Should you write ‘SEE ID’ or sign your credit cards?

Last week I had lunch with Hardy, a Get Rich Slowly reader here in Portland. We chatted about life (and personal finance) over burgers and fries. He generously offered to pay the bill. When the waitress returned with the credit card slip, she asked to see his driver license.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“Asking for my ID?” said Hardy. I nodded. He flipped over his credit card and showed it to me. He’d written SEE ID where his signature ought to be.

“Does that work?” I asked.

“Some of the time,” he said. “It gives you an idea of which places are paying attention. But not every place will accept it. It’s technically against the rules because the card has to be signed. Plus, businesses aren’t really allowed to ask to see your ID.”

“What do you do if they refuse to take your card?” I asked.

“I carry a backup,” said Hardy. “This is my main card. My back-up card has my signature, but I rarely have to use it. The only place that I know will refuse the main card every time is the post office. I have to use a signed card there.”

I was intrigued by this attempt to thwart identity theft, so when I got home I asked my Twitter followers:

My lunch companion doesn’t sign credit cards, but writes “SEE ID” on the back instead. Have you ever seen this?

I was shocked by the number of replies. Apparently, I’ve been living under a rock. Over 100 Twitter users replied to share their experiences with this tactic. Here’s what I learned:

  • Though many people write some form of “SEE ID” on their cards, it doesn’t seem to matter. @khaibit2763 writes that only about a quarter of merchants actually check ID. Others write that almost nobody checks.
  • Many tweeters correctly noted that most credit cards clearly state that they are “not valid unless signed”. Technically, writing “SEE ID” invalidates the card and voids the contract with the issuer. Still, not all issuers seem to be aware of this. I found this ID-theft awareness brochure [PDF] from Capital One which notes that one way to protect your cards is to “write that the merchant must check ID on the back of the card”.
  • @lildebbie77 made me laugh with her reply: “When I waited tables I saw it once or twice a month. The craziness? Some people get mad when you ask to see their ID.” If you choose to do this, don’t get upset when people comply with your request!
  • @katekashman uses a slightly different tactic. She leaves the “call to activate” sticker on the card. “Maybe a thief will think it isn’t activated,” she writes. “It isn’t much, but it’s something.”
  • @lizweston noted that this is one of her 9 big credit card myths at MSN Money. In her article, she writes, “You’ll certainly deter use of your card, because merchants aren’t supposed to accept one that’s not signed on the back, and that could affect you as much as any thief.” (Sidenote: Liz will be our guest on The Personal Finance Hour in two weeks!)
  • If you want to cover your bases, consider the advice from @aslaughter: sign the card and write SEE ID. And thank the people who actually ask to see your identification.

So, is writing “SEE ID” instead of signing your credit cards a good idea? It’s hard to say. Technically, it’s against the rules, and few merchants seem to notice, but it gives many folks a warm, fuzzy feeling. Plus, if you’re worried about your card being rejected, you can always do what Hardy does: carry a back-up to use at the Post Office.

Here’s a final word of caution: Jake Billo notes that if you present both your credit card and driver license to a skilled criminal, you’re just giving them more ammunition to destroy your life. He warns that this practice may actually increase your risk of identity theft.

For more tips on protecting your ID, check out my post on how to prevent identity theft. You might also be entertained by the credit-card prank over at Zug. Photo by szlea. If you’d like to help with future GRS posts, follow me on Twitter!

More about...Credit

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

There are 154 comments to "Should you write ‘SEE ID’ or sign your credit cards?".

  1. falnfenix says 09 June 2009 at 05:06

    i used to only write “See ID” on my cards, but stopped when i learned it’s against card issuer rules to ask. now, i write both…and applaud those employees who do actually read the signature strip.

  2. Mike says 09 June 2009 at 05:08

    I sign the card, then, with a little space left write, “Ask for ID.” This works everywhere, Post Office included.

    It is signed as required, but also notifies the reviewer to check me out.

  3. Marisa says 09 June 2009 at 05:13

    Is there any reason not to both sign and write “SEE ID” on the back of the card? At worst, I suppose you’d have to sign the credit receipt with both your name and the tag “SEE ID” if you ran into an ultra-picky merchant (like the post office).

  4. Roaming Gnome says 09 June 2009 at 05:14

    Signing your card is asinine as it means when someone steals your card they also have a signature to copy when they sign.

