Writing "Ask For ID" On Your Credit Card Won't Stop Fraud, But It's Still A Good Idea

Writing “Ask For ID” on the back of your credit card isn’t an unimpeachable guarantee of security, but it could be the last line of defense between you and a fraudulent charge. Invoking perilously flawed logic, the Boston Globe argues: “the cardholder gains nothing by not signing the card or writing in ‘See ID’ on the signature panel.” Let’s dismantle this nonsense piece by piece.

First up:

I believe all credit card companies print “not valid unless signed” on the back of the cards they issue. The credit agreement is with the credit card company, so why would someone think they can circumvent this requirement? Many say they are protecting themselves against fraud.


Technically, cards must be signed with the holders’ names, according to both Visa Inc. and MasterCard International Inc., the two largest payment networks, and cards with “See ID” or “Ask for ID” written on the back are not a valid substitute.

First flaw: though your cardholder agreement requires you to sign your card, there is nothing to stop you from signing your name and writing “Ask for ID.”

Next up:

Some customers may think writing the terms on the panel on the back of the cards would deter fraud or forgery. But Visa’s rules for merchants say that “In reality, criminals don’t take the time to practice signatures: They use cards as quickly as possible after a theft and prior to the accounts being blocked. They are actually counting on you not to look at the back of the card and compare signatures – they may even have access to counterfeit identification with a signature in their own handwriting.”

Second flaw: the deterrence factor doesn’t need to apply to criminals. “Ask for ID” is a command to the cashier that if followed, prevents fraud.

Some readers don’t like showing identification, which is fine. Nothing in the cardholder agreement forces you to take out your driver’s license.

“Ask for ID” appears on our card next to our signature. Few people ask for ID. The ones that do, though, almost always ask when we’re making a large purchase, the kind we don’t want surprising us on our credit card statement.

It doesn’t relieve us from protecting our card from misuse, but those three simple words make an excellent last line of defense.

What do you think? Annoying invasion of privacy, pointless distraction, or essential safeguard? Duke it out in the comments.

‘See ID’ phrase on back of credit cards doesn’t deter fraud [Boston Globe]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. pigeonpenelope says:

    having worked in retail for several years, i have placed “see id” on my card as well. if anything, it is something in the world of nothing. i always advised my customers who didn’t want to sign their cards that: a)if not signed, a thief can sign their own signatures on it and the signatures would then match; and b) technically we aren’t allowed to accept it. i can’t see any harm in placing “ask for id) in a that section by your signature. if you want to put it there, do it. if merchants don’t ask, they don’t have to.

  2. Nytmare says:

    I write ‘dance like a monkey’ on all my cards. Then I get all indignant when the cashier continues to follow their normal store procedures instead of my personal non-standard instruction. Why won’t they do as I say?

  3. Hanke says:

    Ironically, except at Best Buy, I have yet to have anyone check my card against my signature. THey won’t match in any way, and I’ve actually signed things like ‘Stolen’ and ‘I am a Monkey’ in the signature line on the credit slip. At Best Buy, they’ve upgraded to all-electronic checkouts, so all I make is a completely unitelligible scribble on the screen. I guess it’s close enough to the unintelligible scribble on my card, because they usually just hand it back to me.

  4. bravo369 says:

    I used to work as a cashier in high school and was trained to compare signatures so it bothers me whenever a cashier scans the card and hands it back to me before i even get the receipt to sign. i obviously know it’s mine so i don’t make a big deal but it’s disheartening to know that the simplest job that a cashier SHOULD be doing is not being done.

    i almost feel that if your card is stolen and security cams show that a store a cashier didn’t check signatures or just handed back the card after swiped that they should be held partially responsible. Maybe that’s what would get stores to check…if due diligence is not performed then a store is held liable for the purchase.

  5. petrarch1608 says:

    i thought we had a discussion about this on consumerist before. Putting “Ask for ID” is against your cardholder agreement and technically voids your CC, although that’s never enforced.

  6. I am not liable for fraud on my card, so why should I add to my inconvenience and diminish my privacy. Yes, I realize that costs of fraud are an externality, but to me, privacy is paramount. Particularly as we see a move to RFID drivers licenses and probably more scanning capability at retail. I only want a store to have the minimal information absolutely necessary to complete he transaction.

    P.S. I only use cash at Best Buy because of their draconian credit policies.

  7. Skellbasher says:

    Someday people will get this right and stop disseminating false information.


    Try to use your ‘See Id’ signed card at the post office or any government office and see how far it gets you.

  8. ars_workerbee2 says:

    the first and most crucial flaw in this theory is simple: it assumes that the cashier actually looks at the back of your card.

    this starts with the fact that most CC transactions performed with the cardholder swiping the card themselves, the chance that the card even ends up in the hands of a cashier at all.

    so if you don’t swipe it yourself, and do hand it to the cashier, rarely do they pay it any attention other than to swipe it and hand it back to you. i’ve had more cashiers comment on the crack in one of my cards than look at the back of it.

  9. humphrmi says:

    @petrarch1608: Actually, putting “Ask for ID” and not signing your card is against your cardholder agreement. As the OP says above, you can both sign your card and say “Ask for ID” without violating your agreement.

  10. OminousG says:

    Just a heads up, the Post will (and does) refuse to accept any credit/debit card with only “Please see ID” written on it.

  11. humphrmi says:

    @ars_workerbee2: I think the point of the post is, for those cases where the cashier does look at the back of your card, you’ve included instructions (“Please ask for my ID”) that you want them to do.

    That doesn’t mean they’ll see it, or do it, but it’s an additional line of defense against fraud…

  12. @petrarch1608: @Skellbasher: I think the point of this article is to discuss the validity/usefulness of doing both signing your card and writing “See ID” on the strip, not just writing “See ID.”

    I myself subscribe to the “both” option, as well. Granted, it’s been about a year since anyone has asked to see my ID. (grumble, grumble)

  13. losiek says:

    I’ve signed my CC slips as “Joe Black”, “Mooooo”, “Sucks”, etc – cashiers never called the difference between my signature on the card and on the slip, even when they seemingly compared them.

