Why dont credit cards have PIN numbers?

Credit cards were invented as a payment method long before ATMs and card reading devices. The card and the signature were the security they used.

I can just see someone paying for a meal in an expensive restaurant and being told “Sir, if you are going to pay by credit card I’ll need you to come with me to the terminal situated between the kitchen door and the men’s room. Then you will have to enter your PIN and wait until I process the charge. If another waiter is processing another charge or if the connection is slow then you will have to stand around twiddling your thumbs but you can take a leak if you feel like it. And don’t you worry about your date. Our waiter Carlos will entertain her while you are gone.”

The devices used to enter the PIN in restaurants are usually portable, cordless and the size of a pocket calculator. So, the waiter comes to your table with it and you don’t have to hang around a station in the way you described.

I just realized it’s probably still possible to pay by signing a slip of paper here, since otherwise, foreigners from countries where CC don’t have PINs couldn’t use their cards in France. But I didn’t see the machines which print the slips in ages, and I don’t even know if one could request to pay this way, if one’s card is local.

Well, that point about remembering all the PINs is a good one, but if the companies are really serious about cutting down on the fraud, why not just put the picture on all the cards and be (almost) done with it? Almost no one checks those signatures.

Uraban Ranger. Have you seen some people’s signatures? I could print mine in a harder-to-copy manner than theirs. I know that’s their lookout, but from the bank’s perspective, having an easy to copy signature on the card is little protection, especially as the clerk often doen’t examine it properly.

In the UK, debit cards have pins (although these are only used in cash machines atm). Credit cards do too, but as we use debit cards so much here, credit cards are not usually used for cash withdrawals. If you want to change your pin, there’s an option to do it. So all your cards can be changed to the same pin.

sailor. I suspect that that is a large part of the reason for the delay in using pins for all transactions. With wireless tech, I’d expect it to cease to be a huge obstacle.

Oh, no. Not only did my lack of previewing mean that someone had already said it, but I misspelt the first word :smack:.

Sorry Urban.

I’m wondering though there’s a relation between the french cards having PINs and the fact they’re “smart cards” with an inbeded chip, or if it’s totally unrelated. I’m wondering if the cards in Sweden mentionned by amanset have chips too?
A signature can be imitated quite easily. So, it doesn’t offer much of a guarantee. As for having to remember several PIN numbers, I never thought about that because people here rarely collect CC (actually, most people use debit cards, not credit cards). I’m not sure what’s the point in having several CC, apart perhaps a second one in case you lost the main one or something.
Anyway, remembering several PINs isn’t an issue. Isn’t it possible to choose your PIN yourself? Some banks at least allow you to do so. So, you’d only have to choose the same PIN for all your cards.

My debit card does, my credit card does not. Both can be used in one of these machines that you enter the PIN into.

It is pretty easy to watch someone input their PIN as well. Those bits of metal/plastic don’t really stop other people seeing what you are typing - at least in my experience.

I could pick up a credit card off of the street and begin using it immediately. As long as the name is masculine, I won’t have any trouble at all. Very few people check the signature, and I have a sample to learn how to copy. Add a PIN in there, and I can’t do anything unless I actually watched the person make a purchase.

A similar level of protection would probably be gained by requiring a second form of ID to be displayed while buying with a CC. Apparently, it is not in the CC Company’s best interest to do so, or they would have required one or more of these devices already.

Sure, but the person has to first see you enter you PIN, and only then steal your card. Which would be a rather uncommon situation.
Plus you can still use your hand to conceal the device while entering your PIN, if you’re feeling paranoid.

That is more or less enforced by the shops, rather than the CC companies, here in Sweden.

Or thieves could specialise in standing behind people in the supermarket and then pick-pocketting people on the way out.

It is possible to fake a signature, but it isn’t easy to make it ocnvincing. The real problem is whether people actually check it or not.

Believe it or not, in lots of jurisdictions, the signature offers you better protection than the PIN.

If someone uses your PIN to steal money from your account, the presumption is that you were careless with your PIN, and the onus is upon you to show that you were not.

If someone forges your signature, it is easier for you to show that it was not in fact your signature. If it wasn’t your signature, it’s not your problem. The credit card issuer and the store may have liability arguments between themselves over whether the signature looked like yours or not, but that isn’t your problem.

