Merchants and Debit cards

I went to Wendys and paid for my order with a debit card. Now all they did was slide my card through the machine. Never had me sign anything or type my PIN into a keypad. Is that legal? This is a debit card so everything comes staight out of my checking account. Isn’t the purpose of PIN #s to prevent thieves from using the card just cause it’s in their physical possension?

You must be very very very young. :stuck_out_tongue: The adopting of PIN methods for using any payment card is very recent, when compared to the history of such cards.

The OP says that they also didn’t ask for a signature. I’ve noticed that the same thing sometimes happens at gas stations, and have wondered about it. My guess is that the merchant has decided that the time saved is worth the occasional loss to his business due to allowing a fraudulent credit card?

Yes. If your debit card has a credit-card logo (probably Mastercard or Visa), then it can be used by a merchant in exactly the same fashion as credit card.

First of all, I have to insert my general rant about people saying “PIN numbers”, since that expands to “Personal Identification Number numbers” (and don’t even get me started on “ATM machines”).

To address your concern, you can most likely (though I’m not absolutely positive) request that your bank issue you a debit card that cannot be used as a credit card. Such a card would always require a PIN.

But even if they were using it as a credit card wouldn’t I still need to sign something?

Careful. All that frustration and stress lowers your resistance to the HIV virus.

Fast food, like gas stations, worked out a special agreement with the credit card companies so as not to need PINs or signatures. Fast food chains were not interested in taking credit cards until recently because of the time factor involved. Meanwhile, credit card companies are very, very interested in being a payment method in as many businesses as possible (so they can make more money on merchant fees). What you experienced- slide the card, no pin no signature- is the covergence of these two interests.

Here’s an article that explains the policy background. Note especially this paragraph:

The I should not mention the time a saw some reffer to it as a personel PIN number , should I?

Sliding the card imparts the card’s unique ID to the transaction. Besides, when you order online, or pizza on the phone, do you sign something?

I always thought that if you buying something in person with your debit card, then you always have to put in your PIN or sign something. However, they don’t usually bother to check the signature.

You’re on thin ice there, mister! :smiley:

The card doesn’t have a truly unique ID. All it has is the same number as that embossed on the front. Sure, your number is different from mine, but there’s nothing to prevent a fraudster from making up a card with your, or my, number recorded on the magstripe. It’s not cryptographically secure or anything like that which would prevent forgery.

Most states have adopted a law known as the “statute of frauds” that requires a written signature on contracts. But most (probably all, but I have never actually checked) statutes of frauds make an exception for contracts under a certain amount or that can be performed within a certain time. For example, I live in Minnesota, which (like most states) has adopted the Uniform Commercial Code, of which article 2, section 201, provides:

Minn. Stat. § 336.2-201.

Funny thing… the place I order pizza from, if I use a debit or credit card, they actually bring me the slip to sign.

Mastercard and Visa have always had provisions for credit card (and by extension, debit cards with their logos) transactions where a signature wasn’t possible. Back in the days before the Internet, and when you had to have a paper slip for each transaction, if it was a mail order or telephone order the merchant put “MO” or “TO” on the signature line.

I no longer have a merchant account, so I don’t know if there is currently a sepcial provision for gast stations and fast food places or not. They may just be relying on the low risk of chargebacks on small dollar amount transactions.

Another funny thing… the same gas station that would let me fill up an H1 Hummer (I’m assuming it has a large gas tank) with super duper premium gasoline (heck, maybe they’re diesel, but you get the idea - either way, it’s not a small dollar transaction) without signing anything at the pump, will make me sign the slip if I go inside and get a Pepsi and a candy bar.

The electronic strip in back of your card certasinly imparts more info than the upraised numbers

Yes, it but provides no information about who was the person that handed the card to the merchant.

At a Mc D’s I was told that they don’t get a signature for under $5.


I was told by MBNA (CC Company) that a CC theif will usually go to a pay at the pump gas station to see if a stolen card is still good.

(these were just for CC’s, I don’t like and don’t use DC’s as I don’t like to give direct access to my money)

Blood. Pressure. Rising. Must. Remain. Calm.

Serenity now. Serenity now.

On a side note, I once worked in retail, and I frequently had to call in credit card authorizations. One particular company (which shall remain nameless) had an automated authorization system that would prompt me thusly:

“Please enter your merchant number, followed by the pound key”

“Please enter the credit card number number, followed by the pound key”

“Please enter . . .”

Practically gave me an aneurysm every time I had to call them. Their IVR system must have been designed by the Department of Redundancy Department.