    The only place where I got in trouble for this is outside of US – EU, Australia, New Zealand, etc. They do check and claim a difference.

  14. sponica says:

    I have encountered the phenomenon where a card doesn’t swipe and must be entered manually that the cashier requests a form of identification. Of course this was a store charge card that wasn’t working, I’m sure they would have done the same for a credit card that had stopped swiping.

  15. Seriously? After all the articles about how merchants have no right to require ID for credit card purchases?

  16. MaliBoo Radley says:

    The silly thing about this is that I very rarely hand a credit card to anyone anymore. It’s all self service card machines at checkouts nowadays. The only time I hand over a card to a human is at a restaurant. They never seem to even look at the card.

  17. humphrmi says:

    @Matthew Hughes: There’s a difference between requiring ID and asking for it when the cardholder requests it… we are, after all, the customers… what we say goes, right?

  18. mattbrown says:

    I never sign my cards, and once, in an argument, i signed my coworkers name. I had absolutely no problems. Not a single purchase I made was questioned, ever.

  19. Bill2me says:

    For several years I worked as a bartender in NJ and now am in the rental industry in MA. One of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered is the indignation many customers have when you actually ask to see ID when they’ve put “See ID” in the signature space on their credit cards and check cards.

    As a bartender I was frequently berated by customers who would refuse to produce an ID because they felt my asking for an it implied they looked like a criminal.

    Folks who write “See ID” on their cards need to understand that they’re instructing the cashier to make an extra effort to confirm their identity. Sometimes it may be an inconvenience but it’s part of the extra security their asking for.

    Personally – I think consumers are better off signing the card (as instructed by the CC company) and just being diligent about checking their balance.

  20. Trai_Dep says:

    “They use cards as quickly as possible after a theft and prior to the accounts being blocked.”

    Thus making it INFINITELY more improbable that someone’s going to whip up a bogus driver’s license that matches my purloined card.

    It ain’t perfect, as the article states. Yet it’s one more (probably symbolic) hurdle evil-doers must face.

    Sort like the bike-lock approach. Sure, locks can be snipped, but the main function isn’t to stop your bike from being carried off. Well, directly. The point is to make it so that someone else’s bike (owned by the careless) moves to the front of the queue when some kid’s eyeing which bike to steal.

  21. Trai_Dep says:

    And, “Check for ID” is different than “Write down my ID number on the credit slip”. Apples/oranges, people. Yeesh! :D

  22. DeltaPurser says:

    Smoke and mirrors, if you ask me… If I write on the back of my card to ask for my ID, then there’s no invasion of privacy.

    Problem is ID’s can/are forged… Take security checks at the airport for example. There is no way a TSA agent knows what every single ID/Driver Licence/Passport looks like, so how can they tell if it’s real or not… Again – smoke and mirrors.

  23. Pro-Pain says:

    I disagree, but whatever. At least SIGN your sig. on the card and put “ask for id” next to it or something. Putting just “CID” on it is utterly stupid.

  24. PinkBox says:

    I used to write that on the back of my cards, but I very rarely had anyone ask to see my ID.

    How you sign your name rarely seems to matter also. My boyfriend has even signed his own name to a receipt I paid for by accident before, and it didn’t matter.

  25. Parting says:

    @Trai_Dep: Usually, for advanced terminals, name and family name will be confirmed by your credit card. If your name does not appear, either you let us cover our ass and write down your id number, or contact your credit card, so your name will appear in the future purchases (It takes 5 min of your time, and you set for good, plus it’s another tool that helps to prevent cloning).

    Usually, cloned credit cards, have no family name confirmation (or a completely different one, from the credit card).

    That’s the only time, when cashiers ask to write down your official id # in our business. (I know other places actually do this in other instances, and it’s unacceptable).

    And in 9 cases out of ten, that was fraud. So we saved a lot of headaches to rightful owners of these cc.

  26. Parting says:

    By the way, I like the fact that some credit cards show your picture. It’s helpful, if your card is stolen, the thief cannot cash it on the spot in the shopping mall.

    ”See id” is acceptable, when appearing WITH your signature. So do BOTH, if you wish. Or just sign your credit card.

    If you write ”see id” only, don’t be surprised, if some businesses will reject it. (Especially, if you travel outside of USA).

    Also, if you SHOW your id, don’t be surprised to be a victim of identity theft. Some crooked cashiers have excellent memory for numbers.

  27. vividblurry says:

    Oh god, not this argument again.

    Just sign the damn card and be careful not to lose it. And if you lose it, call your credit company and report fraud. What’s the big deal?

  28. wellfleet says:

    @humphrmi: the thing is, this doesn’t obligate the cashier to follow those instructions. the store has a contract with the cardholder, as do you, but no contract with you as to terms of accepting your card. at best buy, if you don’t have an actual signature on your card, we have to match the signature on the electronic pad to a signature on a license or ID… besides, most fraud will happen fast, through online commerce, at gas stations, places that don’t require ID. it’s not a great last line of defense because the cashier doesn’t have to do it.

  29. satoru says:

    I don’t find this argument very compelling. Having your credit card information by itself can’t lead to identity theft. So the only thing, under the grand assumption that everyone actually does this, is that your credit card might not be ringing up charges in Russia. But doing a charge back on these kinds of blatant fraud is relatively easy with credit card companies, since they’re pretty much used to it now.

    If you are still stupid enough to have a DEBIT CARD, then perhaps this argument has more merit. In that your bank account could get cleaned out with no recourse available.

  30. Me - now with more humidity says:

    OminousG: Wrong. I use my card at the post office weekly and have never had it refused.

  31. @Skellbasher: Use mine at the post-office all the time. No problems.

  32. KD17 says:

    A long LONG time ago I use to write See ID on the back of my cards. Then after never being asked for my ID over a few years I just started signing my name.

    Now most the places I shop just let the customer swip their own card and even thought it says ” Please show your card to the cashier ” on the screen they never actually ask to see it and just hit a key saying they did.

    It does help me to make sure I am extra careful not to loose my wallet haha

  33. world-inferno says:

    I love how the lowest paid segment of society is in charge of handwriting verification and identification confirmation.

