card signature verificationIf you’ve been using your credit card at checkout recently, have you noticed a reduction in the number of times you need to provide signatures? Starting this month, American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa relaxed their policies regarding signature requirements at checkout. Read on to find out when it’s optional for merchants to collect customer signatures on dotted lines, and learn why your signature, once perceived as a cornerstone for securing your credit card, isn’t needed under certain circumstances anymore.

Different networks’ updated signature policies

The four major credit card networks (American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa) all updated their policies, but these updates differ from one another. Here are each network’s new requirements:

American Express

American Express announced that, starting in April 2018, merchants won’t be required to collect American Express card members’ signatures for all point-of-sale purchases. While most American Express point-of-sale transactions did not require a signature before this announcement (e.g., U.S. purchases under $50 didn’t require a signature), this policy change is now applicable globally, meaning that it now applies to any transaction made at any merchant who accepts American Express cards. Although its competitors are making similar changes, as you’ll soon read about, American Express is the first payment network to announce this kind of change on a global scale.

Discover

Some Discover credit card and debit card users may be able to skip the signature requirement at checkout, as well. That’s because Discover announced that it was instituting a policy change, effective April 2018, that renders the collection of signatures for credit and debit card purchases optional – in certain situations. Unlike the changes that American Express implemented, Discover’s policy change is applicable to transactions on the Discover Global Network in only certain countries: the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.

Mastercard

Mastercard also joined American Express and Discover in making changes to its checkout signature policy this month. Like Discover, its update is limited to certain countries – the U.S. and Canada. In the case of these two countries, Mastercard no longer requires signatures for in-store transactions made with Mastercard credit cards and debit cards.

Visa

In January 2018, Visa announced that, starting in April 2018, when it comes to asking for customers’ signatures for Visa credit card and debit card purchases, Visa won’t require EMV contact or contactless chip-enabled merchants to ask for customers’ signatures. Do note, however, that this policy is currently only applicable in North America.

Why is card signature verification becoming extinct?

There are several reasons why these policy changes have been implemented, including:

Speed up checkout time

Getting rid of the signature requirement reduces the amount of time spent at point of sale. In hopes of making checkout a quicker process, these credit card networks are relaxing payment card signature requirements to speed that process up.

Encourage merchants to migrate to EMV

Although retailers were required to switch to chip card readers in October 2015 to shift liability, many retailers have failed to make the switch. As such, in an effort to encourage more merchants to migrate to EMV chip, credit card networks are dangling the possibility of making signature collection optional in front of merchants, giving them further incentive to update their point of sale systems. Because not asking for signatures could provide more convenience at the point of sale, card networks are encouraging merchants to make that move to EMV chip to obtain this tempting convenience, which will help satisfy customers.

Replace signature verification with advanced technology

Signatures may have acted as one extra security gate in the past, but advancements in technology have made it possible for the signature requirement to be relaxed. That’s because these advancements, which include chip cards, tokenization (e.g., Apple Pay and Android Pay), biometrics, multi-factor authentication (e.g., chip and PIN) and specialized digital platforms, are stronger forms of security than the traditional signature. Even though all of these security features haven’t been rolled out completely, cardholders can expect that there will be some updates in the years to come. In the meantime, check out our guide to credit card security features to learn about the features you can currently expect from your credit card.

Credit card networks no longer require signatures for purchases, but it’s still important to keep your guard up when it comes to your credit cards. To learn more about how you can better protect and secure your financial health and identity, follow our identity theft protection blog.