What is a Card Security Code?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2019
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A card security code is a specific security feature on modern debit and credit cards. These cards have become the basis for a lot of modern commerce transactions, and security features like the card security code help to ensure that the cards are used correctly with a minimum of fraud and theft. The card security code is just one of several features that help safeguard the use of debit and credit cards.

One major security feature of debit or credit cards is in the form of values inserted in the magnetic strip of the card. This can be called a card security code, but the main item that lots of merchandisers refer to as the card security code is different: it shows up printed on the back of the card in the signature line. This card security code is necessary for making remote transactions, so that merchants can verify that the correct person is using the card.

In addition to the actual credit card number that is printed on the front of the card, the additional three digit card security code provides additional layers of security for using a card. Different algorithms analyze the three digit card security code and verify the card this way. This is critical for a lot of online purchasing and other remote uses of cards.


In addition to this security feature, credit and debit cards also have their own point of use security protocols. For credit cards, the signature attached to the payment slip is one way of investigating fraud after the fact. With debit cards, where a signature does not often apply, the technique is a bit different; a four digit number personal identification number, or PIN, helps to verify the identity of the user. The PIN is kept secret by the primary user, so as to prevent others from using the card to draw cash or make certain purchases.

As credit and debit cards start to replace cash in a growing number of transaction types, there’s always a premium on good security for this payment method. Financial companies and merchants strive to keep up with the growing sophistication of techniques for card fraud, and card security codes and other security features present tools for secure modern use of these plastic cards, whether it’s a debit card attached to a high-dollar checking or savings account, or a credit card with a high maximum revolving line of credit. In addition to point-of-use security and other features, it’s important for card users to notify their card companies when there is any appearance of fraud or financial crime. The consumer can then work with the company to minimize liability, as the appropriate law enforcement officials work to find and prosecute the criminals.


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