    The only thing I love more is at the grocery store. If I go to a cashier they MUST check my ID and do a handwriting comparison. But if I go to the ‘do it yourself’ checkout nobody checks anything.

  34. satoru says:

    There’s a disconnect also between two very important things: The people who USE stolen cards, and the people who MAKE them. The people who use stolen cards are usually pretty dumb and are eager to get rid of them quickly.

    But the people making them are part of a sophisticated gang designed to steal cc information. Remember that a stolen credit card has a street value of like $5. Since credit card vendors are getting very good at detecting fraud, the value of these stolen numbers is pretty much going down to almost nothing. So the gangs are compensating with higher levels of sophistication in obtaining good numbers that will last longer.

    If they need to print out fake SSN cards with the person’s name on it, that’s also extremely easy to do if needed. Remember and SSN has NO PICTURE on it but is in theory a legitimate government issued ID which almost no one will refuse if shown.

  35. SegamanXero says:

    One time when I was purchasing stuff at a local store 24, I signed dracula on the reciept… and the guy at the counter looked at it, and refused to give back my card; as he made the point that it coulda been stolen and I did a fake signature… I got my card back after showing my ID and apologizing for fooling around.

    also Ive used my debt card at the post office without a signature and they didnt stop me, I suppose smaller post offices dont care to follow those rules.

  36. satoru says:

    Also if picture ID became mandatory for credit card transactions, you’d see discrimination lawsuits popping up. Why? Because when they tried to do this for VOTING, the African-American and Hispanic communities were complaining because a large percentage of legitimate people in their group had no form of government issued picture ID. Thus ‘logically’ they were discriminated from voting. I don’t think its too far a jump for the race-card people like Al Sharpton to cry wolf at such an ‘egregious’ requirement for African Americans.

  37. Pylon83 says:

    I’m still not sure I see the big deal. Nearly ALL credit/debit cards have protection against fraudulent use. If someone steals my card and uses it before I get it cancelled, I don’t pay for anything. Everyone freaks out over this stuff, but if it happens, you’re not out anything. Why stress over it?

  38. Chese says:

    These kind of things get old. See ID is just a waste of time and only adds a false sense of security. Credit cards already offer built in protections so you won’t owe anything if they are stolen. Many transactions the retailer doesn’t even touch the card, and they are not signature experts by any means. If you are that paranoid about credit cards don’t use them, use cash or checks.

  39. BugMeNot2 says:

    First we hate showing our ID at IHOP, and now it’s a good idea. Make up your f’ing mind, Consumerist. >:(

  40. bellsandasiren says:

    I work as an intern at a national news organization in New York City, and frequently get sent out on errands to purchase things we need for our show. The producer gives me his no-limit corporate card, which is signed and says “ask for ID” on the back of it. I have bought everything from cases of beer to a thousand blank DVDs to iPhones to flat-screen TVs with that card (all, obviously, for the company; I’m not buying that stuff for myself. I like my job too much to even attempt to abuse the privilege), and never on a major purchase have I been asked for an ID. Even though I am really very obviously not the kind of person who would legitimately possess a corporate card (or have a male first name), the cashiers ask no questions.

    The only time I was ever asked for an ID was while purchasing a $6 plastic tiara from a costume shop in the Village. And when I explained that I was an intern and handed over my company ID, the cashier validated it. So much for policy!

  41. jihad_cowboy says:

    One issue with this is on the back of credit cards it states that “Card is not valid without signature.” I had this rudely pointed out to me at the post office (USPS) where they told me I could not use the credit card because “See ID” is not a valid signature. Apparently this is policy at all USPS locations.

  42. azntg says:

    While I respect newspapers and read them fairly regularly, you have to understand that the people in charge of the newspapers are people just like us. They are also liable of reporting incorrectly or providing irresponsible advice.

    I believe this is clearly a case of one. I kept my position very clear in my previous comments on requiring ID for credit card purchases. I do not intend to repeat its entirety again, so kindly refer to my older comments.

    Frankly, for those people who feel more “secure” showing ID, let them do what they want. I’m personally against it in principle and also due to my personal experiences (ID theft, ID forging, etc. I eyewitnessed it all.)

  43. hejustlaughs says:

    I have just lost a massive amount of respect for the consumerist.

    Way to teach people to be unintelligent consumers.

  44. hejustlaughs says:

    “It doesn’t relieve us from protecting our card from misuse, but those three simple words make an excellent last line of defense.”

    Defense against what? I’m not liable for any mis-use of my card so why should I add the hassle of showing ID at every transaction?

  45. BugMeNot2 says:

    I don’t have a problem flashing my ID to verify I am the card owner, but I wonder how many card thieves are actually caught this way.

    A cashier probably handles a hundred credit card purchases during a shift and never catches a card thief. I can see why most cashiers don’t bother.

  46. cortana says:


    This is a pretty weak argument. When I was the doorman at a nightclub, I knew what every state’s ID and Driver license looked like, as well as Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe’s passports. I even had a nice little book with sample pictures of them all.

  47. supertechman-protests disemvoweling by disemvoweling himself says:

    There’s a significant flaw to this argument that my (admittedly not exhaustive, so apologies if this has already been pointed out) perusal of the comments has not revealed: how about those millions of microtransactions which don’t require a signature in the first place? Fast food restaurants, gas stations, etc. Granted, these are small transactions dollar-wise, but there are millions of them each day. I think in the end, the burden is on each of us as consumers to be vigilant in protecting our credit, reputation, and finances.
    After all, credit cards are not a necessity; they’re a convenience.

  48. docb says:


    I have “ask for ID” on the back of every credit card. I use them frequently at the post office. In fact I usually hand the ID over at the same time as the card, but whenever I get asked for ID because it says to do so on the card, I tell the cashier “thank you”.

    As a person who recently had all of his cards stolen and used to make large fraudulent purchases, I think having the cashier ask for ID is the last line of defense.

