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October 20th, 2006

No Signature

To touch on my diatribe about not getting a receipt for a lot of purchases, I’m a little disturbed by a similar event: not requiring a signature when paying by credit card.

Every so often, mostly when I’ve been out of town, people have asked for my ID whilst paying by credit (or debit masquerading as credit.) I liked this idea so much that I wrote “ASK FOR ID” over my faded signature on my cards – one had disappeared entirely. I figured with that written on the card in Sharpie, people would notice it and ask.

Very few do.

What’s worse is that somehow the “no signature” limit changed over the past few months, at least in my experience. Used to be that if something was a few bucks, no signature was required. Then under $5. Then under $10. Now in some places I can charge up to $20 without signing. For me that’s headed into “not insignificant” territory.

This troubles me as you can imagine. Someone could easily take my card – the one that prompts for ID – and charge a lot without anyone catching that person. While I’m sure the no signature policy was done in the interest of time (no signature = quicker checkout, not to mention less hassle with those crappy touch screens), I think it’s a bad idea… even if I’m charging 38 cents.

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COD October 20, 2006, 1:59 pm

I tried the ASK FOR ID thing. Maybe once every 10 uses did anybody bother me to ask. When my bank sent new cards due to one of the many VISA security breeches, I went ahead and signed it.

I’m not sure it really matters. How often does the clerk actually look at the signature anyway?

Ryan October 20, 2006, 2:53 pm

The Great See ID Hoax:

“To my dismay Google directs me right to the Visa and Mastercard websites which inform me that it is indeed not allowed to write “SEE ID” on the back of your card. That you MUST sign the back of it.

The reason is that the signature isn’t there solely so that store employees can verify who you are. Instead, your signature on the back of the card also demonstrates that you’ve agreed to the terms of the contract with the credit card company. If the card isn’t signed, then technically you’re never entered into a legal agreement with Visa, Mastercard, or whomever, and you shouldn’t be using the card.”

Rob October 20, 2006, 5:02 pm

Yeah, I noticed that Chicken Out started doing this a little while ago, no matter how much you order, and I thought it was very bizarre indeed.

Greg October 20, 2006, 6:02 pm

The US Postal service will not accept payment with a credit card that has “See ID” instead of a signature. At least that’s the case at a few post offices I’ve been to. I know, I know, what’s a post office…

I really like having my picture and signature on the front of the card. Cashiers tend to look at it more often than just the signature on the back.

Paul October 20, 2006, 6:35 pm

Woo hoo! I’m illegal!

jk aka retail guru October 20, 2006, 8:51 pm

I write ASK FOR LICENSE on my cards too, due purely to the fact that in 1998 someone stole two of my cards and spent over $1700 in 12 minutes. They looked nothing like me and could not have used the cards had I written that.

What irks me is customers who don’t write ANYTHING in the signature space. Then I have to talk to them like they are 5 years old: “If I were to steal your card, I would sign it in MY handwriting and it would be a perfect match. People steal cards because they want unsigned cards.” Not all cards have to be activated–I just got a new one, unexpectedly, from Old Navy and it was ready to use.

I recently worked on a college campus and 90% of the students had nothing written on the back of their cards. They were all from the same bank too, leading me to believe there is someone stoopid at that bank telling the kids not to sign.

Jumping off my box,

Terry M. October 20, 2006, 9:04 pm

I always use my CC at fast-food places (usually, the drive-thru) which until about 5-6 years ago did not even take CC’s, but now they all do. The first place which did was Taco Bell, and they used to require a signature but one day they suddenly stopped which shocked me at first. But now, that is a rarity and the only one I can think of which still does require a signature is Popeye’s – it is very clumsy to sign the slip in the car, and they give you a little clipboard.

I prefer to pay with Debit (simply because the transaction clears the account faster that way), but the only drive-thru which supports Debit is Sonic. They have a card-reader and keypad on the order menu board.

If the card is in their possession, a thief can still do a lot of damage regardless of what is on the signature panel. They can copy the magnetic strip onto a fresh blank card (customized with their own name, photo, etc.), and put their own signature on it. This happened to me last year. While my original card was at home with me in Austin, I got a call from the CC informing me that someone maxed out my account in Miami. A Debit-only card should be safer since you need to know the PIN to make any charges.

Merle October 24, 2006, 10:59 pm

Timely post, that just happened to me this weekend at Trader Joe’s…

I don’t like using debit cards because they often do not offer the same protection that credit cards do against fraudulent use. Sure, someone has to stand behind you and watch you, but that’s easy. Or the store, which has the electronic copy, can use it. And banks often do not have 24hr service every day, so even if you know your card was stolen on Friday night, there’s nothing you can do until Monday, giving them ample time to clean you out.

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