Should You Sign Your Credit Card?

credit cardI had an interesting conversation with a friend this evening. He had read an article that suggested that instead of signing the back of your credit card, you instead place “Check ID” in place of the signature. The theory goes that if someone got hold of your credit card, when they purchased something and the sales clerk went to check the signature, the message would show thus eliciting a request to see another form of ID. If it is you, you can simply show your driver’s license and there is no problem, but if the person who stole it tries to show ID, it may be a bit more complicated for them.

There are, however, some problems with this. From my own experiences in Japan, there are very few people who check the signature on the back of a credit card. While I have been back in the US for a short time, it seems that it continues to be the same here from the times I have used the credit card here. If nobody checks the signature in the first place, then there is little chance for anyone to check for further ID.

Furthermore, if you don’t sign your credit card, it isn’t legally valid and any merchant could refuse to take (if they do, they could be help liable for any theft instead of the credit card company). Again, if they aren’t checking the signature in the first place, this isn’t a problem, but who wants to get in a fight with a sales clerk that refused to take your credit card because you haven’t signed it?

While having your credit card stolen is a possibility, I think that the bigger threat is having your credit card information skimmed as was done with my father recently. In this case, it makes no difference on how you sign the back of your credit card.

It’s an interesting topic – does anyone take specific steps such as not signing their credit card to make it more difficult for credit card thieves?

As a side note, according to, there’s a rumor saying if a card holder leaves the signature strip blank and sets no password to his card in China, he will not be held responsible for any money loss in case of a card thievery.

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30 Responses to Should You Sign Your Credit Card?

  1. Nick says:

    I sign all my cards. When I worked in retail as a cashier, if I got an unsigned card or a card that said something like “See ID,” I would refuse to accept it. The customers would try to present an ID, but I would say that it’s against our merchant agreement with the card companies to accept cards that aren’t signed.

    Also, if your card is signed, you CANNOT be asked to present ID as a condition of the sale. That’s also in the merchant’s agreement. If they still insist on ID, you can report them to the card company and they might have their ability to accept that type of card revoked.

    If I’m ever asked for ID when presenting a signed card, I’ll spend the time to educate the poor cashier on this fact if I have an extra minute or two. So far, nobody’s refused a sale because I wouldn’t present ID, but I’m sure that time will come.

    As far as credit card thieves, they’ll be able to use my card whether or not the card is signed. As long as I sign my card, however, VISA or MC or whoever will give me my money back and then it’s the card company’s problem. I mean, think about it. Say you write “See ID” on the back. Then your card is stolen, and I thief tries to use it at a store. Some cashier does what the card says and asks for ID. Either the thief presents the wrong ID or refuses. What’s the cashier gonna do? Tackle the guy? Ask them to hold still while the police come to arrest him?

    It’s not up to you or me or even merchants to stop credit card theft. It’s up to the credit card companies working with police. You can still take measures to keep your card from getting stolen, but if it’s removed from your possession, then nothing you do to the card will keep it from being used short of reporting the theft to your card issuer.

  2. thatedeguy says:

    I agree. Not signing the card makes it invalid. Not only can the merchant refuse to accept it, but in some cases they can actually confiscate it.

  3. Mike B. says:

    I agree with the above posts and I just wanted to add this:

    Let’s just assume we live in a perfect world and the cashier will always check the back of the card. If some guy has stolen my credit card, he probably has done so by stealing my wallet and therefore, also has my ID. Therefore, presenting an ID to the cashier isn’t much of a problem for him (assuming he’s the same gender and race).

    However, if a guy has stolen my credit card, he has not necessarily developed the ability to convincingly forge my signature. IMHO, having a signature on the back of your card is much better protection than “Check ID”.

  4. samerwriter says:

    Of course, who’s to say that you don’t legitimately sign your name “Check ID”.

    My signature is an illegibile scribble that couldn’t be correlated to my name no matter how hard you tried. If that’s a legal signature, so is “Check ID”.

    So all a thief has to do is sign the credit card slip “Check ID”, and he’s home free!

