Do I Have to Sign the Back of a Credit Card?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Many people sign the back of a credit card as a matter of course. Others write the words "see ID" (identification), fail to sign their cards, or both sign card and write "see ID." There are even some cards that come with a see ID sticker that is placed on the front of the card, so that merchants will remember to ask for identification to assure you have a right to use the card.

A cashier swiping an unsigned credit card.
A cashier swiping an unsigned credit card.

From a purely legal standpoint, you are supposed to sign the back of a credit card. In small print above or below the card some variation of the following statement may occur “Not Valid Unless Signed.” If you do not sign it, you may be asked upon purchase to do so. Moreover, failing to sign may essentially break your contract with the credit card company, who requests when you receive your card that you sign it. Though this is seldom an enforced part of your contract, there is a slight chance a credit card company could refuse to extend credit to you if your card is left unsigned.

There are varied opinions on whether a person should or shouldn’t sign the back of a credit card.
There are varied opinions on whether a person should or shouldn’t sign the back of a credit card.

There are varied opinions on whether you should or shouldn’t sign the back of a credit card. Some companies now issue cards with people’s pictures on the front. This makes ID verification much easier, since you either do or don’t resemble the picture. Many people note that they are not only never asked for identification, but that merchants seldom ask to see the credit card back, to see ID, or to compare signatures on the card and any credit card slips. This depends on each merchant. In areas where credit card fraud occurs regularly, restrictions are likely to be tighter, and you may be requested to provide ID and sign the card before a merchant will let you make a purchase.

A number of people write see ID because their signature and picture on an ID card are better protection. It is true that signatures, even in permanent ink, can wear off over time, and it’s somewhat difficult to provide a good signature in the tiny space provided for one. Writing see ID also prevents a thief from having an opportunity to copy your signature. On a blank card the thief can merely sign in his or her own hand, and then use that signature in the future.

Legally though, you are asked by the credit card company to sign the back of a credit card. If you don’t, and the card is stolen, you may not be entitled to the same protection, particularly if the card is recovered and is unsigned. This new method of using picture ID on cards may be particularly helpful in resolving the problem, but not all credit card companies have adopted it.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


Strangely I just went through a 15 minute "suggestive session" with my credit card company who advised not to sign my Visa after my card was imaged and recreated as per their investigation.

I am reading all over the Internet that you should sign the card, but apparently that is not the case. From a common sense standpoint, the number can be replaced, but a signature cannot.


Clerks don't care if the card is signed or if the person has any ID. Once the card is swiped, all they care about is if the charge is approved or denied.


I'm here searching because I've tried numerous different pens trying to sign my new card and none of them will write on them!


I ran businesses for years. when one of my cashiers failed to get proper ID and the card happened to be stolen, guess who paid? My business. The credit card company does not care, so if your card is stolen, go after the business as well for failure to check the user's ID.


It is the cashier's job and duty to ask for proper ID when you use the card. If they don't, they lose. If they refuse to accept your card because it was not signed, just say thank you and walk out with your card.

Note: On the back,of the card it will tell the cashier to ask for proper ID.


For almost 10 years, I have been putting "Ask for ID" on the back of my cards. Since I know that I have this on my card, when I offer the card to a cashier to complete a transaction, I hand the cashier my ID with my card.

Occasionally, when there is a card reader where I swipe the card myself, the system has prompted the cashier to ask to see the card (this happens more frequently during the holidays). As mentioned above, I offer the card to the cashier with my ID.


So, as far as I can determine, the answer to the question in the headline is a firm "maybe." Hmm...


OK so you sign the back of the card, OK. If you have multiple signers how does the vendor protect themselves from fraud due to divorce/fired/separation. The photo ID proves who is signing, in the event of no signature.


This has been a hot topic lately. I read about it online.

I've gotten away with not signing my card for months, so obviously security is not that great.


Since the stores I shop at have put up those card readers that you slide the card yourself, I haven't been asked for ID or to see the card.

Before, the cashier usually at least flipped the card over and did a cursory glance, since they don't have to scan the card themselves they can't seem to bother with any of it. Even though it's kind of a pain to get out my ID, it would be reassuring to know that the chance of my card being used by someone else is a LITTLE less likely.

Post your comments
Forgot password?