    I don’t care that the card says it has to be signed. I never sign mine. I leave them blank.

  5. Phill Bailey says 09 June 2009 at 05:17

    I think I’ve been living under a rock too. In the UK, I’ve never come across this, although signing receipts is now somewhat outdated as almost every card is being issued with a chip to use in a chip & pin reader. My question however is thus: if you write SEE ID on your card and they don’t ask to see it, then does this not make you more susceptible to fraud because they’re not checking your identity in any way… that’s just my 2¢.

  6. Chad says 09 June 2009 at 05:23

    I’ve found the post office to be the only place that cares or even asks to see my card when making a purchase.

    I’ve started drawing smiley faces and other silly things. No one checks anymore.

    I remember when it used to take an extra 30 seconds (or longer) for a cashier to inspect a signature and ID when someone paid with a check. I was always scared they’d reject it because I parted my hair differently.

  7. Manuel says 09 June 2009 at 05:24

    I do this on all my cards, I don’t carry and signed backups, the way I see it, if you don’t want to accept my card, you don’t want my business, I can go elsewhere just the same. I’ve never had my cards rejected, not even at the post office, even though they used to post that everywhere (they don’t seem to anymore around here…). I’ve actually noticed more merchants asking for ID lately, which I think is great, I always thank them for doing so, I never get annoyed (well, other than when they’ve already seen your ID, like to get into a liquor store, or other places where you have to show your ID to pick something up etc… ok, you’ve already seen it, why ask again?).
    I think they should put your picture on the back of the card like they do on some cards already… a few years ago I had a debit/credit card from a German bank that was like that, it was great, I wish this would take of more.

  8. Ann says 09 June 2009 at 05:24

    You’re not alone under your rock, JD, because I have not heard of this before either.

    I also like the idea of having a picture on the card. So many CC companies let you “personalize” your card with a picture, so why not one of you.

  9. Brad says 09 June 2009 at 05:25

    I have been doing this for a few years, and unfortunately almost no one checks my ID. I usually only get checked a few times per year. So, while I think that this is a great idea, I also feel that the majority of cashiers are indifferent when it comes to our security.

    • Brandon says 05 January 2013 at 11:40

      I can say in my case and the business I own that we are not indifferent. However the credit card companies themselves are. I deal with charge backs ( credit card fraud ) constantly and VISA along with master card both have spoken with me directly and told me that I am under no circumstances allowed to ask a customer for identification. They went so far as to say they would not allow us to accept visa if we did. Insanity correct? They also say that as long as the credit card number appears on the printed receipt and there is a signature its valid. Ridiculous. But if they are covered and we are covered that’s all the bean counters care about.

  10. Jennifer says 09 June 2009 at 05:27

    I’ve never signed any of my cards. I don’t intend to give a would be thief my signature to copy. I leave all my cards blank and about 1/2rd of the merchants I deal with ask to see my ID. Most of the time, I’m shopping at locations where you swipe your own card, so the cashier never actually sees if there is a signature or not.

  11. Zen says 09 June 2009 at 05:32

    When I use my credit card in a store or shop, the vendor rarely even takes it anymore. At the register, I am required to slide it through the reader and then hit either “Debit” or “Credit”.

    Sometimes I actually sign a paper receipt with ink, but more often, I actually sign the screen with a stylus. In either case, the cashier never even looks at my card.

  12. Alan Wild says 09 June 2009 at 05:34

    I’ve been doing this for 6 years. I use my credit card nearly every day*, and maybe once a month someone notices and asks to see my ID.

    * – yeah, yeah I know, cash is better. FWIW, I do pay the balance in full every month.

  13. Kyle says 09 June 2009 at 05:36

    Here’s a funny website related to credit card signatures and what great lengths you must go to in order to have merchants take a look:

    On a serious note, it’s probably best not to sweat over this too much. All major credit cards (Visa and Mastercard, at least) don’t hold you liable at all for fraudulent transactions.