    Here’s a fun story series of articles about someone having fun with credit card signatures:

  5. While I agree the card should be signed and that the cashier has a responsibility to refuse a card that is not signed, a credit card is not an ID nor is it to be used as ID, according to former Kansas AG Bob Stephen. Another words Credit Card is not a 2nd form of ID.
    As for asking for an ID, I have to disagree with the 1st reponse, it is the cashiers responsibility to make sure the customer before them is the person, they claim to be. That may mean asking to see an ID, just like for a check. I must admit though, with the customer sliding their own card at the grocery store where I work, I almost never check.

  6. Joe says:

    I have placed “SEE ID” on the back of all my cards for years now and I have not had any problems except one retailer that said they could not accept a card that did not have a signature. It does seem that more vendors are not looking at signatures and I expect when the touch cards increase in use, even less cashiers will check.

  7. Jan says:

    I do both. I sign and write next to it ‘Ask ID’. A couple of merchant have asked for ID, whom I’ve then applauded for doing so.

    Looking at the bigger picture, merchants should be held responsible for not checking the signature and/or ID. Few merchants actually match my signature with the one on my credit card. And ever fewer ask for my ID. … and yet, they bare no responsibility when something is purchased with a stolen identity.

    In Belgium, Visa cards now come with a PIN (for credit cards!). Why is this not available in the US? For older systems, or the old paper based slider, the system still defaults to checking the signature.

  8. So when was the last time someone checked the signature and you thanked them, generally we use the card to get out fast…and we don’t want to take the extra time for the signature to be checked…having three kids in tow when I do it, I am not going to start asking the clerk to even look at my signature! It prolly looks completly different when signed with baby in hand anyway…..

  9. Jason says:

    I basically tried to explain to a friend who had SEE ID on his card about the merchant agreement and that the business was actually supposed to refuse his sale. He didn’t want to seem to listen.

    Honestly, I am a little annoyed when asked for an ID because if someone has stolen my card he has probably stolen my wallet and has my ID. I may start thanking them if they check the signature but I won’t be thanking them for wasting my time by checking my ID.

  10. makingitbig says:

    There are some merchants — namely, Amtrak — who will not accept your credit card if it says “Ask for ID.” They require your signature on the card to use it, so if you don’t sign it, you’re SOL.

    I sign mine. When I remember.

  11. says:

    Always a good idea to sign your cards for many of the reasons mentioned above. I trust a retailer who actually looks at my signature before handing my card back to me to complete the transaction. Some don’t.

  12. jodi says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned this yet – I sign my name and write “Check ID” under it. That way, they can’t refuse it since it is not signed, but I still ask them to verify my identity before completing the transaction.
    Of course, I still only get asked for i.d. maybe 1 out of every 20 transactions. But I always take the time to say thank you after they check my i.d. I want to thank the cashiers who are being conscientious and doing their job.

  13. MJ says:

    Maybe I am missing something, but I am not seeing the point of those who are saying that the person who has stolen your card probably also has your ID (such as driver’s license). What are the odds that the person who stole my wallet looks exactly like me?! Of course, I expect the cashier to refuse the transaction (not tackle the guy) if the person presenting the card and ID is not the rightful owner.

    I do like the idea of signing but also writing “Check ID” next to it. I will start doing that! 🙂

  14. jetgirl says:

    If you don’t sign the back of your credit card and it is lost or stolen, then you will be liable for all charges incurred by the thief because you voided the terms of the credit card agreement by not signing the card. Visa and MC are all too happy to pass along the charges to you in this case. If you do sign the back of the card and it is lost or stolen, then you are only liable to a maximum of $50.

  15. steve l says:

    Forging a signature is MUCH more difficult than obtaining a fake ID. Writing “See ID” does little to nothing to protect you (especially since the merchant is NOT required to follow any instructions regarding “See ID”)

    Only a handful of experts can fake a signature, and even those people have to practice the signature thousands of times before getting it halfway right. IDs are much easier. Did you know you can even buy fake IDs on the Internet?

