Digital Transformation

Credit card companies will ditch purchase signatures by end of month

Credit card transactions will no longer require signatures due in part to the rise of chip-based EMV cards, highlighting the digital transformation of retail.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express are all ditching signatures for credit card transactions.
  • Many retailers have stopped requiring them as well, with Walmart telling the New York Times that they were "worthless."

Your signature will no longer be needed for credit card purchases now that the four major card companies have agreed to end the practice later this month.

Mastercard, Discover, Visa, and American Express have all decided to ditch pen strokes now that many retailers and restaurants accept chip-based Europay, Mastercard and Visa (EMV) cards around the world. Europe and Asia have used chip-based cards with most transactions for more than a decade, but the United States has struggled to shed old habits, only adopting the practice fully three years ago, according to the New York Times.

The growth of online shopping and microchips, which are specific to each card and make it easier to stop fraud, made signing receipts obsolete and led to the switch, the New York Times noted. A number of companies backed the move and said requiring signatures held up lines and served little purpose outside of stopping the occasional scammer from claiming they did not make a purchase.

SEE: IT leader's guide to achieving digital transformation (Tech Pro Research)

Tim Thomas, of complianceguide.org, told TechRepublic in 2015 that EMV cards were safer and better at stopping fraud than magnetic stripe cards.

"If someone steals a credit card number, they cannot use that number to manufacture a fraudulent EMV card," Thomas said. "In other words, the EMV technology ensures that the card being presented is not a fraudulent card."

Consumers have been using their signature to verify purchases since the 1950s, and many companies have been wary of the move out of fear that smaller retailers will not be able to keep up.

"Visa is committed to delivering secure, fast and convenient payments at the point of sale," Dan Sanford, vice president of consumer products for Visa, said in January after they announced the move. "Our focus is on continually evolving the market towards dynamic authentication methods such as EMV chip, as well as investing in emerging capabilities that leverage advanced analytics and biometrics. We believe making the signature requirement optional for EMV chip-enabled merchants is the responsible next step to enhance security and convenience at the point of sale."

The New York Times said each of the credit card companies will have different rules on when the changes will take affect and how.

"American Express is dropping its signature requirement globally, on all of its cards. Mastercard is ending the requirement only in the United States and Canada. Discover's change applies in those countries plus Mexico and the Caribbean. Visa is making signatures optional in all of North America, but only for retailers with payment systems that read chip cards," the New York Times reported.

Many countries are slowly transitioning into cashless economies, prioritizing speed and efficiency while turning to apps like Venmo, Apple Pay, and Google Wallet to manage transactions. Tech companies like Amazon are also in the process of revolutionizing the retail experience through digital transformation, attempting to make the entire checkout process obsolete.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/myella

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

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