  49. Syrenia says:

    This thread in all of its many incarnations is getting quite old. It’s really not that difficult:

    * The card needs to be signed, according to your card issuer.
    * Writing “See ID” or some variant is not the same as signing your card.
    * You can add “Ask for ID” but cashiers will rarely do so. When they do, don’t be a jerk about showing it. Maybe even thank them?
    * Some places (including, it seems, most post offices) will refuse an unsigned card. Many places will accept an unsigned card anyway. Some will ask for ID only when the card is unsigned.
    * No matter what you write on your card, check your transactions frequently. At a minimum, carefully examine the monthly statement before you pay it.

  50. omgwtfmfbbq says:

    I was informed by a fraud specialist that the reason “ask for ID” is not suggested for the card is because most people’s form of ID is their driver’s license. When you give your credit card up and they ask for ID, you offer them a glance at identifying info. ie full name, middle initial or name, address, zip code date of birth, driver’s license number, all which could be used to identify you. and connect you to your credit card. Same reason some backs have issued credit cards with your mug on them. Cashiers don’t look at your signature, they look at your picture. that’s why they look at you after looking at your ID. but by giving them your drivers license, a craft con could call access your account with the info on your DL as well as your card info.

  51. xamarshahx says:

    you should sign it and then add “ask for id” since if the card is not signed, anyone who finds your card can sign it themselves and suplicate the signature if anyone actually even checks. the best thing they could do is implement pin numbers for credit cards juts like debit cards. as far as no being required to show id, i have had plenty of instances (especially in high tourists areas) where they have required id for the purchase and i was happy they did. i dont understand why people dont like showing id when it is for their security, its not like they are photocopying your id, they are checking your name and picture, when i worked at a bank people would be so anal about showing id.

  52. MontanaJen says:

    @Skellbasher: I used my “Please see ID” and signed card at the USPS twice last week. Smooth as silk, the worker asked to see my ID, I had it out, and I walked away with a receipt for my packages. I also use it in government offices that take plastic, such as my local county office where I license my vehicle every year.

    I think that the ID thing is dependent, as is pretty much any other widely distributed practice, upon human comfort level.

    I have found that during the holidays, I get an almost 100% ID request from clerks. The rest of the year – around 50% or so. This could be regional practice, too…

  53. LJKelley says:

    The card companies should do what they do in Norway for example and put your picture on the back of the card. No invasion of privacy as it gives no more details than your picture and name but it allows a merchant to see that it is your card.

  54. Tallanvor says:

    This is why I’ve mostly stopped reading Consumerist on the weekends… It seems like everything that’s posted then is trash.

  55. karmaghost says:

    I have “Ask for ID” on the back of my cards, but I increasingly believe that it’s a waste. No one ever asks me for my ID and I dunno why; I wrote it on there, so obviously I don’t mind if you ask me for it.

    One time, however, I was in a liquor store and they asked for my ID for the age check. After he handed it back to me, I handed him my credit card and upon seeing “Ask for ID,” he asked for my ID again. Now that is potentially unnecessary.

  56. Rando says:

    I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but the signature means absolutely NOTHING to a credit card merchant, except for in extreme cases. There are many other factors that merchants go by such as card present or account lookup or presale, ETC. Signatures are only a method to make consumers feel like they have a sense of security.

  57. SomeoneGNU says:

    Putting “Ask for ID” on your signature line is as effective as putting “Please do not use this if stolen”. Cashier is, generally, a lower paid job and people’s attentiveness to their duty tends to correlate to their salary.

    I spent over $1000 in a Bestbuy on an unsigned credit card and I wasn’t asked for ID. I even joked about I was surprised that the card worked since it was shutdown earlier that week for fradulant transactions. Later that day, I went to a craft store and spent $10 with the same card but was asked for ID.

  58. rg says:

    Bottom line for me, when I get a new card it tells me to immediately sign the back. If there’s ever a problem, I’ve done as the cc company has told me to do so any resulting issues it’s their problem. I had my identity stolen in 1996, before it was fashionable and before there was all this “help” available. I realized then there is only so much you can do to protect yourself. The best thing you can do, is follow the instructions of your cc provider, etc. They can’t give you any lip if you’ve played by their rules!

  59. farker says:

    Sign the card, and then put “ASK FOR ID” next to it. That’s the best thing you can do, and you’ll be lucky if 10% of the stores you visit ask for your ID.

    I’ve worked in retail part time for the past few years. We upgraded to the “customer swipes it themself” system about a year ago, so now the onus is on the customer.

    If your credit card is stolen, it’s not the cashier’s responsibility to find that out for you. Keep all the 1-800 numbers for your credit card companies in your cell phone and at home or work so that you can contact them if your wallet or purse is stolen.

    Safeguard your belongings, and be aware of your surroundings. Shred documents you don’t need that contain sensitive data, and keep the rest in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe mounted to the foundation of your house or in your safety deposit box.

  60. .Trenchant. says:

    The thing is, just writing See ID on your card does not make it valid. At Toys R Us, we’re told to never accept those cards at all, unless they’re signed, and we cannot allow the purchase to go through even if the person signs it in front of us unless they provide us with ID.

    It’s pretty simple… The card MUST be signed. It’s part of the user agreement between the card hold and the issuing company, and it’s part of the retail agreement between the issuing companies and retailers who choose to process those cards. I’ve personally sent off a lot of angry people who refuse to sign “for security purposes”, despite explaining to them that not signing their card leaves it exposed to anyone else’s signature, and as far as the retailer can tell, if a thief’s signature matches the one on the back of the card, our responsibility ends there. The cardholder is then responsible for all fraudulent charges, and should the card be retrieved with a signature that does not match their own on it, they are responsible for 100% of all fraudulent charges on it.

    Sure, ADDING “See ID” to the card alongside a signature doesn’t hurt, but unfortunately, in the two years I’ve had it on my card, I haven’t been asked for it once. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough reliable cashiers out there, and I personally feel it’s Visa/MC/Amex’s faults for not implementing a PIN system. The idea of nothing but a signature being a valid form of confirmation and security is ridiculous.

  61. captainleah says:

    i sign my cards with my real signature, and i sign the slips with the same signature. when a cashier asks me for my id i give it to them. i don’t belong here.