  14. Caitlin says 09 June 2009 at 05:39

    Technically, it’s against the rules, and few merchants seem to notice, but it gives many folks a warm, fuzzy feeling

    Oh, no, the cashier certainly notices. They are either not allowed to request ID, or have tried in the past and gave up.
    When I was a cashier, we used to hate the people who wrote SEE ID instead of signing (people who wrote SEE ID as well as signing were fine) because we had sooooo many people get really upset and start yelling if we asked to see their ID. Finally, the manager said we were not allowed to ask to see their ID, even if their card requested we do so (technically, merchant’s aren’t allowed to ask for ID anyway).
    So yes, the merchants notice. We’re just usually not allowed to ask, or find it too much of a bother to ask. It gets very wearying to try and protect someone’s identity (by complying with their own request to check their ID) when you get yelled at for your efforts. Eventually, you just give up and don’t care anymore if that person has their credit card stolen. For $6.90 an hour, as a high school student, it just wasn’t worth it to me to get yelled at for trying to help.

    I’m not sure if it’s true anymore, in these days of no-signature-required credit card purchases, but in the past people who don’t sign their cards or write SEE ID were at the most risk. If a thief stole your card, they can simply sign it themselves – and then their signature will match “yours” for sure!

    • Chris K says 29 March 2019 at 13:23

      it annoyed you that people were trying to protect their finances? and what does the rate of pay per hour that you are making have anything to do with customers and their credit cards? I have worked both retail and Hospitality in the past and it never annoyed me to ask for someone’s ID. If a criminal where to completely sign over the spot where someone wrote see, now that would be suspicious. Also, the signature on the back of your card is not your ID. do you understand? anyone can just copy the name on the card. But not everyone has your ID.

  15. Tom says 09 June 2009 at 05:40

    I have see ID written in bold black ink on the back of each of my cards. I get asked 75 or 80% of the time to see my ID. I always thank them for checking. I use my cards every day and all over the country.

    As has been said, the Post Office is the ONLY place that has ever given me a hard time about using a card that has not been signed and says SEE ID. Those guys crack me up.

  16. Massey says 09 June 2009 at 05:41

    I agree with Chad. I used to write “See ID” on my credit cards and sometimes people would ask. But then I realized most people don’t even look at the back at all. So now I write “Smile” or “Thank you” on the back of my cards, so that way if people even take the time to look they get some immediate recognition. It has lead to several smiles and several “WTF?”s, which are both good for me.

  17. the weakonomist says 09 June 2009 at 05:48

    Your reader you ate with may be missing one big thing. If an id theif takes his card, it’s probably because he took his entire wallet. If I see two cars in a wallet and one only has the sig, I’m just going to use that one. Perhaps I’d use the seeID one online or something.

    Most ID theft does not happen at the physical credit card level. It happens when someone hacks into a sales server and takes thousands of card numbers at once. Putting “see ID” on a card to protect from ID theft is akin to putting sunscreen on one shoulder and spending 10 hours at the beach.

    I for one sign my cards but it makes no difference. You know how it says “not valid unless signed”? My fiance has never once signed any credit or debit card, she leaves it blank. Never had a single person question it.

  18. Ross says 09 June 2009 at 05:58

    Jennifer – leaving the line blank really won’t help you. A theif would simply sign your name in their own handwriting!

  19. Seamus says 09 June 2009 at 06:00

    I don’t sign my cards and actually get asked often for my ID, which is my goal. I have also seen employees looked at the back, see it unsigned, and just hand it back to me. One thing I have been told, not sure if it’s true or not, is that a thief using an unsigned card can be charged with that offense, but if you have it signed and they sign for the purchase, its forgery. As with an unsigned card, they aren’t technically forging your name, just making an unauhorized purchase. Anyone know if this is true? My preferred option, shopping at places that allow me to always keep possession of my card. I have one card that I used when wait staff needs to take the card out of my site.

  20. rick says 09 June 2009 at 06:02

    some clarification: per VISA rules (dunno about others), a merchant is allowed to ask for ID (regardless of if the card is signed or not or says “SEE ID”), but the merchant can’t make seeing an ID a requirement of completing the sale (if the card is signed). i sign my cards. and i don’t show id. i don’t need a stranger having access to my credit card number, exp date, special 3-digit number on the back, my name, my date of birth, my driver’s license number, AND my address. from my point of view, giving all that information away will make me more susceptible to identity theft than just my card and signature. besides, if someone gets my card, they ain’t going to use it at the dollar store. they’re going to best buy where u scan it yourself and don’t even hand it over. and it’s not like signatures are ever checked, i usually just scribble nonsense anyway. fraud is stopped by visa, etc. when their sophisticated algorithms see fraudulent looking behavior on the card.

