A credit card security code is the 3-4 digit number that is printed, not embossed, on all credit cards. The length and location of a credit card’s security code depend on what network the card is on. On Visa, Mastercard and Discover credit cards, the security code will be three digits on the back of the card, just to the right of the signature panel. But an American Express credit card’s security code is a four-digit number listed on the front of the card, slightly above and to the right of the card number. In the event your card displays longer numbers, simply use the last three or four digits.
Regardless of what kind of card you have, credit card security codes serve the same purpose. When you give your security code to a merchant, along with your credit card number and expiration date, the information is immediately sent to the card issuer for authentication. Once that is approved, your transaction will go through. If not, the transaction is instantly cancelled. So it’s a no brainer why it’s called a “security code.”
How to find your credit card security code by card type:
|Card Network||Security Code Location||Number of Digits|
|Visa||Back of card, to the right of signature||3|
|Mastercard||Back of card, to the right of signature||3|
|Discover||Back of card, to the right of signature||3|
|American Express||Front of card, above and to right of number||4|
The security code is known by many names: CVV, CVC, CSC, CVN, CVVC and more. But all these names refer to the same thing. Below, you can learn more about how to find your credit card’s security number, when you’ll need to use it, how it protects you and more.
When You Need Your Credit Card Security Code
You don’t need to provide a credit card security code when making purchases in person. It’s automatically retrieved and authenticated when the credit card is swiped, “dipped” into an EMV chip reader, or “tapped” onto a contactless-enabled payment terminal.
But the security code is almost always mandatory for “card-not-present” transactions. That means credit card transactions completed online or over the phone. Being able to produce this number shows that you actually have the card being used. That makes it less likely that the transaction is fraudulent.
It is important to note that although merchants are responsible for requesting your security code prior to approving your payment, not all merchants will choose to do so. Due to the fact that certain individuals may find their security codes illegible or struggle to find their code at all, some stores skip the security code verification step in case it keeps their customers from paying. In other words, they don’t want an additional step in the checkout process that could stop you from completing a purchase.
Why Credit Card Security Codes Are Important
The added protection that credit card security codes provide is one of the reasons why fraud only impacts less than 1% of all electronic transactions. While credit card fraud can still occur even with transactions that require a security code, the extra layer of protection definitely helps.
When you are asked to provide your security code, merchants are trying to ensure that you have a genuine card. The code cannot be found anywhere else, as merchants are prohibited from storing it – along with PIN codes and magnetic stripe data. Because this data is never stored, it is more difficult, though not impossible, for thieves to commit fraud even if they have your other credit card information.
Should You Ever Share Your Card Security Code?
In situations where you’re buying something online on a secure page, it’s okay to share your security code with the retailer. Just be careful about where (or with whom) you share it. There are numerous scams designed specifically to retrieve your credit card security code. The scammer will often already have your credit card number, full name and expiration date, missing only the security code. Though they use various methods to gain access to your code, many will choose to call you pretending to be your bank. It is very important to know that banks will never ask you for sensitive financial information over the phone. So never provide it when asked. Always keep your security code private.
There are times when you might need to provide your card information over the phone, though. If you call a retailer to make a purchase, then it is acceptable to provide your code. The retailer will not store it. But if the retailer places a call to you, be aware that it could be a spoofed call, and the call may not be coming from the retailer.
Plus, you don’t have to worry too much about credit card fraud as long as you catch it. All major issuers have $0 fraud liability guarantees, meaning they won’t require you to pay for fraudulent transactions. Just make sure to monitor your credit card statements and credit reports so you can catch any fraud right away.
Other Names for Credit Card Security Codes
One of the confusing things about a credit card’s security code is the variety of names used to describe it. Depending on which credit card network and type of card you use, the code can be indicated as:
- Card security code (CSC)
- Card verification number (CVN)
- Card verification data (CVD)
- Card verification or validation code (CVC or CVC2)
- Card verification value (CVV or CVV2)
- Card verification value code (CVVC)
- Verification code (V-Code)
- Signature panel code (SPC)
If you ever come across one of these complex-sounding terms, don’t be alarmed. Recognize that you’re simply being asked for your credit card security code. All these terms mean the same thing.
Credit Card Security Code Alternatives
With technology moving at an exponential rate, we have now entered the age of digital wallets, which do not use the kind of security codes we’ve been discussing. Instead, these virtual wallets – Apple Pay, for example – generate a unique identification code each time you make a purchase online or at the point of sale.
This dynamic security code – also known as a CVV3 or token cryptogram – replaces but serves the same purpose as a credit card security code, ensuring that the payment account is indeed yours. The use of these proxy security codes is what’s known as tokenization. These types of codes are used in EMV chip and contactless card transactions. Transactions that use tokenization are more fraud-resistant than magnetic stripe transactions. That said, contactless cards still have traditional security codes that can be used.