Sign Your Credit Cards

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I’ve read in other place that a good way to keep your credit cards secure is to not sign the back. The advice hinges on the fact that thieves would then not have your signature and when the vendor accepted the card they’d look for the signature, see it was missing, and request ID. That advice, while well intentioned, is terrible. If a thief steals your credit card, sees the signature pane blank, he or she will simply sign it for you! Now, not only do they not have to forge your signature, since they signed it, the vendor won’t look for ID because the pane is already signed.

Here’s a better idea: Sign the signature pane and add the words “See photo ID” instead. Now, all of these precautions won’t guarantee you’re safe if your card is stolen, nothing will, but this solution is much better than leaving that pane blank.

{ 17 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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17 Responses to “Sign Your Credit Cards”

  1. Good advice – I’m currently guilty of leaving the back unsigned, but that is mainly because I am too lazy and see that cashiers very rarely check the signature as is. Even if they do check your signature they will never deny you regardless of how you sign it. In fact I challange anyone out there to get a cashier to reject your signature. I’ve tried a number of times to make my signature on the receipt looking completley different than the signature on my card and I’ve never been questioned. Pretty funny article on this found here too

  2. Nick says:

    I don’t think your card is valid if the back isn’t signed, so signing it “See Photo ID” leaves you with an invalid card that could techinically be rejected anywhere. The Post Office specifically has signs saying they will not accept credit cards that aren’t signed.

  3. Tricia says:

    Actually, some cards state on the back that the card is not valid unless it is signed. I never signed my cards either until one day I purchased some stamps with my debit card and the Post Office worker would not take my debt card until I signed the back of it. I told him why I don’t sign my cards, then he showed me the fine print. He got me there 🙂

    It all depends on who you give your card to and if they are “strict” or not on the rules.

    That said, I’ve only had about 4 cashiers check my ID out of all the times I have used my debit card (before I had to sign it).

  4. Tricia says:

    Hey Nick – great minds think alike 🙂

  5. A lot of places won’t take “See ID” cards. When they even check the back at all. Have you noticed that almost nobody even bothers to look at the signature anymore?

    Go to this website to see how horrifying it really is- this guy purposally signed his stuff with lots of really weird things (including hiroglyphics and the words “I stole this card”) and he was never called on it. Funny, but mostly disturbing.

  6. Howdy! You probably are referring to one of my previous posts One Small Tip to prevent the misuse of Credit Cards. I realized, after publishing my post, that I really intended for the user to sign and also write down ‘Check ID’ on the back of his/her card. This mistake was highlighted in the comments by one of my readers and I whole heartedly agree with his recommendation.

    So, please sign the back of your credit cards and my apologies for any misunderstanding my post may have caused!

  7. jim says:

    Wandering Monk – It wasn’t your post specifically, I know I’ve heard that “tip” given frequently and I’ve seen people who do it.

  8. Mitra says:

    I live in India and over here most of the major Card Issuing banks have the cardholders photo and specimen signature printed on the face of the card (this also serves as an ID proof). I’m not saying that you would be completely safe with this measure, a thief can always try to use a stolen card on the internet or the ATM, but it sure makes it much safer for shops and other establisments. When the photo on the face of the card doesn’t match the customer it instantly arouses the suspicion of the cashier. So I think photocards are a much safer option. And if it is available in India it must be available in the US too. Is it?

  9. I’ve seen some photo credit cards before…I believe it was a Chase CC. I have a Chase CC though and have never been offered to have my picture taken.

  10. Jim S. says:

    I’ve got a little experience with this one, since I worked the phones for Capital One for a few months, and currently part-time in a convenience store. I check ID always when I see that written on the back, and am thanked by the customer every time (it seems very few cashiers check ID when it’s written on the back of the card). Also, signing, not signing, or “see ID” isn’t going to stop someone from using a stolen card at self-service locations (self-checkouts at Walmart or the grocery store, or pay the pump for gas). When I worked for Cap One, I handled a couple of stolen card reports, and typically the first place a card thief will go is to a pay-the-pump and fill up (I would, if I were inclined to steal a card). So if they want to get you, they will.

  11. jim says:

    Jim S – Gas stations typically have cameras so you would think that would be a risky move… easy to get caught.

  12. Tim MMF says:

    Sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious. Thanks for pointing it out to those that didn’t know. Glad mine are signed!!

  13. Jim S. says:

    “Gas stations typically have cameras”

    Mine doesn’t, nor do many in my part of the country (plains states). And it’s nothing a hat, pair of sunglasses, and covered or removed license plate wouldn’t get around.

  14. Kassy says:

    I thought I remembered seeing a thread a while back mentioning that a retail establishment can’t deny your purchase if you don’t show an ID. I think it had something to do with the fact that they need only verify your signature, but not your photo ID. If that’s true, it’s just another reason to be sure to sign those cards!

  15. I always write “Please check ID” on the back of my cards. I would say that maybe 1 in 12 cashiers even look at it, and maybe 1 in 15 (on a good day) ask to see my license.

  16. Yes, sometimes certain places won’t take a card that says “Check ID” on the back. Oh well, that’s their fault. What really gets me is when a personal looks at the back of my card, compares it to my signature and then hands the card back and says “Thank You”. I think I should call the manager over in the future when it happens because it is ridiculous. I’d rather have a person not check the back (well not really), then pretend to check the back. My first name is not “Check”!

  17. Star Money Articles for the Week of April 17

    Here are interesting posts and news this week from the MoneyBlogNetwork members and beyond: Blueprint for Financial Prosperity offered some advice on signing your credit cards. Consumerism Commentary laments the fact that TIAA-CREF didn’t fund his SE…

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