  21. angie says 09 June 2009 at 06:04

    To Jennifer, and those who don’t bother signing your card at all, aren’t you just making it easier for the thief to just make up a signature? Thus, it makes it easier for them to use your card and in the event that the cashier checks the signature, it will be identical and there will be no delay for them to use your card multiple times before you’ve noticed your card has gone missing and get it cancelled.

  22. Hannah says 09 June 2009 at 06:05

    This was one of my biggest pet peeves when I was working at a register job. These people always handed me their credit card without their ID, and then acted shocked if I asked them for their ID. Then they actually had the nerve to scold me if I didn’t check their ID!

    It is NOT the merchant’s responsibility to protect you from identity theft. Keep track of your own credit card!

    I have seen a lot of people with credit cards that have a little picture of them on the front. At Bank of America it is called Photo Security, and CitiBank has a Photocard too. This is less intrusive, because it’s built into the card, and you’re still signing the back like you’re supposed to. But, just like no one is going to get out a magnifying glass and inspect your signature, no one is really going to take a long look at that picture. It’s not their job.

  23. Wilhelm Scream says 09 June 2009 at 06:06

    I personally wouldn’t like to not sign my card. For me, if it says “Not valid unless signed”, that’s a potential problem if there’s a problem with goods and a savvy seller tries to refuse to give me a refund. Anyway, with all the chip&pin technology, who actually asks people to sign any more?

  24. Zegi says 09 June 2009 at 06:13

    Hello JD,
    I just wanted to let you know that I am (sadly) unsubscribing from your blog. Though there is a lot of excellent material here, your feed format changed to delivering summaries to bloglines. Even though I have bloglines set to receive your full posts I don’t get them. If I wanted to read directly from your site, I wouldn’t be subscribed through a reader! I just wanted you to know that this behavior in bloglines is irritating enough that I just won’t read your site anymore. I realize there is probably some beneficial trade off for you, and you can’t always please everyone. I just wanted to provide my viewpoint. Thanks for inspiring me to better manage my money.

    J.D.’s response: From what I can tell, GRS should still be serving full feeds via RSS. Is anyone else experiencing this problem? Are you receiving partial feeds when you want full feeds?

  25. guinness416 says 09 June 2009 at 06:13

    Man, reading these and the twitter comments from ex-cashiers and waiters makes me feel quite bad for them in this situation. Another headache they have to deal with. Be nice to cashiers, people!

  26. Jon Anderson says 09 June 2009 at 06:14

    MY brother in law has “CID” in permanent marker on the front of his. I think he said someone at a liquor store did it for him, saying the writing on the back is useless. He gets asked a lot more now.

    I like having the extra ID check when I use mine, but honestly it is pretty worthless. Most big name stores have self-swipes for using your card now. No one even sees the card.

    Mine isn’t signed (I never think about it when I have a pen around) and that gets a lot of people to check, but I’ve never had it checked at a resturaunt like your friend.

  27. Wise Money Matters says 09 June 2009 at 06:21

    I wrote “See ID” on a past credit card. I only ever recall someone actually asking for my ID once or twice. Most of the time nobody even checks. I never had anyone refuse the card.

  28. JerryB says 09 June 2009 at 06:24

    I just wrote See ID on the front of my Visa. Thanks for the tip, Jon. I’ll see if it works.

    The back of mine have both signature and See ID, I only get asked about half the time. Some places like Target don’t bother to ask for an ID or have you sign if it’s less than a certain amount.

  29. mohonk says 09 June 2009 at 06:26

    I’m from Europe and today 90% of our credit cards are authorized by PIN code so the risk of fraud is limited.

  30. Beth says 09 June 2009 at 06:27

    I work part time at a local mall. Many people have not even signed their cards (Yikes!). One lady did sign it, managed to still write “see ID” on it and added “5’4″ brown eyes/hair, glasses”! A co-worker of mine used to work fraud at a bank card company and has lots of horror stories. He saw one of those cards with a photo on it – someone had stolen the card and attempted to glue their own photo over the one of the actual card holder. When someone gets grumpy over my asking for ID – I assure people I want to make sure they are the one having fun spending their hard earned money – not someone else 😉

  31. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 09 June 2009 at 06:36

    Very clever idea, but that only works in real life (not online or “onphone”) and provided the person accepting it reads and takes the time . . .

