Also known as a credit card security code, a credit card CVV number is a series of numbers that is included with a credit card account and appears on the actual credit card issued for that account. The purpose of the CVV number is to provide an additional layer of protection for the cardholder, making it harder for the card to be used by unauthorized individuals. The nature of the number is such that it is much more difficult to have access to the number without having physical possession of the credit card, a measure that helps to minimize the potential for credit card theft and usage.
An abbreviation for card verification value, the CVV is also included on most debit cards issued by banks and other financial institutions. In addition, prepaid credit cards and debit accounts not associated with checking accounts are also likely to include this number in the overall configuration of the account. In each instance, the presence of the number helps to enhance the level of card protection and reduce the chances of the card being used without the express consent of the cardholder.
Unlike other information that appears on a credit or debit card, the credit card CVV number is not included in the embossing, as is the case with the credit card account number. The placement of the CVV number will also vary from one type of credit card to another, with some appearing on the front of the card immediately after the embossed account number, and others on the back of the card in the signature line. In many instances, the size and type set of the CVV number is different from the other numbers included on the surface of the card, making it less visible to anyone who is not actually holding the card at close range.
In actual practice, the credit card CVV number helps to reduce the incidence of credit and debit card fraud by requiring consumers to provide the number at the point of purchase. This means that the user may have to present the physical card when buying goods at a store, allowing the clerk to verify the three or four digits that compose the number. When making purchases online, the card user may have to enter the number into a protected field that is separate from the credit card number field, indicating that he or she has physical possession of the card. While not foolproof, this level of security makes it somewhat more difficult for thieves to make use of credit card numbers alone, making it necessary for them to attempt to also secure the credit card CVV number. Since that can often be much more difficult to manage, cards equipped with this feature are considered to be at least somewhat safer from the incidence of fraud.