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)