  32. Andrea says 09 June 2009 at 06:37

    I write See Id on my credit card and virtually no one asks to see my ID- I offer it and they wave it away.

  33. Justin Dearing says 09 June 2009 at 06:38

    I had my card completely unsigned for over a year. One day I used it on vacation in the island of Dumaguete in Philippines and I was forced to sign it.

    These days I sign my credit card Aaron Burr.

  34. Kim says 09 June 2009 at 06:40

    I haven’t worked retail since 1997, but I used to see “SEE ID” on peoples credit cards all the time. I always thought it was a good policy, and many of the folks that did it would tell me that no one ever checks. I also used to give people with unsigned cards a pen so that they could sign their cards. Many didn’t and would tell me that they didn’t sign their cards to keep thieves from stealing them… But then wouldn’t a thief just sign the card??

    Others would just scribble instead of signing a real signature, saying that it was too hard to duplicate. I guess thieves can’t scribble?? In the end, a signature is a poor way of confirming identity in this day and age.

  35. Mike T. says 09 June 2009 at 06:44

    I do this on my cards. Here is my thought on this. If my wallet is stolen or I lose it, and they look at the charge cards and see that on the card, the thief might possibly just throw them away instead of using the cards. Hopefully my wallet never gets lost or stolen!

  36. PETE says 09 June 2009 at 06:48

    Golly, I thought I invented that many years ago 😉

    The thinking behind this is that when you sign the card, you give the thief exactly what he/she needs to pull of their scam, they know how to sign your name. Secondly, a photo ID is required so they can match the face (Much harder to forge).

    It worked well for me as I have a signature which is not my complete name. (We only have a debit card now).

    The idea came about 12 years ago when an aquaintence had her purse stolen. With minutes checks and credit charges were flowing. The thief knew just how to sign each slip or check.

    It works well in Minnesota as the merchants are now much more concerned about the issue (Does not work at the Post office).

    These days, a smart thief will simply buy gas and make purchases under $25 when no signature is required. Clerks don’t even look at the card anymore for these “small” purchases. Easy pickins.

  37. Jeremy Olexa says 09 June 2009 at 06:56

    No point in having extra hassle of SEE ID on your card because a) as others have stated, merchants don’t care. b) If I lost my wallet, I’m calling up my CC companies and canceling my card before it can get used and disputing any charges that do get through, if any.

  38. Dan says 09 June 2009 at 07:02

    I do this. I’ve never had anyone reject it, and it has resulted in a few more instances where my ID was checked. When they do check my license I make sure to thank them for doing their job. Then again, I also do this if a cashier checks my license when I’m buying alcohol.

    I have a somewhat sloppy signature that probably wouldn’t be too difficult to fake. One thing that I don’t like about signing the back of the card is that it just gives the potential thief something to reference should you lose your card.

    If I lose my card there will be an increased chance that someone will ask for ID and when the fraud signs they’ll have no reference — unless I lose my whole wallet, but I would notice that immediately. I don’t worry about someone taking my ID because I’ve never been asked to hand it over, just show it to prove that I’m the card holder. It doesn’t leave my sight.

    I think this needs to change, though. Instead the card companies should require that you check ID on purchases over a certain amount. The signature should be on file at the company and they should make an effort to build a signature database so that you can review the signatures on your purchases. This way there’s no reference for thieves and you can police things yourself. Of course, signatures are worthless when they’re on those low resolution digital pads. Can’t win.

  39. sara l says 09 June 2009 at 07:02

    I used to do this, but I don’t think it makes a difference. I feel like most places I shop don’t even bother looking at the back any more. It’s better practice to have a list of numbers to call at home and keep an eye on your account from home.

  40. Irony says 09 June 2009 at 07:09

    The only place I’ve worked I always checked ID was at Claire’s Boutique. The places I never checked included restaurants even when the tabs were huge. At popular retailers I ONLY checked cards that said “SEE ID” otherwise I just thought people with unsigned cards were silly to leave it blank for the criminal to sign in their own handwriting to make it easier to sign receipts. All the rest of the time I just checked the signature, and I’m an ameteur handwriting comparison specialist, not an expert!

    Easiest solution? Sign the card and write in bold (over and over the top of the words) SEE ID, so that the person knows the card is valid but knows you want the person to check ID.