Signatures are worthless on credit cards. Hell, for that matter, having your name embossed on the card is worthless. My wife takes my credit card all the time and uses it. She’s never asked for ID to even determine if our LAST names match, let alone that her first name might be ‘enright3’.

Slightly off topic, I have a checking account in my name only, and she’s able to write checks off it. It STUNS me everytime she gets away with it!


In reality signatures have become worthless. In actuality they are not.

The agreements our hotel has with the credit card company puts the onus on the hotel to check EVERY signature. It also cleary states the credit cards MUST be signed to be valid. If it says “check ID” it ISN’T VALID. If a dispute arises the Credit Card company will take your side over the merchant. Because he didn’t check.

Visa and MasterCard say it doesn’t matter who’s name is on the front of the card. It is the signature of the person on the BACK that counts. Ergo Marge can use Homer’s MasterCard if Marge signed the back.

Discover, American Express, and Diner’s say ONLY the person who has his name embossed on the credit card can use it, AND the back must be signed. For security… No way this way Amex, and Discover and DC can CHARGE AN ADDITIONAL CARD FEE for you. In other words if Homer wants Marge to use his cards he must pay a fee to have a new CC sent with MARGE’S name embossed on it. Even though the account number is the same.

I have worked for years in hotels and we don’t see much CC fraud. In fact I haven’t had one complaint in the last three years directed at our hotel.

At my bank now if I write a check it says, you may use your PIN number as ID if you forget your Driver’s Licence. But when I give them my DL they still ask for the PIN. When I asked why? They said just extra security.

They seem to be getting more serious.

How are merchants supposed to verify the PIN? There are plenty of merchants which still use the mechanical devices to create a facsimile of the card and then mail it into the credit card company for compensation. Some of these merchants may not have access to the electronic equipment, or even just a telephone, necessary to call the credit card company at the point of sale to verify the card and the identity of the person using it. This is perhaps not so much an issue in much of the western world, but certainly in more remote locations, and in third-world and former second-world countries where the economy is not so developed. Would a traveller still want to get a credit card if she knew it was worthless outside North America and western Europe?

Slight hijack, but this is SUCH a hot button for me:

PIN = Personal Identification Number

Writing or saying PIN number is redundent.

That is all

Several years ago, my wife tried to use her credit card with my name on front, and her signautre on the back at the local Toys R Us, and they wouldn’t accept it because her name wasn’t on front. Rather than argue, I ended up signing. They didn’t redo the transaction with my card or ask me for ID, I could have been anyone. :rolleyes:

Another anecdote which is somewhat relevant to this thread: About a month ago, I made a purchase, swiped my credit card, the cashier asked “credit or debit” and I said “credit”, I signed the slip and left. A short time later I realized I hadn’t used my credit card, I used my ATM/debit card. It has the little Visa logo, and apparently (who knew?) it can be used as a credit card. I never had to enter a PIN.

Sailor had it exactly right. It is a historical vestige and it will change when the credit card companies deem it in their interest to change. As a matter of practicality, every shop would need a high-speed connection (which is coming, but isn’t quite here) and resaurants would need a wireless local network (which isn’t coming yet) for this to work smoothly.

Actually, maybe we could go back to the days that you paid at the cash. It used to be that only snooty upscale restaurants had their waiters handling the filthy lucre, now every 2 bit diner does it that way. It was nice to be in Japan where the same people never handled both food and money. There is also no tipping (really none) in Japan and that was a great relief.

And let me second the observation that “PIN number” is redundant.

Here in the UK most shops and other places that take cards do have data connections. This is because these places also take debit cards which must be verified on line before the transaction can take place. It does not have to a high speed data link but just an ordinary dial up phone line. In fact I was in a store on Saturday and their line was shared with the store telephone and we had to wait a couple a minutes till someone stopped using the phone before the card was swiped through the reader. This same line could be used for the PIN verification.

I always do this if I’m making purchases with my debit card. My bank charges me a fee for making debit purchases, but not for making credit purchases with my debit card. Most debit cards these days have this ability. So really, the PIN function of debit cards isn’t going to make it harder for a thief to use them.