  62. evanchsa says:

    Continuing what Syrenia said:

    * The card needs to be signed or it is not valid.
    * Writing “See ID” or some variant is not the same as signing your card p29 of the rules for Visa merchants.
    * Adding “See ID” means you have to add that to your signature according to p28 of the Visa merchant guidelines
    * Some places will refuse an unsigned card; others will follow procedures like those described on p29 of the rules for Visa merchants
    * Carefully examine the monthly statement before you pay it.
    * Your liability for fradulent credit card transactions are limited to $50
    * Your liability for fradulent debit card transactions are $50 within 48 hours; $500 after 48 hours; after 48 hours, potentially 100% of your balance.

    Adding “See ID” or any of its variants is a poor piece of advice because it:

    * Lulls people in to a false sense of security
    * Messes up a complicated contract between VISA and merchants with respect to card acceptance policies and procedures

  63. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    I’ve worked for Wal-Mart and Home Depot before as a cashier, not to mention a few gas stations. A few things to remember here: cashiers are generally paid a crappy wage, and deal with crappy people all day long. They simply want to get done with their shift as quickly and easily as possible and why shouldn’t they? They are getting paid minimum wage in most places.

    Also, if it turns out a card IS stolen, the STORE is the one out the money, not the cashier, so why should the cashier care? Simply put, it’s not the cashier’s problem.

    And finally, the reason why I never compared signatures or checked IDs when I was a cashier was because if a customer objected, they would get pissed and ask for a manager. Then the manager would come over, ask what the problem was, and tell me to accept the card anyway, overriding company policy and making me look like a jackass for doing my job properly and following company policy. It was simply way more bullshit than any minimum wage worker should have to deal with.

    The faster the customer gets their purchase and gets out of the store, the happier the customer is. And the less time the cashier has to spend on a customer, the happier the cashier is. Win win for both parties.

    Retail sucks. Shop online.

  64. brettt says:

    shame on you, consumerist.

    the credit card agreement explicitly states that a card is not valid unless it is signed. while some retailers might accept them with “see id,” you are still telling us to break the agreement. i think i read that on this site, too.

  65. edrebber says:

    Doesn’t showing your id to a cashier put you at risk for identity theft?

  66. humphrmi says:

    @BugMeNot2: Read the OP again, consumerist isn’t saying don’t sign your card, they’re saying write “see id” on the back. You can do both, you know.

    @BugMeNot2: Once again, when a consumer requests an ID check on the back of their card, that should be their (the consumer’s) prerogative. If that request is not on the card, then retailers should not demand ID as a condition of sale. I see no conflict here, it’s about – you know – giving the consumer what they want, hence “consumerist”.

    C’mon, it’s not that complicated folks.

  67. JasonKeiderling says:

    The consumerist writers need to make up their minds. A few months ago they taught us that writing “Ask For ID” on your credit card was a lose-lose situation. According to merchant agreements with Visa and MC merchants cannot accept an unsigned card, including one that reads “Ask For ID”. Merchants also cannot refuse a transaction if you refuse to show ID. Heck, merchants might end up on consumerist just for ASKING for ID in the first place. Now they say it’s a good idea. This is ridiculous.

  68. Alex Chasick says:

    Here’s a good case study…

  69. MelL says:

    @hejustlaughs: So showing your ID is more of a hassle compared to, say, disputing the charges that come up if your CC is stolen and not having that CC for a period of time?

  70. rainday says:

    Exactly what I wanted to say. Merchants can’t refuse the transaction if you say you don’t want to show an ID.@JasonKeiderling:

  71. Surfergirl1286 says:

    I don’t know if anyone has mentioned or thought of it, but there’s barely enough room to write a signature, let alone also writing “see id”. Theres just not enough space on the little strip provided to fit all that in.

  72. Carey Alexander says:

    @petrarch1608, Skellbasher, Matthew Hughes, BugMeNot2, Hejustlaughs: Please make a small effort to read the post before rushing to comment. There is a world of difference between a merchant violating the cardholder agreement by demanding to see identification, and a consumer trying to extract an added measure of protection by asking retailers to verify identification. The former, as we’ve repeatedly pointed out, is not ok, but consumers can and should do everything in their power to protect themselves.

    As I wrote in the post, adding “Ask for ID” is optional, and does not in any way replace a signature. This does not conflict with our previous advice.

    If you don’t want someone asking for your identification, then don’t write “Ask for ID!” If you want a quick, free way to toss an extra hurdle between a thief and your card, then by all means, whip out the pen and add “Ask for ID” next to your signature.

  73. BigNutty says:

    Still a good idea but when a credit card is stolen, many times the whole purse or wallet was also taken.

    Cashiers that verify credit cards usually just look to see that the names on the ID amd credit card are the same. Rarely they look at the picture.

  74. Softly-with-a-Big-Stick says:

    See ID at one time had some validity IMO, but since we can now use a credit card in multiple places without ever having the merchant see the card, what difference does it make. Also used to be the clerks responsibility if it was fraud—right out of their minimum wage paycheck for not checking. Same as writing a bad check.

    So, on/off topic but relevant? Most restaurants bring your bill and ask you to leave your credit card in their little ‘wallet.” They then collect the wallet and take it to the register to ring up the sale, returning it to you for signature. In that short time they are capable of getting all the information from your card—including the 3-digit ID number on the back. I even read where there is some kind of gadget that is palm size that can be used to quickly “swipe” the card and they now have everything they need.

    If you use your CC to make online or phone purchases, all they need are the numbers—no verification process. And what about places that now allow you to swipe your CC and accept them without a PIN?

    Lastly, how many of you sign the receipt at a restaurant and leave the receipt on the table for the waitstaff to collect after you leave? Were I a crook, I’d sit and watch and scoop up half a dozen on my way out. Voila! Cash for immediate online purchases. (Sorry, did they change that process and only print the last 4 of the number, seems I read that here, if so—sorry, if not beware!)

    Frankly, I don’t think there is a way for a secure transaction anymore. But I’m also not comfortable carrying more than about $50 cash—MAX! I can’t afford to lose more than that, and just try to prove to your insurance company that you were carrying $1,00.00 in cash! Like those crooks would believe anything and pay a claim.

