Signature or Chip? Credit Card Companies Shift Requirements

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In 2012, American Express dropped the requirement for a signature on purchases under fifty dollars. Though many businesses, including restaurants and hotels, still require signatures upon payment, most other businesses have neglected to make signatures a priority. As of April 13, Discover, MasterCard and American Express will no longer require signatures for any purchases, regardless of price. As of April 14, Visa will also join them.

The reasons for the demise of the required signature are numerous. Most pragmatically, signatures do little to prevent fraud. Other reasons include customers not completing their signatures and customers not taking signatures “seriously.”

CNN reports that “80% of MasterCard in-store transactions” have not required signatures prior to the April 13 official change. Still, if you are used to signing your name at your usual shopping location, then don’t expect anything to change anytime soon. Most retail POS systems have attached signature pads. Removing them will come at additional cost to retailers and will likely require POS upgrades. Retailers have already had to make adjustments for EMV, or chip, cards. They are unlikely to invest in more technology so soon.

EMV cards have replaced magnetic strips and provide greater security through the use of unique codes for every sale. PIN numbers are still required at most terminals, even chip-enabled ones. The next security level expected includes biometrics. Unless established by law, these changes aren’t likely to be seen at most check-out stations because of the technologies required.

Despite the various security measures that are taken, whether the result of increased legislative regulation or merchant preference, security and fraud analysts agree that personal security remains the utmost responsibility of the consumer themselves.

It is recommended that consumers regularly update their PIN numbers, check their balances for both credit cards and checking accounts, and to set up a schedule for checking their security settings across devices. Running credit reports annually is also a helpful strategy but consumers should check their balances far more frequently than once per year.

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