Is ID Required for a Credit Card Purchase?

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Credit card Q&A: “Is ID required for a credit card purchase?”

Credit card rules are often gray, what with the fact that multiple companies are operating in the same space.

Then you’ve got the merchants’ own rules, which sometimes don’t coincide with the terms of Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, whether they are contractually acceptable or not.

Visa Says No to IDs for Credit Card Transactions

That brings us to a common question regarding identification and credit cards.  Some merchants may ask for ID when you attempt to make a purchase with your credit card, though according to Visa, it’s not a “condition of acceptance.”

This is straight out of Visa’s rulebook: “Merchants cannot refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID.”

“Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. Laws in several states also make it illegal for merchants to write a cardholder’s personal information, such as an address or phone number, on a sales receipt.”

Now, this is where it gets controversial, because Visa doesn’t want merchants to check for ID, but cardholders may actually want to show ID to reduce the likelihood of fraud (the opposite is also true).

Of course, Visa is in the business of collecting interchange fees as much as possible, so they wouldn’t be too pleased if consumers were repeatedly denied if they didn’t happen to have ID, though they can spin the policy as a measure to protect the identity of cardholders.

Merchants Should Verify Signature on Back of Card

Merchants, however, must look at the back of the credit card to compare the signature with the one on the receipt, that is, if a signature is required for the purchase.

That’s the rub…these days, it seems more and more purchases require less and less, as most merchants allow you to swipe (or dip) a credit card on your own without it ever leaving your hands, which can obviously be good and bad for the consumer.

At the same time, incidental purchases no longer require a signature at many establishments, though policy certainly varies from merchant to merchant.

If you present an unsigned credit card to a merchant, they do have the right and should ask for identification before completing the transaction.

Some cardholders seem to think they are protecting themselves from identity theft by not signing the back of a credit card, but in reality, how often do merchants really verify the signature anyway?

And if you fail to sign your credit card, it may result in a declined transaction, which could be more hassle in the real world than the risk associated with identity theft.

Personally, I don’t mind if merchants ask to see my ID, but some consumers are aware of the rules and adamantly deny requests for identification, which usually results in nothing more than a lame argument.

I don’t sign my credit cards either, largely because I’m lazy, and as mentioned, no one bothers to check.

The only place I’ve ever had issues with unsigned credit cards was in Europe. There they actually pay attention. Here in the States it’s a different story.

Again, some privacy freaks don’t sign their credit cards because they don’t want people to get a hold of their signature, which is actually a fair point if you lose your wallet.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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