Symbol on credit cards

Does anyone know what that little symbol is on credit cards, usually right underneath the card number? It is raised like the other lettering, looks like an ‘M’ or an ‘N’ or something. My only theory is that is each card (MasterCard, Discover, etc.) has its own unique symbol. Anyone know for sure?

Well, my Visa has a “V” and my Mastercard has that m-like thing, so my guess would be that it’s a security measure. Granted, it seems this would only impare the stupidest of credit card fraud, but I think it’s the same idea as having all MC #'s start with 5 and Visa #'s start with 4.

The good people at American Express have seen fit to put a computer chip in their cards. Those guys are so cool.

Yeah, I don’t have a Visa, I guess that clinches it. I have also been wondering, I always sign the back of my credit cards “CHECK ID,” hopefully prompting the clerk to ask my potential robber for some proof that he is me (or even better, to prevent a nervous thief from using it at all).

But are clerks required to check the signature at all? If someone steals my card and they don’t check, will the credit card company try and hold them responsible? I’ve noticed at a few stores (Best Buy in particular) that they have really started to crack down on this … perhaps some liability has been determined?

Yes and yes. The store is responsible for a stolen card unless they can show the thief resonably well forged the signature.

MasterCard has the M thingy (what else could we call it?), Visa has the V, and AmEx has a plain old “AX”

I suspect that the purpose is, for those stores still using the old Addressograph-type imprinting machine, it identified the card type. If you accidentally ran a Visa card through on a MasterCard slip, you could spot it when you checked the symbol.

My Union 76 gas card has a little “76”, FWIW.

Not that it matters, Chriszarate, but as a former dirtbag in my high school days (over 20 years ago) I can tell you that your credit card number is still most likely going to be stolen while still in your posession.

That is, you charge your meal at the restaurant, buy a CD at the CD store, or wherever. The unscrupulous clerk records the number for future use. After 2-3 months where you have used your credit card in a number of places, suddenly, the same clerk will then find a catalog with an expensive item in it and have it shipped to a vacant address via FedEx/ next-day-air UPS (after all, they aren’t paying for the shipping). They will then leave a note on the door of the house signed with the cardholder’s name saying they work 9-5, are just moving in, and can’t be there to sign for it in person so could they please leave the package off to the side of the door, and take the note in leiu of a signature? They will, of course, and the clerk goes and picks up the package later that night under cover of darkness.

You then get stuck with the bill a month later and can’t figure out how someone got your number because the (intelligent) credit card thief didn’t get greedy and waited a good amount of time before using your number.

I would think most thiefs would be too nervous to use a stolen credit card for fear someone might catch their image on a video camera and match to a time stamp on a credit card receipt later to figure who used what card and what the theif looks like. With mail order, no one sees the thief.

Discover cards have a little script “N,” for Novus I assume.


Seems superflous since all MC card start with “5”, and Visa’s “4”. I think Amex is 3 and Discovery is 6, although amex is easy since it has less digits.

A straw poll in my house goes with SavageNarce’s explanation; the symbol makes it easy to identify the type of credit card on the slips from old “zip-zap” machines.

The “M thingy” on a Mastercard is a stylized MC.

Sounds fairly similar to the procedure in the old Cookbook (and people claim it is flawed!). While there is little I can do about that, the main reason I have PLEASE CHECK AGAINST PHOTO ID is that hold-ups are fairly common in Washington, DC and I’m also fairly careless with my wallet.
I don’t carry any cash, but I’m hoping the thief who took it can’t use the cards since they would not dare take the chance that a clerk compares the picture on the driver’s license to the thief.

Question about stolen numbers though. How much is my responsibility in that case? After all, I’ve taken good care of my card, I’ve even taken steps to protect it from misuse. Is it my fault that the mail order company accepts the card number? Shouldn’t they, again, be the ones to pay?

WRT stolen numbers and mail order…

Typically, don’t mail order places ask for billing address as well as card number and shipping address? If they are good about it, and confirm the billing address with the credit card company, it would prevent most cases of using a purloined number (from a restaurant or store). The only way a thief could find your address would be if they had stolen the whole wallet, in which case you’ve probably already cancelled the card.


Your Liability

IIRC, if you report the theft within 24 hours, you are not liable for any fraudulent purchases made with your number. After 24 hours, you are liable for up to $50. This may well vary from state to state, and I’m sure the card company would check you out pretty carefully to make sure you weren’t just trying to get out of paying for your new $25,000 home entertainment system.