Why should I sign the back of my credit card?

Makes no sense to me.

I’ve heard the opposite: that the signature spot should be left blank. Otherwise (as you probably suspect), any thief can practice your signature and use the card.

Because if you lose it and there is no signature, I could pick it up, sign it and use it. My signature on the sales slip would match the signature on the card.

If you mean why do they bother with it at all, it’s because if there were no signature on the card (and no space for it) again, I could find your card, use it and no one would know I wasn’t you. Matching signatures is a good way to check ID on a mass scale (same with travelers checks).

Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.

The merchants want a specimen signature to compare with your signature on the sales slip.

However, that also means whoever has stolen your card has a specimen signature to practice from. My wife, who works in retail, says the safe thing to do is to write on the signature line “See I.D.” and then use your driver’s license for proof of who you are.

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I do the “See ID” thing, but I’ve had several people (merchants and credit card corporate drones) tell me that the card must be signed to be legal. Any truth to this? I want my lawyer!


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I am not a lawyer and I do not play one on TV, but I am pretty sure that it is not required by law that it be signed. I have seen others that use the See ID.

I think the people that say it is illegal not to sign it have just grown to believe that or maybe were even told that by their trainer. Ask for a manager.


The ard does NOT have to be signed to be “legal”. I write the phrase “Check ID” on the back of all my credit/debit cards. I did have to go round and round on this issue with an uppity store clerk once, though. He kept insisting that he knew for a fact that the card had to be signed or the transaction waas not legal. Nevermind the fact that the card issuer has no way to know what, if anything, is written in the back of my card. Turns out he had “heard it from a co-worker during training”. And one wonders how FOAF stories spread.

FTR, even with the request written on my card and the fact that I use my debit card almost daily, only twice have I been asked for ID. And one wonders why credit card fraud is so rampant.

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The uppity store clerks i dealt with were very direct. They simply pointed at the sign that said all credit cards must be signed. Not a question of law, just store policy. I was welcome to stand on my principals or sign the damn card (they didn’t buy “ask for ID”).

So now, I sign the credit card AND put “ask for ID” on it. In case someone boosts my card, I can still appeal that had they followed my directions, they’d have an ID to compare with, not just a signature.

Regardless of store policy or law, all of the cards that I have clearly read that the card is not valid if not signed.

I never get asked for ID when writing a check, and usually clerks don’t even ask me to sign the reciept when using my debit card. I think they are ringing it up as a credit card because it’s easier.
When I worked as a cashier in a grocery store the “regulars” would sometimes get annoyed when I asked for ID, and the managers would tell me not to ask. I’m sorry, but if I don’t recognize you, I want to see some ID.


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Amtrak has a similar policy of only accepting singed cards. The clerk I spoke with (who was not uppity at all) acknowledged that he occassionally saw cards signed “Ask for ID,” but Amtrak would not accept them.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me (credit card-wise, and perhaps ever) was when I got a card that had my photo and signature on the front. I had forgotten to sign the back. The first time I used it, a clerk handed it back to me and told me I had to sign the back. “Otherwise,” he explained, “a thief could sign your name in his handwriting, and be able to use the card.” Um, OK…

Why not just sign the danged thing and be done with it? You’re only liable for the first 50 bucks in unauthorized charges anyway.

Tell me a crook’s going to “practice” your signature? What for? Nine out of ten people I hand that card to never even look at the signature. Even the ones that do are just going through the motions. The way I scrawl my name on charge slips could never be reasonably mistaken for the 4 year old smudged signature on the back of my card.

As a former auditor I have dealt with a lot of credit cards and they do differ.

Some credit cards (mostly gas cards) say must sign to be valid.

Some say nothing.

I don’t know about dept store credit cards but merchant agreements with Amex (American Express), DC (Diner’s Club), Visa (VS), MC (MasterCard) and Discover(DV) all require clerks to verify the signature on the card against that of the slip. So if it can be proved it wasn’t signed and the merchant took it and there was a fraud, the merchant has no protection against the theft and will eat the damages.

As noted most clerks don’t bother to look. In addition all hotels I’ve worked for have an additional policy the credit card must be signed. It’s isn’t the law per say, but a merchant is no more obligated to take your personal check.