    I have also customized my card to have my picture on the front. People don’t think I look like the picture but they certainly pay more attention to the picture than they ever did to the back of my card.

  41. Kevin M says 09 June 2009 at 07:10

    Isn’t it against the store’s merchant agreement to ask for ID? I’m not sure if the card user writing “See ID” is enough to get around that or not.

    Personally, I sign my cards, but no one looks at them anyway. My wife has used my card before and signed HER name with no questions asked. Most of the time the clerk doesn’t even check the card anyway – with the increasing number of electronic terminals to sign on, not to mention the under $25 rule.

  42. hobo says 09 June 2009 at 07:17

    been doing this for years, nobody really checks and i can say that i even use it at the post office and they don’t ask to see it either

  43. June E says 09 June 2009 at 07:18

    My boyfriend has “See ID” written on his card. He doesn’t always get asked, but gives a sincere thank you when asked. I’ve never heard him mention being turned down anywhere. And he’s not surrendering his drivers license to anyone, just showing it from his wallet, so no one can really steal info from it that way.
    My thought on it is that it probably doesn’t do much to deter theft because the same places that don’t check his id don’t check signatures, and I dont see him changing his purchase behavior based on who asks and doesn’t ask.

  44. Todd @ The Personal Finance Playbook says 09 June 2009 at 07:25

    My wife is a see IDer, I’m a signer. People rarely ask to see her ID, but when they do she smiles and thanks them.

  45. SR says 09 June 2009 at 07:26

    I’ve been doing this for about 8 or 9 years while living in Iowa, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis because of the risk of a thief forging my signature. The only time I have ever had a problem with it was at my former bank (Norwest at the time, somewhere around 2000) where the teller refused to perform a transaction until I signed the card, citing the “Not Valid Unless Signed” clause. However, once I signed it I was able to continue.

    I would estimate that about 90% of merchants I frequent in Minneapolis turn the card over to look, and 100% of those merchants who turn the card over ask for my ID. I always have it showing from my wallet window and thank them. They look at it long enough to verify the name on the card matches the name on the ID and the photo on the ID matches my face. The entire process lasts no more than 5 seconds at most.

  46. Mary says 09 June 2009 at 07:34

    When I worked as a cashier, I would frequently see “SEE ID.” I always checked, just because it makes people so happy and grateful.

    But, I’m not sure I would have noticed if their ID didn’t match their card…

  47. Ruth says 09 June 2009 at 07:36

    I checked ID’s when I saw “See ID” on the back. I cringed when I saw “CID” on the back (it actually took me several times to figure out what in the heck this meant.)

  48. Susan C. says 09 June 2009 at 07:36

    I started writing “Please Check ID” on the back of all my plastic cards after my debit card was stolen. Nearly a thousand dollars in charges were racked up, and the only charges my bank at the time didn’t reimburse were the ones where the thief forged my signature… copied from the back of my card.
    I always smile and say “Thank you” when a cashier asks to see my ID. The only place I’ve had a problem is the post office, but not recently. And oversees I’ve gotten funny looks, but they accept it.

  49. Jennifer B says 09 June 2009 at 07:38

    When is the US going to move to micro-chipped cards like they use in Europe? Or does any company issue micro-chipped credit cards in the US at this time?

    It would be a safety issue for us, and would certainly be more convenient for all of us travelers to the EU. My husband and I struggled to pay for things sometimes because our credit cards were not chipped. Most of the subway stations in Copenhagen only took cards, there was no way to pay with cash, and you had to have a chipped card to get the machine to work!

  50. Kristin @ klingtocash says 09 June 2009 at 07:44

    I sign and write See ID on the back. That way I’m not violating the card policy and most vendors I give the card to actually check. The thing that worries me is the number of places you can go and actually not hand the cashier your card. You only deal with the little machine and I’m not so sure that thing is checking my signature.

  51. Steve says 09 June 2009 at 07:49

    I do both. I sign my card and then write CHECK ID on the other end of the signature pad area. This way, merchants can check my signature with my drivers license signature. This way at least it is signed and I ask the merchants to check for ID.

  52. ashleyD says 09 June 2009 at 07:50

    i’ve been doing this since 18! i worked at sears as a teen and heard about it through a customer.

    i’ve never once been told i couldn’t use my card and it’s actually true that only about 1/4 of the checkers ask for my id.

    but! but! but! when they do ask for my id i thank them politely!!! (i’m southern though! ha!)