  16. Miller says:

    So you actually expect the cashier to have some inherent ability to conduct handwriting analysis with enough proficiency to make an accurate distinction between a forgery and a sloppy signature?

    A fake ID may be easy to obtain, but it still requires more work and effort on the part of the criminal, which may give the consumer enough time to realize the card is missing and cancel it before any fraudulent charges are even made.

    That being said though, the entire credit card system is ill-equipped to handle fraud as we know it today. While we need to remain cautious of pick-pockets, purse-snatchers and accidentally leaving things places, these crimes are much more easily and profitably perpetrated online. It is the consumer’s responsibility to safeguard their information as much as possible, but the credit card companies need to get creative in how they address the growing problem of ID theft and fraud.

  17. iris says:

    i work for the post office and we are not allowed to accept cards without a signature but so many people argue with us, saying that if it is signed then someone who steals the card can steal their signature, so some people dont even bother asking anymore just to prevent an arguement with the customer. i always say, if they want to scam you, they will do it with or without a signature.

  18. brandon says:

    You guys don’t make any sense. If someone steals my id that doesnt mean he looks like me. A signature is easy to replicate, looking like someone in a photo id is not easily to replicate.

  19. Caroline says:

    I used to never sign the back of my card and was never asked to show ID or refused a sale.

    On the other hand, my boyfriend has “check ID” on his and is always asked for ID and is never refused. Even when we are together using both of our cards at the same time, they check his ID but never mine.

    Now I have both my signature and “check ID”

  20. Brian says:

    I never sign my credit cards. What’s the point? Nobody ever really checks it anyway. And when I sign the receipt, I *NEVER* sign my name. I’ve signed it as George Bush, Osama bin Laden, Cher, and a nice picture of a tree with a swing. If nobody is even looking at the receipt to see if I really sign my name as a tree or if I really am bin Laden, what’s the point in signing?

  21. steve says:

    I had a sale that turned out to be a stolen credit card and i had looked at the name and then when he signed on the pad and compared them and it was the same. the feeling sucks.

  22. dontsign says:

    You lose your cc –> gets misused –> report it lost –> get statement –> realize it’s been misused –> report misuse –> bank checks signature on purchases –> it matches your signature –> low probability of getting refund by bank…. however, if signature does not match your signature on bank’s files –> store is liable against bank –> you get refunded by bank

  23. Paolo says:

    If a thief comes across your unsigned credit card, can’t the thief simply sign your name himself, and then proceed to easily make purchases, sign the bills as he signed the card, without being asked for ID – since the signature on the bill now matches the signature on the card?!

  24. Ryan says:

    I know this is an old thread but just wanted to give my 2 cents.

    I am one of those who do not sign the card and instead have written please ask for ID.

    I have never had a problem with any cashier – they have ALWAYS looked at it and requested my ID. Not one has ever refused the card. I work in retail and it is pretty even in the bookstore business – about 50% sign and about 50% write ask for ID. Back in 2006 this was just starting to take off and now, I would say it is about dead equal as to what I see every day.

  25. Jack Skywalk says:

    How about if you have a dispute on a transaction and then notice after wards you forgot to sign your credit card.? The merchant never checked my card that it was not signed and frankly I didn’t realize it either at the time. Some now this merchant in China has used the smaller transaction I made of $150 and then changed it somehow to a larger amount of $2500. Amex sent me the copy of the slip and it has a roughly copied version of my signature on the slip and now saying I am liable for the $2500 charges even though I said it was not my signature.It was only after this that I noticed my card isn’t signed. Does this mean I can contest Amex, or the Merchant is liable for the charges? Unfortunately I have misplaced the original $150 slip so Im in a bind so far. (still searching for the slip) Does anyone know for sure the rules on this? (Please do not just send guess work like I read a lot on this forum do so far)

  26. Frank says:

    I work in retail and I was informed by a gentleman that (I asked for his ID even though the card was signed) I was not allowed to check his ID if his card was signed. It turns out that he was right, i apologized to him and went on with my day.

