A CVV2 code is a three-or-four digit number printed on credit cards, debit cards and prepaid cards that you have to provide for security purposes when making a purchase online or over the phone. This prevents people from making so-called “card-not-present transactions” if they aren’t actually in possession of the card being charged. That’s why folks often refer to CVV2 numbers as credit card security codes. They help prevent unauthorized use of your account.
But that doesn’t explain the acronym, which many consumers wonder about. It’s not too far off, though. CVV2 stands for “Card Verification Value 2,” which makes sense given the role it plays in the payments landscape. This code helps payment processors confirm that the actual card issuer is the one making a purchase, as opposed to a fraudster who purchased stolen account information online, for example.
The “2” still raises questions, though. If there’s a CVV2, there must be a CVV1, too. Right? Indeed there is, but it’s actually “a number that is encoded in the magnetic stripe data itself,” Amy Zirkle, vice president of industry affairs for Electronic Transactions Association, told WalletHub. “The CVV1 data is transmitted automatically when the consumer swipes or dips their card.”
Confusing matters further, there’s also a plain old CVV to account for. CVV and CVV2 actually refer to the same thing: the security code printed on your credit card. The difference is that CVV2 technically describes the three-digit code on the back of Visa cards, in particular. Each major card network has its own terminology, as you can see below, and CVV is just a catch-all term for these specific credit card security codes.
CVV Codes by Card Network
|CVV Code…||Visa||Mastercard||Discover||American Express|
|Location||Back of card (right of signature field)||Back of card (right of signature field)||Back of card (right of signature field)||Front of card (above/right of card number)|
|Length||3 numbers||3 numbers||3 numbers||4 numbers|
|Acronym Stands For…||Card Verification Value||Card Verification Value||Card Identification Number||Card Identification Number|
Fortunately, most of us don’t need to know much about CVVs or CVV2s. For one thing, chip cards are improving the security of plastic. Perhaps even more importantly, we already benefit from some pretty good fraud liability protections. All credit cards give you a $0 fraud liability guarantee. And that extends to debit card purchases completed with a signature, rather than a PIN, too. PIN debit card transactions may also be covered, but it depends on the circumstances.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can find everything worth knowing below.
Ask the Experts: CVV2 vs. CVV & More
For a better understanding of what CVV2 codes do and how they differ from CVVs, we posed the following questions to a panel of payment processing and card security experts. You can check out their bios and responses below.
- What is the difference between CVV and CVV2?
- Why do chip cards need CVV/CVV2 numbers?
- How effective are CVV/CVV2 codes at stopping fraud?