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What's the Point of Signing Your Credit Card Receipt Anymore?

Published 12/2/07 (Modified 3/9/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

I'm a frequent credit card user. In fact, I carry only enough cash on my person for emergencies at all times. I charge everything and over the years I must have signed tens of thousands of credit card receipts whenever I made purchases in person. The thing I've noticed is that nobody ever checks the signature nowadays. Is there a point in this modern day and age to require signatures on credit card receipts anymore?

Credit Cards Should Use PIN Numbers - Signatures Offer Little Security

Requiring customers to sign every receipt is supposed to make them feel safer and in control. With more and more people buying things online though, signatures are losing the identity assurances that they might have once offered. Most online retailers require customers to enter in their 3 digit verification code (CVV/CVC) found on the back of their credit cards for security purposes. I think requiring some type of PIN number would be more effective than signatures since signatures can be so easily overlooked and forged.

I don't even sign my full signature anymore. I've done everything from scribbling randomly on the signature line, to drawing a smiley face, to asking my friend to sign my name instead - all while under the watchful gaze of the sales clerk, who frankly could care less if I signed it personally or not.

For the sake of speed and convenience, many credit card companies don't even require signatures anymore for small purchases or at certain places such as fast food restaurants. Although seemingly counter-intuitive, merchants must rely solely on signatures and are not even permitted to request additional identification information from card users. Due to contractual agreements with major credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard, credit card merchants are expressly prohibited from seeking additional identity verification such as a requiring the customer to provide a matching name driver's license. In fact, when a merchant violates this, you can even report the merchant to your credit card company. They are only allowed to use the signature on the back of the card to authenticate the customer's identity.

Due to the comprehensive fraud and unauthorized purchase protections provided by credit card companies, I think consumers and merchants have grown very nonchalant about verifying the credit card holder's identity. Nobody seems to be too concerned about fraudulent activity or incorrect signatures because they know their interests will be fully protected by the card companies regardless.

This lax verification contributes to humorous activities. There's this guy on the web who did an experiment to see if anybody really cared what he signed on his credit card receipts when he made purchases. His funny doodles on the signature line included:

  • A drawing of a stick figure on a bed of grass with a flower
  • Hieroglyphics
  • "Mariah Carey"
  • "Beethoven"
  • "Zeus"
  • "Mickey Mouse"
  • The phrase "I stole this card"
  • "Porky Pig"

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