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What the (almost) end of credit card signatures means for you

Card networks want to keep their customers happy, and that includes making payments as easy and efficient as possible.

A credit card is shown in Philadelphia on

A credit card is shown in Philadelphia on June 10, 2015.  Photo Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

The major credit card networks — including American Express, Visa, Discover and Mastercard — will no longer require signatures on transactions in the United States beginning this month. Retailers can still require signatures if they so choose, though some have already stopped the practice of asking shoppers to sign for their items when a purchase is under a certain amount.

Here are answers to questions you might have about the change and what it means for you:

Will I ever be asked to sign my name again?

You may still need to sign for purchases on occasion, and in fact, it’s up to retailers whether they want to continue requiring signatures on transactions. Big retailers such as Target and Walmart have said they plan to stop requiring signatures — and in some cases have already done so. Smaller retailers may take longer to adopt the change; as well, some payment systems require signatures to complete a transaction and will have to be reconfigured.

And you might have to sign for meals at most restaurants, with the exception of a few large restaurant chains, such as Applebee’s, Red Robin, Chili’s and Olive Garden, which are using pay-at-table technology.

Why this change?

Card networks want to keep their customers happy, and that includes making payments as easy and efficient as possible. Given that signatures are no longer needed to ensure security and prevent fraud (more on that below), card networks determined that requiring signatures was a waste of time.

“The change is part of Discover’s efforts to continually improve the payment experience by speeding up the time spent at checkout all while maintaining a high level of security,” according to a statement from Discover.

Jasma Ghai, vice president of global products innovation at Discover, says: “With the rise in new payment security capabilities … the time is right to remove this step from the checkout experience.”

Does this mean I can let a friend use my card?

No. If it’s your credit card, you are still the one solely responsible for all charges and for paying off the balance. Unless you have authorized users or a joint account holder on the card, you should be the only one using it.

Is my card less secure now?

Quite the opposite: Credit card security is improving all the time. In fact, the addition of chip technology to credit cards means that a unique code is created for each transaction so that if a data breach happens, your account number isn’t exposed.

Card issuers also have automated systems that constantly check for aberrations in spending or unusual charges; they are often more likely than you to first notice a fraudulent charge and call you to stop charges before you’ve noticed anything amiss.

Plus, credit card issuers offer robust fraud protection — so even if you do become a victim of credit card fraud, you probably won’t be out any money. 

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