    Thinking back, i thought, what is the worst thing that could happen if I ask for ID when the card is signed. Worst case scenario, I waisted 10 seconds of somebodies life, big whoop. Best case scenario, i avoided a fraudulent charge that could be traced back to my store.

    Now i realize that according to MC and VISA that I am not suppose to ask for ID when the card is signed, but WHAT IS THE HARM. I have never once in 5 years of retail had anybody frown upon me for asking for their ID (except twice when i stopped a fraudulant charge). 7 out of 10 times, i get thanked for it.

    I sure as hell know that if my card were lost, i wouldn’t care if it was signed or not, i would want somebody checking the ID of whoever had my card, possibly giving me the extra time needed to realize that it was missing, and for me to suspend the card.

    I guess my point/question here is WHAT IS THE HARM. Another thing, if anybody works in retail, you should have some kind of guide as to the process of accepting credit cards. I looked mine up and it says to compare the signature on the card to the signature on the drivers liscense. I’ll bet if anybody out there is in retail and looks up their cred card acceptance policies, yours will say the same thing.

    I know i keep rambling on, but let’s play this scenario and see if somebody can answer this.

    I step out of my store for a smoke break and see a gentleman walking down the sidewalk toward me. I see him bend over and pick up a credit card that was laying on the ground. He comes into my store and want’s to use it to buy something and the back of the card IS signed. What should I do.

    As you answer that question, picture this, I stepped out for my smoke break to see the guy pick up the card, what i didn’t see was him walking by the first time and dropping the card. So in reality, the card is his, but all i saw was him picking up the card. I didn’t know that he was tracing his steps to find the card that he lost.

    So to me, this looks fraudulant. How do I remedy this, I ask him for his ID.

    Now i know that somebody is going to say, “well if you think it’s fraudulant, then you have the right to check his id”. Well even if i think it’s fraud, aren’t i violating the MC and VISA merchant agreement?

    Well that’s about all I have to say, if anybody has any feedback on this, please share.

  27. Kelly says:

    I agree with Frank. And, in fact, I just talked to our “credit card guy” (I manage a bookstore) and he says this:
    The merchant is to prevent fraud as well as they can. The merchant may, and IS ENCOURAGED TO, always ask for ID, whether the credit card is signed, says “check ID” or is blank. ALWAYS. When I told him of what Nick said as the first response here, he told me that as a merchant I MAY ALWAYS VERIFY A CARD WITH A PERSON’S ID.
    Also, it is not my business as a merchant to “inform” or “educate” my customers on the virtues of signing or “check id” or leaving the card blank–all are acceptable for a merchant. (Even a blank card.) However, he did point out that if you leave your card blank, what’s to prevent a thief from signing your card and even creating a fake ID? …the signatures would be a spot-on match.

  28. Yvonne says:

    I have search far and wide and NEVER seen anything anywhere where it was against the law or in breach of the merchant credit card agreements for a merchant to request to see an ID. To record data from the ID yes, but to ask to see it, no. True the sale cannot be declined if the cardholder refuses to provide ID but I have read the merchant agreements with Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express and no where does it say I cannot ask to see the ID.

  29. Renee says:

    I work at a retail store and I always ask for Id when a customer is using a credit or debit card. Most of my customers are thankful, and some get annoyed or mad, but my purpose is to show I care for them as a customer and it’s for there protection. 🙂

  30. Christina says:


    Merchants have to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard Compliance and whatever the agreement is with the credit card. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all follow the rule below. NO ID SHOULD BE ASKED FOR IF THE CARD IS SIGNED. I AGREE BECAUSE MANY MERCHANTS RACIAL PROFILE OR JUDGE BASED ON LOOKS. ID SOME BUT NOT OTHERS AND IT IS WRONG. IF IT IS SIGNED DON’T ASK FOR ID.


    Additional cardholder identification. A merchant must not refuse to complete a transaction solely because a cardholder who has presented a card to pay for a purchase refuses to provide additional identification.



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