  53. JSKF says 09 June 2009 at 07:56

    I moved to San Diego from Boston two years ago and was shocked to find that every merchant, for every purchase (no matter how small!) asks to see ID. No one ever asked in MA! When friends visit, one of the things they complain about is that they keep having to pull out their ID.

    Cashiers in CA rarely check signatures but they do take the time to check the name on both the credit card and ID. Is that any better than checking the signature?

    I honestly don’t think it matters if someone signs with a signature or says “see ID”. If a thief wants to steal money using a credit card, they are going to figure out how to do it.

  54. DM says 09 June 2009 at 08:10

    I tried that in Canada (Ontario, to be precise) a few years back. I both had my signature and “see ID” written on the back. In the end, I was glad to get a new card when mine expired so I could sign it like a normal person.

    There was only a handful of times when I was actually asked for ID.

    That said, I would never dream of not signing the card at all. If a thief had access to fake ID, they could easily make one with my name. Of course, they could also practice my signature. Really, there’s only so far one can take fear of identity theft before admitting that whatever is going to happen will happen.

    Leaving the card unsigned seems like the easiest way to get screwed by a thief, though.

  55. Kevin says 09 June 2009 at 08:24

    This seems like waaaaay too much hassle, for no payoff. You’re inconveniencing yourself (causing cashiers to occassionally have you whip out another card and incurring more delay), and you’re inconveniencing the poor cashier by putting them in an awkward position of asking for something they’re probably not allowed to ask for.

    And for what? If your card DOES get stolen, neither you, nor the poor cashier stand to lose anything. You’re not liable for charges on a stolen card, and the clerk isn’t punished for accepting a stolen card. The dispute is between the store owner and the bank. Why go out of your way to make life easier for the two parties who aren’t the ones who have to deal with either end of the hassle?

    Just sign your card, and sign your receipts. If anything bad happens, let the bank/store worry about it.

  56. bentley says 09 June 2009 at 08:25

    “per VISA rules (dunno about others), a merchant is allowed to ask for ID (regardless of if the card is signed or not or says “SEE ID”), but the merchant can’t make seeing an ID a requirement of completing the sale (if the card is signed).”

    Tell that to DSW. My card was signed, they asked for ID, I said Can’t Ask For That, they said No Sale.

  57. Avistew says 09 June 2009 at 08:26

    That’s weird. People always ask to see my ID in North America when I use my Visa, and it doesn’t say “SEE ID”. I assume it’s because it’s a foreign one?
    Incidentally, I’d prefer if it worked like it does in France: with a chip and a code. I find it more safe than a signature. Many people don’t check signatures.
    My father once had a cheque falsified for a lot of money to another country. The guy who deposited it looked nothing like him, the signature was completely different and they apparently didn’t even ask for ID. That’s scary.

  58. Adam says 09 June 2009 at 08:28

    Not only does this invalidate your credit card, but this a completely ineffective form of security. Very rarely do places look at and read the back. Add to this the fact that more and more places don’t even handle your card anymore. They have self-service swipers, where the customer has to do all the work.

  59. rick says 09 June 2009 at 08:29

    “Tell that to DSW. My card was signed, they asked for ID, I said Can’t Ask For That, they said No Sale.”

    Tell THAT to VISA. ‘Crappy Perfume Store’ at my local mall did the same thing to me. So I went to the ‘Perfume Kiosk’ at the other side of the mall and got my product there, instead. Then I reported the store which is breaking the rules to VISA. Just because DSW is breaking the rules, doesn’t mean that the rules don’t exist.

  60. J.D. says 09 June 2009 at 08:30

    Bentley (#56) wrote: Tell that to DSW. My card was signed, they asked for ID, I said Can’t Ask For That, they said No Sale.

    See, I wonder about that, too. Fry’s Electronics asks for ID whenever I use a credit card, too. I’m curious as to when they can and cannot do this. (Fry’s also has a receipt checker at the door. Though this bugs me, I’m not one of those who willfully ignores them…)

  61. J.D. says 09 June 2009 at 08:32

    Oh, and another violation of terms that bugs me: Isn’t it true that merchants cannot tack on an extra fee for using a credit or debit card? Yet around my home, there are many small stores (usually gas stations or mini-marts) that do just this. One place charges 75 cents to use plastic! I was under the impression that this was against Visa terms of service…

  62. rick says 09 June 2009 at 08:34
  63. HollyP says 09 June 2009 at 08:38

    I always write See ID on my cards. On the rare occasions a merchant checks and asks for my ID, I always thank them.

