Visa Is Eliminating Signature Requirements In North America

Filed Under: Credit Cards

Over the past couple of months we’ve seen American ExpressMastercard, and Discover announce that they’re eliminating the signature requirement for purchases in many regions. The logic is to speed up the amount of time that it takes to complete a purchase, in hopes of getting consumers to favor a card that expedites the purchase process. Signature requirements are useless nowadays, given that they’re not actually verified at the time a purchase is made. If you’ve ever dealt with credit card fraud, you’re not even asked to look at receipts and confirm if a signature is from you. So it’s an outdated concept that really is just a security theatre of sorts.

Given that three of the four biggest payment processors have announced that they’re eliminating the signature requirement, I was curious to see when Visa would follow. Well, they’ve finally done so, with a few caveats.

Beginning in April 2018, Visa is making the signature requirement optional for all chip-enabled merchants in North America. Per the press release:

To continue the ongoing migration to EMV chip, and to bring increased security and convenience to the point of sale, Visa is making the signature requirement optional for all EMV contact or contactless chip-enabled merchants in North America, beginning April 2018. Simultaneously, Visa continues to invest in emerging capabilities that leverage advanced analytics and biometrics to define the future of payments security.

“Visa is committed to delivering secure, fast and convenient payments at the point of sale,” said Dan Sanford, vice president, consumer products, Visa. “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.”

As you can see, merchants will still have the option of collecting signatures. Furthermore, they’re specifically only offering this for chip-enabled merchants, though that should cover a majority of merchants nowadays.

I certainly welcome this change!

  1. It’s been this way in Canada for about 5 years. I’m assuming this is the US? Find it odd having to sign when I’m across the boarder

  2. When will PINs begin use? When in Canada, I don’t want to look like an ugly American with an EMV non-PIN card so I use a Canadian card. There, everyone uses EMV+PIN. My Canadian card also helps buying French train tickets using a kiosk.

    The problem is that Canadian cards are all a rip off. Nearly all have foreign transaction fees, have very poor rewards (0.5% is common, not like the 1.5% or even 2% in the US). In general, Canada is a rip off country.

  3. @Dave seriously, why not use a PIN like literally every other country on the planet. That and the chip is pretty solid two-point authentication.

  4. Because signing whatever scribble on the piece of paper or on the machine always made me feel so more secure. What a joke!!! PIN will be introduced in the US when other developing countries introduce iris recognition to pay by credit card. But in the meantime IHG uses a 4 digit PIN in their system. 🙁

  5. In Australia for smaller purchases eg under $100 , not even PIN needed.
    We use “payWave” where you just tap’n’go

  6. The chips alone have obviously multiplied the processing times to a huge degree. They’ve got a lot of eggs in one basket now.

  7. Once US companies bit the bullet and made the switch from magnetic stripes to chips, does anyone have insight to the logic for NOT replacing a signature requirement with a PIN requirement as part of the new system?

  8. Hopefully the USA will also be able to introduce “TAP” which the Canadian cards with two factor authentication (CHIP + PIN) have had for about 5 years. There just just tap your card agains the reader and you’re done (limit is usually $100 but $200 at COSTCO)

  9. It’s reported that the US didn’t implement the PIN because, “it would confuse consumers”.


    There’s nothing like going to a US restaurant and wanting to pay the bill with your credit card and watching it disappear into a backroom with a stranger.

  10. Chip and Signature was the compromise in the US because merchants thought chip and pin would be too expensive. It would require handheld devices at restaurants, new readers at gas stations, etc. In my view, that was a short-sighted decision based on dubious facts.

    There are a few hybrid cards issued by US banks that are primarily chip and signature but also have a pin if the machine does not allow for printing of a slip for a signature. My WellsFargo Advisors Visa is one of them. It allows you to use unmanned European train kiosks, parking lot exits, toll lanes etc., where you would be stuck with a regular US card.

  11. Gosh, still signing when using a card in the US? That’s as bad as Brits still using cheques. We got rid of both years ago.

    End of 2017 Australian financial institutions and governments are talking about moving cashless and cardless by 2022. The writing is certainly on the wall as ATM useage dramatically declined in recent years and cash circulation is also falling. Phones are increasingly replacing cards to make payments, especially amongst millennials.

    It surprises me how far behind the US is on things like this. I would have presumed the opposite!

