Paying By Card? You Might Not Need To Sign

You may not have to sign for your in-store credit or debit card purchases.

Signing for your credit or debit card purchases is going the way of the dinosaurs, due to advances in card technology. Merchants are no longer required by the card networks (Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover) to confirm purchases by obtaining a signature.

Here are four things to know about the change:

1) Signatures aren’t the best way to spot fraudsters. For years, signatures served as proof that you made a purchase and agreed to pay the amount charged. But you may have noticed that your signature isn’t always checked when you make a purchase. “In theory, your signature on a receipt or pen pad and the back of your card should match. If they don’t, it could be a tip off that you’re not the card owner,” said Trevor Buxton, a fraud communications manager and Certified Fraud Examiner with PNC Bank. “There are a few problems here: one is that people typically scribble down a few letters that resemble their name (rather than a full signature), while another is that retailers don’t verify the signatures and don’t require them for all purchases.”

2) Dip (or swipe) your chip. The wide use of chip cards, which you insert or dip into a payment reader rather than swipe, also has helped make signatures obsolete. The chip enhances card security because it generates a unique transaction code, which is shared with the merchant. This makes the card difficult to copy and helps to reduce fraud.

Mobile wallets [1] – smartphone apps where you can store your debit and credit card information— also use similar technology to help reduce fraud, and both are generally considered more secure than signing for a purchase, Buxton said.

3) No signing may mean faster lines. Now more than ever, people are on the go and in a hurry. Pausing to sign a receipt may not take long, but when every person ahead of you in line has to do it, that time can add up. Card issuers expect that removing the signature requirement can help you get in, get out and get on with your day faster.

4) Merchants make the call. While the card networks no longer require merchants to obtain signatures for chip card purchases, some merchants may still require your signature.

Learn more about how PNC helps protect your privacy at pnc.com/security.