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Credit card security is always a work in progress, and that’s mostly because hackers and thieves never stop looking for new ways to commit fraud. The introduction of chip-enabled credit cards has made a significant difference in the incidence of in-person credit card fraud, for example. However, chip-enabled cards are still vulnerable to online card fraud and other instances where the credit card isn’t presented in person, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Credit card security codes, which can also be referred to as card verification value (CVV) or card verification code (CVC), add another layer of protection specifically for online and over-the-phone purchases. If you’re curious how credit card security codes work, keep reading to learn more.
What is a credit card security code?
A credit card security code is a three or four-digit number on your credit card that is separate from your actual credit card number. Merchants and retailers will generally ask for your credit card security code when you make a purchase online or over the phone, as this code is unique and only available to someone who is in physical possession of the credit card.
A hacker or thief may be able to gain access to your credit card number through a major data breach, but it’s less likely they’ll also get their hands on your credit card security number.
How to find your credit card’s security code
The credit card security code may be in a different place depending on the card you have as well as the card issuer. While there may be exceptions, based on the credit card you sign up for, here’s an overview of where you can find your security code if you have a Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover credit card.
Visa security code
Visa security codes are three digits long and are printed on the back of your Visa credit card at the end of the signature panel. Keep in mind that your Visa credit card could come from a credit card issuer like Chase or Bank of America, among others.
Mastercard security code
Mastercard also comes with a three-digit security code, which is listed at the end of the signature panel on the back of your Mastercard credit card. Note that an array of credit cards run on the Mastercard network, including options from Citi and Barclays.
American Express security code
American Express, which is both a card issuer and a card network, does security codes differently to other cards. Security codes from American Express credit cards are four digits long and are printed on the front of your card right above your card number (and to the right).
Discover security code
Discover credit cards also come with three-digit security codes, which are listed on the back of your card at the end of the signature panel. Also, note that Discover is both the card network and the issuer of Discover credit cards.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
There is a lot to know about credit cards, yet credit card security is one of the most complex issues to understand. Here are some additional questions and answers about credit card security codes that can help.
Is a security code the same thing as a CVV?
With credit cards, the terms “security code” and “CVV” are synonymous. CVV stands for card verification value and both reference the security code credit card issuers provide to add another layer of protection from fraud.
Can you find a security code without the card?
Credit card security codes are separate from credit card numbers, and they are only printed on the physical version of your credit card. Due to that fact, only someone with physical possession of a credit card will have access to its unique security code.
What are all the different names for a security code?
A credit card security code can also be referred to as a card security code (CSC), card verification code (CVC), or card verification value (CVV or CV2). All of these terms mean the same thing.
When will you need a security code?
You may not always need to provide your credit card security code when you make a purchase online or over the phone. However, many merchants continue asking for multi-factor authentication in order to help reduce incidents of fraud.