Credit Cards Issuers to Stop Requiring Signatures for Transactions

The days of having to lend your signature to the bottom of transaction receipt could soon be coming to a close. That’s because, as NPR reports, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover have all announced new policies that will no longer require merchants to retain signed receipts. This comes as EMV chip technology has gained acceptance stateside, as have other options such as mobile and contactless payments.

Once upon a time, cardholders were instructed to sign the back of their cards so that merchants could compare the signatures to verify identity. In more recent years, the practice was trimmed back some, with many retailers only requesting signatures for transactions over a certain amount (usually $25 or $50). Now the four big credit card issuers have all announced similar policies that will take effect next month.

Mastercard’s updated policy states it will “will no longer require signatures at checkout for any credit or debit purchases in Canada and the U.S.” The same goes for the Discover Global Network, although Mexico and the Caribbean are added to the list. Not to be outdone, AmEx says their signature requirements will be eliminated worldwide, while Visa is making them optional for EMV merchants utilizing chip technology.

Explaining the decision to do away with signature verification, American Express exec Jaromir Divilek says that the requirement had become a nuisance to merchants. She told NPR, “The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants.” That’s because merchants were required to retain signed receipts for a set period of time in order to refute chargebacks. Ironically reports suggest few merchants were even comparing signatures as the policy intended, making the practice all but worthless for some time.

Another big reason cited for the move is the introduction of EMV chips. As Divilek said, “Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud.” More specifically, Visa says U.S. fraud has declined 66% at merchants that accept EMV chip cards.

While it might not be a life-changing shift — especially since Mastercard says 80% of North American transactions were already exempt from signature verification — this move should have positive effects for both consumers and merchants. For the former, this will hopefully help speed up transactions following the introduction of notoriously slow EMV chip processing. Of course that potential speed is also a benefit to retailers on top of time and space they’ll save by not having to retain signed receipts. In all this approaching policy update is a small step forward in the changing payments landscape.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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