    Nope, nothing is safe or sacred. All you can do is try to keep track of where things are and where they are being used. Sadly, not something I do often enough.

  75. Shmonkmonk says:

    @Hanke: Every time I ask a customer to sign a valid signature, they get all huffy and tell me that a giant “X”, a smiley face, a scribble, etc. is their signature. I’ve gotten customers get angry because I ask for their ID and I’ve also gotten those that make snide remarks when I don’t. Seriously, there’s no way we can win.

  76. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @Skellbasher: I use mine to pay for packages sent overseas a few times a year. I haven’t had a problem yet.

  77. humphrmi says:

    @Carey: Cripes, I’m glad someone else besides me jumped in to try to explain it. I was beginning to think I was the only one reading the post. (Yes I know, you wrote it. Anywho….)

  78. MARTHA__JONES says:

    @Shmonkmonk: Legally your signature is whatever you choose to sign. If a customer chooses to write “X” as their signature then that is their legal signature.

    My husband had a professor in law school who changed his signature daily (it was a succession of numbers) and kept a diary to be able to identify fraudulent signatures on charge drafts.

  79. Skellbasher says:

    To the few that have commented on using a ‘See ID’ signed card at the USPS, you would seem to be in a minority. There are a large number of documented cases where the USPS will refuse cards signed this way, as well as other government agencies.

    I think it’s about time for the Consumerist to contact Visa or Mastercard toget a more official response on this subject. To me, their online merchant agreements are pretty cut and dry, however there are some that seem to disagree with their interpretation.

    This is almost a moot argument since more and more transactions are customer swiped at POS terminals, and a vast majority of cashiers don’t bother to look at the back of the card anyways.

  80. Silversmok3 says:

    Its almost irrelevant.Maybe 10 years ago it would stop fraud, but these days scammers steal and spend your credit/debit cards without ever touching (or needing)your card.

    You can thank corporate security breaches and insider information theft for that.

  81. BugMeNot2 says:

    Just a few days ago at the post office, I was asked to sign my new unsigned card on the spot, as I’m told they will accept an unsigned card.

    I signed it “Your Mama”. The clerk didn’t notice or cared. :P

  82. VA_White says:

    99% of the time, the cashier never touches my card with his hands during the transaction. I swipe my own card, I punch the “credit” key, I hit “ok” and I sign the screen with the shitty electronic pen.

    When are they going to ask me for my ID?

  83. Norcross says:

    I’ve put that on my cards forever, and nothing pisses me off more than when someone looks at it, clearly sees what it says, then DOESN’T FUCKING ASK ME!

  84. @Carey: The problem I see is that if I write on my card to ask for ID, it gets stolen, the cashier asks the thief for ID, and he pulls out the merchant agreement saying they can’t require ID for the purchase.

    It would certainly cast suspicion on the thief, but legally wouldn’t the merchant be right to still make the purchase without ID?

  85. Lucky225 says:

    I think writing “See ID” is kind of a contradiction. What if you write “See ID” on your card and have the signature on it in the signature panel, and then refuse to provide identification since it is not required per the merchant agreement. Now you go home and make a complaint on mastercard’s website that the merchant required identification and they get a nasty letter from their acquirer. If I was a merchant, I certainly wouldn’t ask for ID, unless the card wasn’t signed, in which case I’d ask for ID and refuse the transaction until they signed the card.

  86. opsomath says:


    That’s exactly what happened to me: the guy whipped up a fake ID matching his homebrewed credit card with my number. Sorry, “check ID” doesn’t help me and is an added layer of monitoring in our increasingly surveillance-ridden society.

  87. Carey Alexander says:

    @Matthew Hughes: “It would certainly cast suspicion…” Mission accomplished! As I wrote in the first sentence, telling retailers to ask for identification “isn’t an unimpeachable guarantee of security.” It’s just an extra hurdle.

    That said, I like your scenario. Technically, you’re probably right, but brushing aside whether or not the thief knows of, let alone carries, the cardholder agreement, making a principled stand probably wouldn’t end well for the thief—at least not at IHOP or Walmart.

  88. sam1am says:

    It’s funny how one thing gets published here or on lifehacker or some other big site one month, then a completely contradictory thing the next.

    Your last line of defense against fraudulent activity is your credit card company reimbursing you of any fraudulent charges. That’s it. Writing “SEE ID” on the back of your card is fine, if you want, but completely unnecessary. Writing “Do Not Accept This Card Ever” would be just as effective and still allow you to use your card as normal.

    The credit card companies have set it up so you don’t have to do much – just report it when your card disappears or when you notice questionable activity. End of story.

  89. microbreak says:

    Not like anyone reads down this far, but here’s a clever solution that I haven’t seen posted yet.

    1. Sign the back of it.

    2. Write “See ID” on the FRONT of the card (Black Sharpie works fine).

    No merchant rules broken, same false sense of security. This is actually MORE noticeable then being on the back of the card because really, who writes on the front of their card?!

  90. Lucky225 says:


    That’s the problem we have in this society though. We have different views on Credit Cards, those who want merchant to check ID(Merchants AND Customers) even though the merchant agreement expressly forbids it being a REQUIREMENT of the transaction regardless if SEE ID is wrote on the card or not; Those who sign their cards and just want to use the credit card — well — LIKE A CREDIT CARD(customers, some merchants, and the card companies), and then we got those who think that they can go around their contractual agreements to enforce a STORE POLICY, and then somehow think that STORE POLICY = LAW, and presume law abiding cardholders trying to make a regular credit card purchase are criminals. Promoting this ‘anti fraud’ technique only further promotes minimum wage high school drop out employees who don’t even know what a merchant agreement is, to think that checking ID is something standard and REQUIRED for the purchase when it is in fact not. The Mis-Information Campaign is what hurts the most. Leave it to the Card Issuers to make the rules, they have deemed what is acceptable and expected by their customers and the methods where profit outweighs the loss. After all, your fraud liability is legally $50, and most cards have zero fraud liability. As many have pointed out, with features that don’t even involve the cashier(self-checkout, swiping the card yourself, gas stations, red box machines, the internet, and now even RFID enabled cards for use at ‘paywave’ machines where you don’t even have to take the card out of your wallet), there’s no point in writing See ID.

