No One Wants Your John Hancock: Credit Card Issuers Sign Off on Signatures

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

credit card

Your signature may be distinct, but no longer matters: Major credit card issuers are no longer requiring them to complete transactions.

The Boston Globe reports that later this month, four of the largest credit card companies—American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa—will discontinue using them as a way to help verify a user’s identity.

The change is optional—retailers can decide if they still want to collect customers’ signatures. Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told the Globe the megastore considers written signatures “worthless” and have stopped requesting them for the majority of transactions.

Microchips, now common on credit cards, create a unique code for each transaction and are much more efficient for reducing fraud. Three years ago, the chips—long common in Europe and Asia—became more commonplace in the U.S., as issuers began punishing merchants that had not implemented such technology.

Each network has its own version of the new no-signature rules. American Express has ended the need for signatures across the world, while Mastercard has done so only in North America. Visa did the same for retailers with systems to read the chip cards. Discover has made the change in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Are there places where signatures are still needed? Sure. As the Globe notes, they will probably always be required for large deals such as land purchases or deeds, and those in the collectibles market still value signatures of authors and celebrities to boost the value of rare items. And in the restaurant business, some worry that if customers don’t have to sign the tab, they won’t remember to tip their server.

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