Mastercard Will No Longer Make You Sign For Purchases In 2018

While credit card usage in the US is among the highest in the world, the security technology that goes along with is it surprisingly limited. Rather than adapting chip & PIN technology (which would decrease the amount of credit card fraud), most credit card issuers require cardmembers to sign for purchases.

You may have noticed that over the past few years cards with chips (and chip readers, for that matter) have become more common in the US, but that doesn’t do much to prevent the use of stolen credit cards, since it’s still chip & signature technology.

Chip & PIN technology is common in Europe, and requires that the cardmember enter their PIN code with every transaction, and also ensures that the transaction happens in sight of the cardmember. This is in contrast to the US, where your credit card often doesn’t remain in your sight, especially in restaurants.

Mastercard has just announced a pretty radical move when it comes to how their payments will work, and it’s surprising, in a way. By April 2018, Mastercard plans to no longer require cardmembers to sign for purchases in the US & Canada. Per the announcement:

Did you know that more than 80 percent of Mastercard in store transactions in North America today do not require a cardholder signature at checkout? That number could now reach 100 percent after April 2018, when we will no longer require signatures at checkout for any credit or debit purchases in Canada and the U.S.

It is important to know that the levels of security for credit and debit cards remains a priority. What consumers will find reassuring is that removing the need to sign for purchases will not have any impact on safety. Our secure network and state-of-the art systems combined with new digital payment methods that include chip, tokenization, biometrics and specialized digital platforms use newer and more secure methods to prove identity.

It’s not surprising to see credit card technology evolve, though I’m a bit surprised to see it evolve in this way.

Mastercard’s motivation here is simple — not having to sign makes transactions faster, and they hope it will make cardmembers more likely to choose Mastercard over their competitors (though something tells me that their competitors will follow their lead). After all, just about everyone wants the check out process to happen as quickly as possible.

This move does nothing to enhance security, though arguably doesn’t do much to reduce security either. The whole concept of requiring signatures seems so outdated, 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.

So the only thing that surprises me here is that Mastercard isn’t pushing for chip & PIN technology, which would enhance cardmember security. But ultimately this is on them, since they’re the ones that have the risk when it comes to credit card fraud, rather than consumers.

In the meantime this is a win for consumers, since it means we won’t have to sign for Mastercard transactions anymore. I’m a bit surprised by Mastercard claiming that 80% of purchases don’t require signatures right now. Thinking of my own purchases, the only times I can remember where I don’t have to sign is when I’m at a drugstore making a small purchase, and I certainly wouldn’t have expected that number to represent 80% of purchases. But who knows, maybe I just haven’t been paying much attention.

What do you make of Mastercard eliminating the need to sign for purchases?

(Tip of the hat to Doctor Of Credit)

Comments

  1. Welcome to the 21st century! Up here (in Canada) we’ve been using the chip it seems since the turn of the century and for the past couple of years, tap and go.

  2. We’ve had chip and pin for years in Canada, and now many cards allow “tap” payments using RFID technology for purchases under $200. I find it somewhat surprising that the US is far behind when it comes to these payment solutions – however I suspect that the shear number of payment terminals that needed to be upgraded was the primary reason for the delay.

  3. Australia abolished signing years ago. PayWave chip for payments under $100 and pin for all other purchases. I’m also surprised how far behind the rest of the world the US is on this one!

  4. It would be really expensive for the banks to upgrade to chip+PIN. I feel like only a consumer advocacy law would ever get the banks to move on it.

  5. “Thinking of my own purchases, the only times I can remember where I don’t have to sign is when I’m at a drugstore making a small purchase, and I certainly wouldn’t have expected that number to represent 80% of purchases. But who knows, maybe I just haven’t been paying much attention.”

    Do you ever make purchases online? By the way, that’s also where almost all the fraud comes in, and why chip+pin wouldn’t make much of a difference.

  6. Was recently in U.K. for two months where you just tap your card at the card reader to pay. They call it the “magic touch”; in contrast, I call America remarkably backwards with 21st-century payment systems. But with a feeble grand-dad at the helm I expect things won’t evolve much

  7. Still some places will probably make you sign no matter what because its their store policy. (Unfortunately my company will still make our employees ask the customers to sign. ). I feel that if the charge is less than $50 we shouldn’t need signatures.

  8. I cannot confirm that the signature is not checked. About 50% of the payments i sign the signature ist checked with the signature on the back of the credit card

  9. I think using a PIN is way more secure than just singning a receipt. If the credit card gets stolen the thief could always use it just by faking the signature whereas it’s impossible to abuse the card without knowing the PIN. I don‘t understand why it’s still that popular in the US only paying by signature. If I had a US creditcard I would want a PIN for security reasons. Last time when I was at Zürich Airport I went to Starbucks and in the line in front of my was a US American. When he was about to pay he was asked to enter his PIN and didn’t even know it because he never needed it in the US he said so he was unable to pay and had to pay by cash.
    And I am also surprised that there is places in the US where you don’t need to signature or enter a PIN at all. This happened to me several times in New York where your card just gets swiped and that’s it. Very insecure if you ask me.

  10. The only time you remember not signing is drugstores? What about online transactions? Hotels? Uber? Airfare? I am not sure how you are signing for all this.

