a secure payment processing site, these online retailers never see your physical card to make sure you signed the back. 

What about credit card fraud?

There are people who believe that signing the back of their credit card could cause a fraudster to have easier access to their signature. In an effort to protect against unauthorized access to their signature, some people choose to write the words “See ID” on the back of their card instead of signing the card.  And at a store, they simply present their credit card and ID together to make a payment.

A man pays for his meal with a credit card

While this may have worked in the past, it’s becoming less common for retailers to physically handle your credit card. This means that few, if any, cashiers are likely to actually ask to see your ID.

The good news with credit cards today is that technology has allowed us to create safer ways for us to protect our credit card information from criminals. The EMV chip technology has been shown to better protect your credit card than the magnetic stripe. The simple act of using a credit card for your transactions can help protect you against someone stealing your money. In most cases, you aren’t responsible for fraudulent purchases on your credit card. In fact, federal law limits your liability.

There are also other ways to protect yourself from credit card fraud that have nothing to do with signing it. The best way is to review your statements regularly and report any unauthorized activity. You should also always ensure you’re using your credit card on a secure website when shopping online, and always keep your credit card information private.

So what’s the bottom line?

So do you really need to sign your credit card? The answer is really up to your personal preferences. In today’s world of online shopping, EMV chips and increasing ways to protect your card from fraud, there’s really no need for you to sign your card. There is no definitive rule that you have to. Your card will still work if you don’t. Your credit card company will likely never ask if you’ve signed it, and chances are that no retailer is going to check for the signature.

That being said, if it gives you peace of mind to sign your credit card, you absolutely can. If you don’t want to take the time to sign your card, don’t worry about it.