  91. johnva says:

    There is no reason I would ever do this, considering that a) there is very little evidence that it reduces fraud, b) there IS evidence that showing ID increases exposure to identify theft, and c) we’re not liable if there is fraud on a credit card. Why should I compromise my privacy more than necessary in order to protect my credit card company? This post seems to be based on a fundamentally flawed premise.

  92. Britt says:

    I’ve worked in retail for the last three years, and I always, ALWAYS check that the signatures match. If I get a ‘Please See ID’, I ask the customer to sign their name either over or next to those words. If they refuse, I ask for a separate form of payment.

    Unless the customer’s name is ‘PLEASE SEE ID’, then the card IS NOT VALID. I’ve never been anywhere in my province that allows me to swipe my own CC, only in the States. Last time I went shopping in Alberta, I was asked to produce my driving licence for every transaction I made with my CC. Some cashiers ask, some don’t. The fact of the matter is that a card is not valid unless the signature is there. Period.

    I would hope that customers pay closer attention to their bills than to rely on something so stupid as CID.

  93. Xkeeper says:

    @petrarch1608: I’m pretty sure they’re discussing putting it in addition to the signature, and not in place of.

  94. Xkeeper says:

    @Britt: I would hope that customers pay closer attention to their bills than to rely on something so stupid as CID.

    The implication of this post (that it seems absolutely nobody bothered to fucking read, way to go Consumerists, way to go) is that it’s one more step you can take in preventing it from happening. By no means is it a catch-all solution and they’re not recomming you use it and only it.

    The lack of intelligence in the commenter mindset (look, refrences to old stories in every page! ha ha i’m so witty) or blame-the-victim mentality when unwarranted is disgusting and I really wish something would be done about it.

  95. sventurata says:

    I think it’s about time for the Consumerist to contact Visa or Mastercard to get a more official response on this subject.
    Seconded! My God, I am so tired of constant uninformed speculation masquerading as authoritative advice over here. Get some facts, talk to the right people, quit relying on poorly-chosen sources and for heaven’s sake, sign your cards already.

    By the way: writing SEE ID does NOTHING when the card information is cloned and transferred to a counterfeit card. According to the RCMP, counterfeit card fraud “represents the largest category of credit card fraud, involving Canadian issued cards, with 37% of all dollar losses” (Source: [www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca]). So, even in a world of sunshine and rainbows when Mr and Mrs Yuppie thank the lowly cashier for making them take the time to pull out ID (or, for that matter, use their own damn card instead of their spouse’s), they’re not much ahead than previously… if at all. See comments above. I’m not about to reiterate this further.

  96. Lucky225 says:



    “Those who would give up liberty for security deserve neither.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

    As Basil states, 37% of card fraud is COUNTERFEIT cards, where your SEE ID message isn’t going to matter since it won’t be displayed on the COUNTERFEIT card, another reason I think cards w/ your picture printed on it is stupid.

  97. CapitalC says:

    It doesn’t freakin’ work – I have SO MANY people actually look at the sig panel on the back of the card, where it clearly says “PLEASE ASK FOR PHOTO ID” right below my signature … and they don’t.

    I swear they’re looking for a sticker saying “PUNKED” or something.

  98. sycophant says:

    I never understand you crazy Americans (or your crazy commerce systems anyway).

    In NZ I barely ever carry cash, I pay for everything (from 50c transactions to overseas travel) with EFTPOS using my bankcard. I never have to sign anything, just enter my convenient PIN number and hit enter. It works or it doesn’t, that’s it.

    If I want to get fancy and spend money I don’t have yet, then I can use my Visa, in which case I do exactly the same thing – I enter a PIN number, never have to sign anything. Only with my Amex to I have to actually sign the receipt (and the signature is seldom checked).

    Something like 80% of daily transactions in NZ are electronic now.

  99. TheDude06 says:

    Dear consumerist,

    Please read the visa merchant guidelines, page 17.

    I learned that from you!

  100. Mike_Hawk says:

    Last time I checked minimal protection (say 3%) is better than no protection. I get asked over half the time (assuming the clerk handles the card at all)

    It amazes me sometimes that there are so many people get all bent out of shape by other people writing “See ID” on their cards.

  101. HOP says:

    i have it on my credit card, but no one checks my card at the gas pumps….i also don’t spend anything at best buy cause i never enter their stores….all in all, having ask for id is probably a good idea….

  102. thedap says:

    If you read the back of the card, it says, ‘Card not valid unless signed’. So, when people say ‘Don’t sign it they’ll ask for ID’ technically they just can’t accept it if it isn’t signed.

    But most people are dumb anyway.

  103. digitalgimpus says:

    @petrarch1608: Yes it does void. I recall someone in HS telling me he’s wasn’t allowed to accept cards that had that on there per CC agreement and the store’s lawyers, who didn’t want to take the risk of someone misreading the comparison between ID and cc.

    Think about it… does adding something like that sound like a good idea? No, didn’t think so.

  104. dragonvpm says:

    Have folks noticed how easy it is to rub the signature panel off of CCs? I’ve had some of mine for a few years now and I was surprised to see that just from sitting in my wallet and being used from time to time, about 1/4 of the signature strip had just worn off.

    What’s to stop someone from rubbing off the signature panel where it says “ask for ID” (or doing something else to make it unreadable)? As counterfitters have shown us, any protection scheme can be defeated through some use of technology AND social engineering.

    Even if someone doesn’t do anything to tamper with your card they can still a) take it to a store where an equally shady friend works, b) go to a place with a self-check-out lane (assuming they acquired your card w/ your wallet/purse and they have your zip code from your D/L) c) take it to a store that they know has lax CC procedures.

    Ultimately your best line of defense is vigilance. Check your balances as often as possible and really look at the charges that show up, don’t just assume they’re right (and this is true for anything, from your cell phone, landline, CC, bank statement etc…)

  105. y2julio says:

    If you added “see ID” or “Ask for ID” or any other variant. Wouldn’t you also have to add that to your signature when you sign off on your purchase?

