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Am I Required to Show a Credit Card When Paying by Check?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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It used to be standard practice in many US states that people writing checks to merchants would have to show a credit card when paying by check, and often present ID or a passport too. Though this was once common, the practice is relatively rare in present day. This is because, in many places and under most circumstances, requiring a person to show a credit card when paying by check is illegal. Merchants ignoring the law may be fined for this practice in a number of the US states, and consistently requesting this information could result in class action suits.

In most US states, a few practices are strictly forbidden by law except under certain circumstances. For instance, some states allow merchants to ask customers to show a credit card, but not to refuse to accept a check if a customer fails to comply. Even if merchants are allowed to ask for this information, writing credit card information on a check is usually not allowed because this could put people at risk of having their identity stolen. Merchants also cannot ask for a Social Security card as a form of identification, or write down Social Security numbers on checks.

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There are a few common sense practices that merchants or banks may employ. If you’re at a local department store or bank and are making a payment on your department store credit card or bank card by check, a merchant or banker can ask you to show your credit card when paying by check or cash, and is often able to write your card information on a check. This is a quick method of making sure that the payment you make is deposited in the correct account. Some people can also ask for a credit card if you are writing a check out for cash, or if you are using a check as a means of deposit. If you send a deposit by check to a hotel, for instance, you might also have to provide a credit card number.

Under most conditions though, showing your credit card is an entirely voluntary process. A few states even require merchants to post information to this effect or, at the least, inform each person paying by check that they don’t have to show their credit card. As a general rule, merchants are also not allowed to use a credit card to cover funds on a check if it bounces, and they can’t call a credit card company to verify whether funds exist to cover a check that isn’t accepted by the bank.

Some states can ask for a credit card as a means of identification, and with the permission of the check writer, may record credit card information on a check, particularly as a means of guaranteeing checks for cash or out of state checks. Though merchants may not be able to ask people to show a credit card when paying by check, they may have rights to refuse checks based on inability to show other identification or if the check is evaluated through a number of check systems that show bounced checks. Merchants can also refuse very large checks for purchases. A merchant can also decide never to accept checks and deal in cash or credit cards only.

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