Have you ever made a purchase online or over the phone and you see the three sets of credit card numbers you have to hand over? These numbers include the credit card number, the expiration date, and the CVV. But what exactly is the CVV on a credit card?
A CVV is the three- or four-digit number on your card that adds an extra layer of security when making purchases online or over the phone.
It serves to verify that you have a physical copy of the card in your possession. They also help to protect you if your card number falls into the hands of hackers and identity thieves.
What is a CVV on a Credit Card?
A CVV is a number on your credit card or debit card that’s in addition to your credit card number and expiration date (and it’s not the same as your PIN). Different issuers have slightly different names and locations for them.
The CVV for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit cards is a three-digit number on the back of your card, to the right of the signature box. American Express uses a four-digit code, which they call the card identification number (CID).
The American Express CID is on the front of the card above the account number.
When you present your card in person, you might be asked to enter a PIN to verify the transaction. But it’s not so easy to authenticate someone’s identity for a purchase online or on the phone.
For this reason that issuers started using these numbers as another barrier to fraud.
Where to Find Your Card’s CVV
Card carriers print their CVVs in different places on their cards. It is so important to know where the CVV is on your card(s). If you have a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card, you can find the three-digit CVV on the back of your card to the right of the signature strip.
The number may also be adjacent to either your full credit card number or just the last four digits of it.
However, if you have an American Express card, you can find the CVV on the front, right side of your card. Also, note that Amex calls this number a card identification number (CID). An Amex CID is also four digits instead of three.
Why Do Credit Cards Have CVV Codes?
Your CVV acts as a security measure for card-not-present transactions. Since online merchants can’t check your signature, many ask for your CVV code to verify you’re the rightful owner of the credit card.
So, even if a thief steals your credit card account number with a skimmer, he or she will be out of luck at websites that require a CVV for purchases. The CVV is not stored in the magnetic stripe on the back of the card — it’s designed to indicate possession of the card.
CVV codes also help protect you in case of a data breach. That’s because industry regulations prohibit merchants from storing CVV codes.
So, while you might save your card number and personal information on a merchant’s website, you usually have to type in your CVV each time you make a purchase.
That said, not all sites require CVV codes. And some sites only ask for your CVV the first time you order items to a particular address — and then assume subsequent transactions are legitimate.
How Your CVV Protects You from Identity Theft
CVVs add another layer of identity theft protection and can help prevent unauthorized transactions.
While many major retailers store your credit card account number in their databases, your CVV or CID is not allowed to be stored after the card is authorized due to credit card compliance standards.
This means even if identity thieves hack into a merchant’s system and steal your credit card number, or somehow otherwise access your credit card number, they may not be able to use your card information if they don’t have the code when attempting an online or phone purchase.
Keep in mind that businesses are not currently required to request a CVV or CID code, and not all do. Moreover, some retailers will ask for it the first time you make a purchase to verify your identity.
But then do not require it on subsequent purchases if you are logged in on their website as a customer.
It is also possible for identity thieves to use malicious software to steal your CVV codes from retailers. Thieves could also potentially obtain one from you in a phishing attempt if you’re not careful.
Plus, if someone steals your physical card, they will have access to it. Some financial institutions are experimenting with dynamic CVVs, or CVVs that change periodically.
This is to make it even harder for thieves to make fraudulent purchases.
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Limitations of a CVV
Typically, the issues that arise with CVVs are often self-inflicted by the cardholder. Since it’s hard for fraudsters to obtain your CVV through a credit card database, they turn to other illegal means. This includes phishing and physically stealing your cards.
These scams occur as the occasional email or pop-up on your computer, enticing you to make an online purchase. Some scams are easy to spot, due to misspelling or other obvious errors.
However, because online merchants so often ask you to enter your CVV, hackers can also include that requirement on their fraudulent page.
If you enter your credit card information, including the CVV, the hackers have easily gained access to your account.
Of course, there is always the possibility of getting your credit card physically stolen. In this case, the thieves don’t need to hack anything since all your information is there on the card.
Your best bet is to cancel your card as soon as possible, request a new card from your issuer and dispute any unauthorized charges made to the account.
While in-person purchases aren’t entirely foolproof, online transactions put you and your information more at risk of fraud. To combat this, credit card providers created CVVs and their associated regulations to help keep your personal credit information safe.
You can help protect yourself, too, by only entering your card information on websites you trust.
We hope this article has been helpful to you. Please share it with anyone who you think will appreciate the information!