  106. Kajj says:

    If you must do this, PLEASE be polite to your cashier, whether she checks your ID or not. I’m still smarting from the dressing-down I got at my college job from an unbelievably nasty woman with a “Check ID” credit card.

  107. Echodork says:

    I always write ASK FOR ID on my cards. When cashiers do ask, I know it’s at my request, and I gladly show my license. Only about 20% of cashiers bother to ask, though.

  108. anatak says:

    @Matthew Hughes: I was thinking the same thing. It’s only ok for a cashier to ask for it when we want them to. This practice is asinine. I used to buy loads of stuff for my employer with his personal cards – and I’d sign my name, the company name, whatever. They never asked for ID, they never compared signatures. Most of the time they never even got a look at the card as I was the one swiping it. Never an issue.

    So this practice give you:
    no protection at gas pumps.
    no protection online.
    little to no protection in stores.

    Sounds like a great idea. You should write it all over the front and back of all of your cards.

  109. Ninjanice says:

    I’ve worked in retail for a very long time and have a couple of things to say about this. First of all, your card HAS to be signed for a retailer to accept it (if they are doing their job right). Just read the back of your card over the signature panel- it will say “void if not signed” or something along those lines. You agreed to this when you signed up for the card as part of the Ts and Cs. If you haven’t signed your card and instead just write “see ID”, I cannot take it for payment. I didn’t make up this rule, your credit company did and you agreed to it. Second, if you did sign it and write “see ID” also, be sure you actually HAVE your ID if you’re trying to buy something. If you come in with a card with “see ID” written on it, I assume that you wanted your ID checked EVERY time you use it. It amazes me how people will tell me “it’s my card, I just wrote that in case it got stolen”.

  110. theblackdog says:

    Is that baby holding an AmEx black card?

  111. jimv2000 says:

    I agree that it’s pointless. Most stores have little stations that you swipe the card at and the cashier never even sees the card. Or Wal-Mart, with the self-checkout, where there is no cashier at all.

    There are a million ways a thief can use your card and never worry about getting ID’d or signature checked. Your best defense is to not lose your card.

  112. AnderBobo says:

    I was in line at H&M yesterday and this teenage girl was trying to use her Father’s CC and the cashier straight up refused to accept it b/c it was her father’s name on the card and not hers. The girl was pleading with the cashier too and she was like “sorry, nothing I can”. The girl left in a total huff, I was surprised to see a retail store take such a strong arm against that kind of thing.

  113. LVP says:

    When I worked in retail I never really checked the signatures. If there was no signature I would let the customer know and ask them to sign it.

  114. Britt says:

    @Xkeeper: Sorry to leave a bad taste in your mouth with my comment. No need to be a turd about it.

    The point is that writing it really doesn’t solve problems. Like everyone else has said. For me, it causes problems, because I have to nag at a customer to FOLLOW THEIR CC CONTRACT, which they should have known to do in the first place.

  115. Bog says:

    I get a laugh out of this. A signature legally is not necessarily a person’s name or signed name. If you look to the statues at large then technically “See ID” is a signature as it is a mark and memorandum.

    For Example: in Washington State a signature legally means “_any_ memorandum, mark, or sign made with intent to authenticate any instrument or writing, or the subscription of any person thereto.” (RCW 9A.04.110)

  116. SumitraFaloola says:

    Comment on Writing “Ask For ID” On Your Credit Card Won’t Stop Fraud, But It’s Still A Good Idea A simple solution to the vast majority of credit card fraud would be to
    require a pin code for every transaction just like is required for debit
    cards. Places that accept credit cards already have keypads attached to the
    machine and it wouldn’t be a big deal for web sites to add a box for a pin
    code to their checkout in place of the ccid number on the back of the card.
    The CCID isn’t allowed to be stored in the internet site’s database already.

  117. Lucky225 says:


    Yea, as much as I hate retailers asking for ID when it’s against policy I gotta share this story in regards to your comment. I had a friend who signed everything “Lesbian Crackwhore”. He used his card at a retailer once and signed the receipt in his usual fashion. The clerk said THAT IS NOT A SIGNATURE, LET ME SEE YOUR CARD! He showed her the credit card with the signature Lesbian Crackwhore on the back and she suspected it was stolen. Instead of placing a Code-10 call she asked for photo ID. She said if this is truly your signature it will be on your license. He said no problem, whipped out his driver license with his usual mark, Lesbian Crackwhore. The clerk just looked at him and handed him his receipt.

  118. hejustlaughs says:

    @MelL: Yes, i use my CCs several times per day. If i had to show ID each and every time it’d add up over the long run.

    Have you ever disputed charges before? All they do is have you circle which charges are not yours and mail it back. Done.

    One of my cards was de-activated and I was without it for a week tops. So I had to go through a week using one of my several other cards. Most smart consumers carry several cards… and for many reasons.

    One card gets me 5% back on gas, pharmacy, and supermarket purchases. Another gets me 5% back at restaurants, movie theaters and book stores, and etc. etc. So I doubt I’d be left hanging if I was without one of my cards for a bit.

    and so yes. i’d rather not show ID because it’s a false sense of security and pointless.

  119. cametall says:

    After working retail for 2 years I began putting “Check ID” on the back of my cards.

    Only once in the past 3 years have I had my ID checked because of it on the back, and that was at GameStop.

    My mother had her credit cards stolen once, the crook went and bought all kinds of crap from a gas station, where they are not going to check ID.

  120. vdoncu1 says:

    I hate to show my ID to anyone. Why would you let someone violate little privacy that you have left if the LAW is on your side on this issue???
    I hate when clerk tells me its for my protection.
    Im fully protected by credit card issuer. If anyone uses my card without my authorization the bank will refund all the money that was taken.
    Why give extra rights or information to clerks and corporations???
    Private information sold and resold everyday between corporations. They study your shopping patterns and everything about you. DL number opens up a lot of doors.
    In the airport you get searched and you pay for it.
    Look back just 10 years back, all those changes all those fees. Everyone wants to look into you.
    If anyone know where I can report those stores and clerks please let me know. (visa911 is not helpful)