  12. The rest of the developed world to America: Seriously dudes. Just move to chip and pin. Whatever you’re saying about cost of upgrading card readers it’s a fraction of a percent of the annual spend through them. Just upgrade them. Remembering 4 digits isn’t that hard either.

  13. Chip and pin is used all over the world except perhaps USA ( I live in Europe), in Hong Kong Citibank have a one time password, OTP that is sent by bank to persons mobile phone and then entered. Very efficient. In UK, transactions below gbp 30- need no pin. Looks like USA banks are behind the rest of the world.

  14. The reason the US didn’t implement PINs is that there is no need for it. Consumers are not liable for fraudulent transactions, so why make things more difficult for them? Most Americans carry a few credit cards, and they’ll surely forget the PIN for at least one of them and stop using that card — no issuer wants to be that card.

    The reason the US finally moved to chip cards is due to large-scale hacks of the point-of-sale systems, like hackers getting into Target’s system and stealing 15 million cards at a time. They can handle a bit of fraud, but not the fraud loss of having so many cards compromised. Chip cards don’t provide the card number to the point of sale machine — just a single-use number basically — so it can’t easily be hacked like that.

  15. Dave says he doesn’t want to appear as an “ugly American”. He likes a Canadian card that gives him access to SNCF tickets from kiosks in France. Then he says Canada is a “rip off” country. Typical “ugly American” behavior.

  16. Interesting that in America the land of economic choice and freedom ™ I have a dickens of a time finding any Chip plus PIN card so that I have something functional in Europe

    Had a few hairy instances in France cause my card couldn’t buy gas. (Petrol for you Europeans)

    So ended up needing to always have “cash for gas”.

    Having been victim of cc fraud 4 times in 2 years, seems like we need a new way
    And sending card back with waiter to swipe alone is NOT it

  17. @JRMW If consumers in the US really wanted chip and PIN cards, I’m sure some company would provide it. They don’t want it.

    I’ve used my US chip card in Europe without issues. It knows it doesn’t have a PIN and prompts me to sign.

  18. @Jim. If you’re in need of a credit card that has a pin, patelco offers a mastercard world (2% cash back too) that has a pin on the card. Every time I use it here I’m required to enter my pin. It would be great for those types of purchases you mentioned. The drawback is, they charge a 1% foreign transaction fee, which isn’t too bad.
    There are also more MasterCard credit cards that require pins for purchases (Target being a big one and Walmart’s MC also shifting to a pin)

  19. @Peter, Canada is a rip off country. Canadians say it more than Americans. Canadians know that milk is about double the US price. Gas is more expensive. Buy anything from Amazon and you’ll see the difference. See all the Canadians in Bellingham, WA or Buffalo, NY buy things but Americans do not go to Surrey, BC or Hamilton, ON to buy groceries, hardware, or clothes.

    Canadian credit cards almost always charge a foreign transaction fee but American cards do not more often than they do. Airfare is generally cheaper in the US so Canadians fly from border airports, but not vice versa. Rip off country is correct.

  20. @Jim – Consumers may not be liable for fraudulent transactions but they pay for it. You don’t think banks don’t pass the costs on in their interest or fees?

    The requirement for signatures vanished in the UK when Chip and Pin came in in 2005.

    @AussieBen – In the UK we’ve had Faster Payments (pretty much instantaneous bank transfers) for the last decade. Cheques are moving to imaging and by the summer of 2018 all cheques will clear by 2359 on the day after they’re paid in.

  21. I’ve always wanted Chip+PIN. I even write my banks periodically letting them know that it’s a major PITA to use their cards in other countries, which makes me more likely to use something other than their card.

    I never understood the “confuse consumers” or “more difficult for consumers” argument — anyone who has used a debit card in the USA has had to use a PIN and I don’t see consumers protesting that.

    The whole Chip+Signature thing seemed so half-assed to me. Why go to a system that no one else uses when there’s already a perfectly good system out there, with cheap equipment to boot.

    The Signature part of credit cards always seemed strange to me. I could understand it back in the 1960s when you got your slips or copies of your slips sent back to you, but that’s 50+ years ago. I know of several merchants where cashiers immediately toss signed slips into the wastebasket.

  22. OMG, don’t any of you watch American Greed? John Bolaris had over $40k of fraudulent charges put on his American Express card. American Express refused to reverse the charges and sent him to collections. All his cards were cancelled. The only thing that saved him was that the signatures on the slips obviously didn’t match.

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