  11. I’m amazed how far behind the times we are here in the US. People freaked out when they started using chip readers because reading the screens instructions was too damn hard. Getting Americans to adopt chip-and-pin or contactless would be quite a challenge.

    My company is based in the UK so our cards are modern chip-and-pin and contactless enabled. They’re a breeze to use when making a quick purchase. I use apple pay quite a bit in the US and would love if I could do the same tap and go with a card instead of fumbling with my phone.

  12. The US is so behind when it comes to chip-enabled credit cards. I haven’t had to sign for ANY credit card in many years here in Canada!

  13. What will the impact be on using US issued Mastercards in Europe? I hate having to sign for purchases at smaller shops in France, the clerks never understand why it’s asking them for signature. Mastercard going signature free in EU would make me shift a lot of spend from Visa and Amex honestly.

  14. I guess this really means US banks aren’t going to adopt chip and pin (chip and signature was supposed to be a stepping stone to chip and pin; Americans hold more cc than customers in other countries so banks were loathe to require customers to remember pins).

    And just because you have chip and pin, it doesn’t make the transaction safer for the customer. If there’s fraud in a pin transaction, the onus is on you to prove it’s not you. I can’t remember when fraud on a US card wasn’t taken care of as a mere formality.

  15. Credit card in the US is a total joke. I never sign anything but just make a scribble on the machine or paper. However, using a US card in Europe is a pain since when they see you need to sign they panic because they don’t understand why you need to sign so it raises red flags and they make sure your signature matches the back of your card perfectly.

  16. @Matt: don’t understand your point here. First I am not sure the banks are the ones paying for the upgrade of the card readers but the credit card companies. If they did everywhere else in the world why not in the US. Anyone can sign whatever they want during a credit card purchase in the US and nobody checks that. It is the most useless thing since if your card was stolen anyone can use it.

  17. I’m from the UK and there’s been several times when making purchases in the USA where I’ve been told to enter my PIN, so it’s not like the technology would be that hard to roll out.

    I work in hospitality in London and when a customer pays with a US credit card we are meant to check that the signature matches but I find that most of the time they’ve already put the card away before they even sign the slip

  18. If they eliminate the PIN for debit cards, I will cancel mine. While credit card fraud is usually not passed on to the card holder, debit card fraud is and I don’t want that exposure. As a single female who travels alone, I prefer not to be the target of thieves because my bank and credit cards are easy to use. I can’t understand why a PIN is such a big deal for banks and consumers. While I agree that signatures are useless under the current system, would anyone, other than a thief, not use a card because they have to enter a PIN?

  19. The bank bares very little responsibility — if anything goes wrong, it’s the merchant that takes the hit.

  20. @Alexander is spot on.
    Somehow we nite have a card with no security.
    And in some remote locations in Europe like train stations and parking garages it sometimes just won’t work.

  21. Ric – Checking it against the signature on the back of the card is completely meaningless… On the off chance you have a signature so complicated it couldn’t be copied with ease, the fraudster could simply get rid of your signature and put their own on it.

    Stephen M – Not once in my entire life have I ever heard anyone call it “the magic touch”! I’m pretty sure you’d get a weird stare or awkward giggle if you ever tried to call it that here in the UK…

  22. The only place where I remember cashiers diligently comparing my signature on the receipt to the back of the card was in New Zealand, and in fact one cashier asked me to sign again because it didn’t match the back of my card to her satisfaction.

  23. Pin technology, the metric system, coins replacing banknotes…….. the U.S. is so far behind the rest of the world, it is laughable!

  24. @ BrTeacher

    In Europe and the Middle East (don’t know for other regions) when buying online you’re usally referred to your banks website where you need to enter either a one-time PIN code that is sent as a text message to your registered mobile phone, or you need to create a one-time PIN code with a token that is delivered together with your credit card…

    Plus I get a text message EVERY time my card is used with the supplier, name, date, time and amount of credit left. So I know immediately if someone uses my card without my authorisation.

  25. I have not signed any of my cards…i wrote on all of them “ask 4 ID”. A great deal of my transactions are online & at gas pumps anyway, so no signature involved. In most stores, the cashier does not handle your card. In the few stores and in restaurants where we still have to hand over our card, most never bother looking at the signature panel. Of course, often I already provide my ID to receive the military discount. I can’t even remember the last time anyone did-except on my trip to Germany last Aug.

    To (hopefully) have an added layer of security, I have my credit cards in my Paypal wallet and pay through paypal wherever it is accepted. Of course, it will only be a matter of time until papal is hacked, but for the moment, it makes me feel a bit safer.

  26. It’s about time this happened. Requiring a signature is completely pointless. The only place I have ever had anyone look at the signature and compare it to the one on my card is at the USPS (which I find funny/ironic).
    For years, at checkout when you sign the terminal (or even a receipt like at a restaurant), I’ve drawn pictures or written messages to my wife on the “signature line” while she stands next to me wondering what I will draw this time. At merchants where the signature appears on the screen for the employees to see, a few have laughed but never once questioned anything. The best is the places where your receipt includes your signature!
    It’s time the signature goes away and it’s great to see Mastercard taking the lead. I’m just disappointed I won’t be able to draw pictures anymore.

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