Should I Sign My Credit Card?

Quick Answer

Some credit cards have eliminated the signature panel, and few merchants require your signature to check out. But if your credit card has a place for you to sign, you should still comply with a smudge-free autograph.

Blurred cropped shot of a dark haired woman holding a credit card while taking notes with a pen in her notebook.

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Even though you can typically use a credit card with a blank signature panel, it still makes sense to sign—and it's safer than leaving it blank. Some merchants may require that a card be signed, but that's increasingly uncommon.

There is really no downside to signing your credit card, and signing it will not increase your risk of fraud or identity theft. (In fact, signing could mean it's harder for a fraudster to forge your signature; an unsigned card leaves them free to sign in their own handwriting.)

Should You Sign Your Credit Card?

Yes, you should sign your credit card if there is a signature panel. Does anything bad happen if you don't sign your card? Probably not. It's possible that a small, independent merchant could require a signature. They do have a right to ask for it, after all.

While many people don't sign their credit cards, it's not what issuers and some businesses prefer—and may require. The United States Postal Service, for example, requires that a credit card with a signature panel be signed.

Some credit cards include language that the card is not considered valid until signed, and merchants can require signatures, if they choose. But an EMV chip is far more effective than a signature in helping merchants fight credit card fraud. EMV chips make transactions faster, more secure and eliminate the need for a business to store signatures.

In many cases, merchants won't even see your credit card when you make a payment. Online shopping, mobile payments, and chip readers often mean your credit card never leaves your hand. You still might be asked to sign a receipt, but it won't be compared to a signature on your credit card.

Signing your credit card long ago outlived its original purpose as a security measure.

Can You Write "See ID" on Your Credit Card?

Some card users hope that writing "see ID" in the signature box could reduce the chances of fraud by instructing a clerk or restaurant staff to check for a driver's license or some other form of ID.

But in many cases, you are the person who swipes, taps or inserts the credit card. That means the merchant won't see any message written on the back of your credit card, making the "see ID" instruction ineffective.

Worse, if your credit card issuer requires a signature, writing "see ID" could technically make the card invalid. And, returning to the Postal Service example, that directive would make the card unacceptable for payment.

However, there are other steps you can take to make your credit card safer, including:

How to Sign the Back of a Credit Card

If your credit card has a signature panel, and you want to sign, here's how to do it:

  • Locate the signature box.
  • Use a blue or black fine felt-tipped pen. (Ballpoint pens can scratch or leave only a faint signature.)
  • Sign using the name that appears on the front of your credit card.
  • Be sure to do this before you are in line to purchase something.

The Bottom Line

People who are reluctant to sign a credit card may want to protect themselves from fraud. But there's no reason to believe that leaving the signature panel blank does that, and it's actually better to sign than not. Signatures were always a weak security protection, and credit card issuers now mostly rely on EMV chips.

If you're concerned about fraud or identity theft, practice good credit behavior, including carrying only the credit cards you need, reviewing statements carefully, using virtual cards when shopping online and signing up for Experian's free credit monitoring. While credit monitoring can't keep fraud from happening, it can alert you to changes, and the sooner you spot potential problems, the sooner you can address them.