BTW with Amex, DC, and DV, the person who’s name is embossed is the ONLY authorized to use that card period. With VS or MC, it isn’t the person who’s name is embossed it is who signs it on back. What’s the difference? A lot. I used to get wives that couldn’t understand why they couldn’t use their husband’s Amex but could use their husband’s VS. The simple reason is Amex wants to charge you to issue an embossed credit card with her name on it. The husband gets the bill but the wife’s name is on it. (or vice versa)

Also please give the merchants a break if it comes to them having to cut your credit card. IF they are told to the merchant must or risk losing their merchant ID number. When I worked at Sheraton I would get a lot of calls from Amex threatening to cancel us if we didn’t do what they told us to. (the front desks thought it was rude to cut the cards up)

Ain’t none of you people ever been in a bar and been offered “VISA, fresh out of the mailbox”? You guys must be hanging around with the right crowd. This desirable underworld commodity is an unsigned VISA card stolen out of the mail. It may not have been reported stolen yet. Very nice - you can sign the name in your own handwriting. If you say no the next question might be “do you want to buy anything then? Need a TV?” This salesman is willing to buy something for you with his new VISA card.

This signature thing is crap. First, as mentioned, many clerks couldn’t be bothered with checking. Second, how many of you, time after time, sign exactly the same way as what appears on your card? Third and most important, what good is a signed card when you’re ordering by phone or on the Internet? In Hawaii, several months ago, I noticed my card was missing some 15 minutes after renting my car (either I had left it on the counter or the person I had dealt with had, deliberately or not, omitted to return it to me): sure enough, when I called to report the loss, a purchase of $1800 had already gone through. If they ever manage to find a solution to that problem, the card-issuing companies will then save millions and the financial problems related to signature verification would definitely pale into insignificance in comparison.

This is a little off subject - several years ago, my wallet and checkbook were stolen from a locked gymnasium wall locker while I played racquetball at the UAA sports facility. I notified the police and then I immediately called my bank to report the theft of my checkbook. Since I had just put a new pad of check blanks in the checkbook, I knew the numbers of the available checks and could stop payment on them. The next day, I began to receive phone calls from merchants all over Anchorage complaining that I had stopped payment on a check that I had written; these merchants, of course, had a bad check written by the person(s) that had stolen my checkbook. I referred them all to the police detective in charge of the case and explained to the merchant that it was not me who had written the check that they had. Several businesses became very angry and even threatened legal action. I was firm in directing them to the police. But here’s the point of the story: none of these merchants checked the signature or any form of identification! The bank sent the cancelled checks to me and some of the signatures of my name were even spelled wrong! And a manager of a beauty salon where the check writer had paid for his lady friend’s complete make-over was absolutely irrational with anger at me until I asked him to describe the “me” that had written the check - his description was so totally incorrect that he himself began to settle down and realize that his shop had messed up by not verifying the check. It turned out that this crime was carried out by a group of teens and they were passing around my checkbook (as well as others stolen from the locker room that day) to buy stereos, clothes, and even a trip to Hawaii. The police finally caught them, but they were all allowed to plea bargain down to community service and counseling because they informed on other teens with similar crimes. The ironic thing was that when one of the teens was being charged and was to appear for arraignment, he called and asked if I would appear in court with him to tell the judge to be easy on him! I also told this young man to talk to the officer on the case.

_____________________________________________I never get asked for ID when writing a check, and usually clerks don’t even ask me to sign the reciept when using my debit card. I think they are ringing it up as a credit card because it’s easier.
When I worked as a cashier in a grocery store the “regulars” would sometimes get annoyed when I asked for ID, and the managers would tell me not to ask. I’m sorry, but if I don’t recognize you, I want to see some ID.

Debit cards do not need any signature as the pin number is the “signature” yet if a “check” card and rung as a credit it requires a signature. Yet…
More and more stores have self swiping card readers, so that the customer does not even hand the card to a cashier, but merely swipes the card him/herself. Obviously, no one knows who’s card it is in this case.

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Debit cards are less vulnerable to theft. because the user is required to enter a PIN code. As with an ATM card, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve signed it or not; you can make a purchase if and only if you know the correct code.

Why don’t credit cards do this? (Aside from the obvious “we’ve never done it that way before” argument.)

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

My best friend lives in Paris, and her credit card (MC, I believe, though it may be Visa or EuroCard), does require a PIN number. It is my understanding that all French credit cards do. In a few out of the way places, it caused some problems when I wanted to pay with my American card, and the cleck did not understand that I didn’t have a PIN number.
For theft protection, the PIN number is the way to go, IMHO.

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Credit Cards must be signed because they are a contractual obligation of repayment & as you all know, a contract has to be signed…

My credit card is connected to my ATM account, so my credit card also uses a PIN.

But, with a PIN number, how do you go about ordering things over the phone for example?