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I remember in college that we were told to not sign the signature strip on the back of the card, but instead to write "SEE ID", meaning see the signature on our driver's license. Is this a valid security practice that I should still be doing?

marked as duplicate by littleadv, Dheer, JoeTaxpayer Jul 23 '16 at 8:08

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Writing "see ID" on the back isn't a good practice nor recommended by any credit card company. The space for a signature on the back is for you to sign that you agree with the credit card company that you authorize the purchases and will pay back debts incurred by the card, not to allow the merchant to use as a reference for your signature. Technically if you don't sign it (e.g., if you write "see ID"), your card isn't valid and the merchant could refuse to accept it at all, with or without ID.

Even if comparing signatures was the purpose of that space, as a practical matter either it would be useless. Our signatures on those electronic things or on receipts generally look nothing like whatever is scribbled on our cards. No one ever compares signatures to what's on the card. They also don't read whatever you have written instead of a signature.

My wife has always written "see ID" on her cards and doesn't care that it's wrong on every level. Clerks never ask for her ID. In fact, I believe they are not supposed to.

  • I did both, sign and say "Ask for photo ID." Occasionally someone does so, but... – keshlam Jul 23 '16 at 13:31
  • Electronic signatures are actually matched on criteria other than appearance, I believe. – keshlam Jul 23 '16 at 13:31
  • @keshlam Let's be clear about what we are saying. There is such a thing as an "electronic signature," which is a cryptographic proof of something's origin/identity. That's not what we are talking about here. We are talking about the signature pad on a credit card machine. Those are not there to verify your identity and are not matched against anything. You can just write a circle, a squiggle, an X, or someone else's name. Doesn't matter. By writing something you enter into an agreement with the CC company, just like signing the back of your card. That's it. – farnsy Jul 24 '16 at 16:13
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The goal is to ask folks to validate your identity using something a bit harder to forge than a signature. Driver's licenses and other government-issued ID often carry a photo and have anti-forgery measures designed into them, and the potential legal consequences of forging one of those (if anyone goes to the trouble) may be more severe than for simply forging a signature.

But many stores ignore this request; many, in fact, don't bother checking the signature at all. So it isn't at all clear this actually decreases the risk of a stolen card being used. And the protections on credit cards limit how much the cardholder is liable for, so outside of the annoyance factor the risk is really to the store more than to the cardholder.

It's a reasonable idea, it just doesn't work as well as expected.

  • I love it when the clerk flips it over like they are looking at the sig panel then hands it back to me. Never even noticing the See ID there. Just going through the motions – Eric Jul 23 '16 at 6:24
  • @Eric , they are probably checking if it is a real credit card. You often get advertisement (snail-)mails with dummy credit cards that look like real on the front but are blank on the back. – Aganju Jul 23 '16 at 13:04
  • @Aganju - if it isn't a real card then the transaction would be denied (or wouldn't even get that far), so there's no need for a clerk to try to determine if the card is real. I would guess they're going through the motions of checking the signature as Eric suspected. – TTT Jul 24 '16 at 21:27