How to find your credit card security code
By Teresa Bitler
|WHERE TO FIND YOUR
CARD'S SECURITY CODE
Every credit card has a security code used to help verify that the card is in your possession. Here are the codes' locations on American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa cards:
It doesn't matter what you call them -- a card security code
(CSC), card verification value (CVV or CV2), card verification code (CVC) or
even a card code verification (CCV) -- those three or four digits provide an
additional measure of credit card security when you make purchases online or by mail order.
But, finding them can be confusing, especially if you've never made an online
purchase with that specific card.
The card security code "is one in a
series of steps that merchants can take to prevent fraud and verify that the
order is being placed by the actual cardholder," says Matthew Towson,
senior manager of community affairs for Discover Financial Services, adding that in most cases, the only way
for a cardholder to provide the security code is to actually be in possession
of the card.
Where you find the security code depends on the card. If you
have a Visa, MasterCard or Discover, turn the card over. In the signature box
or just to the right of it, you will see a series of digits. However long the series, the final three digits are the security code.
American Express cardholders can find their security code on
the front of the card, either to the left or right of the embossed 15-digit
card number. These four digits are printed in black, not embossed.
Even as card issuers switch over to chip-equipped cards, security codes will still be printed and used the same way they are now, according to Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management policy for the American Bankers Association.
"For consumers who are conducting online transactions, it's still an important security measure to
have," he said. "As we move to chip cards the goal is not to move away from those other
important security measures that help protect consumers."
If you can't read the security code for any reason, call the
issuing financial institution on the customer service number listed on the back
of your credit card. Each financial institution will have its own guidelines
for how to handle illegible security codes, but it may require reissuing the card.
Since the security code is a safety feature, just like your
PIN, you will want to protect it. Generally, as long as you have a
secure connection, you can safely provide it during online transactions. The
merchant is prohibited, for security purposes, from storing the code. However,
never provide it to anyone, whether you know them or not, in an email (email
is unsecured communication). Once someone else has your security code, card number
and card expiration, it will appear to an online merchant that the someone else, not you, is actually in possession of the card.
See related: Anatomy of a credit card, 10 data breach protection tips, How to avoid credit card security overkill
Updated: November 14, 2014