    None of the businesses I frequent charge extra for plastic, but some gas stations offer a discount to those who pay cash. Same difference, IMO.

  64. Bear says 09 June 2009 at 08:41

    In 2005 and 2007 I did two trips all over the country and Canada. I had signed my card and wrote REQUEST ID on the back next to the signature. In all that travel (over 25,000 miles) I had my ID requested 3 times – that’s it – 3 times. I did have my card number stolen twice (once in MI, once in Quebec). Up until that time I had been a one credit card guy. I got a back up one after that experience. It can be a real hassle to have your card locked out and there was no way I was using my debit card except to get cash.

    I’ve given up on the REQUEST ID approach – so few merchants actually check it’s just not worth it.

  65. Karen says 09 June 2009 at 08:44

    I’m sorry to say that I think doing this is just stupid.

    Most places won’t ask for ID even if you ask, online merchants don’t need your signature, your card isn’t valid unless you sign, and if you leave it blank a thief could sign.

    If your card is stolen you aren’t liable for charges if you notify your bank. You’re better off memorizing the number to call if this happens.

  66. Robert Rowe says 09 June 2009 at 08:44

    I work at Staples. We’re encouraged to check every card that gets handed to us. (If they swipe their credit card, we still need to see it). If the back isn’t signed, or says “See ID” (or any variation), we have to ask.
    I also ask on larger purchases (usually over $100). I usually get “thank yous” when I ask.
    I think I like the idea of signing (to comply with the card’s agreement), AND writing “Ask for ID”. Interesting post, and lots to think about.

  67. DrJudy says 09 June 2009 at 08:45

    I have this written on all my cards. Mostly useless as my ID is rarely checked. Most places never even look. I have never had it turned down…not even at the Post Office. I figured that if my card was stolen and used, it would be a good defense that the merchant didn’t check. Yet to be tested…I hope I never have to.

    Ha! That sounds just like Capital One!

  68. Aithnea says 09 June 2009 at 08:46

    As someone who works retail I can tell you that it is pretty rare for me to see someone who has written, “See ID” or “Ask for Photo ID” on their card. It is much more common for me to see people come in with either their spouse’s or boss’ card and get mad when we refuse the card. You would also be surprised how many people don’t sign their cards at all once they find out that “See ID” is against the rules. If the card isn’t signed we are supposed to refuse the card, even if you have 3 pieces of photo ID on you.

  69. Susan says 09 June 2009 at 08:48

    I have a friend whose wallet was stolen and the police officer taking her report advised her to never sign a card and only write “SEE ID” on the back.

    I’ve done this ever since and have never had a problem using the card. Some merchants ID me, some don’t.

  70. JB says 09 June 2009 at 08:51

    It seems that some areas of the country or at least some shopping malls in those areas always ask for an ID where others seldom or never do. I don’t give them a hard time when they do because I appreciate any attempts to reduce identity theft.
    Maybe it’s a character flaw, but I’m also a bit skeptical of the real usefulness so I always show something meaningless I find in my wallet like a business card or insurance card. I can only recall one time a clerk has ever balked and asked for a real form of ID.

  71. kptice says 09 June 2009 at 08:54

    I agree with Steve (comment 51). Although I don’t sign my card, I simply show the merchant my driver’s license so they can verify that it’s my signature (which is on my license). Think of it as you do with traveler’s checks. Another advantage of putting “SEE ID” is that if it is stolen, the back of the card isn’t blank, so the thief can’t sign it.

  72. heidi says 09 June 2009 at 09:02

    convenience fees are allowed. there are some rules as to when they can be charged, but as with most rules it’s pretty simple for the vendor to claim that they fall within the bounds. as for asking for id, technically the vendor can ask you to do whatever they want… it’s up to you whether or not you comply. for those of you who have been denied the transaction, the vendor can claim that you were denied for some other reason. for instance, if you were snarky about being asked for your id, they could claim that you were rude to the salesperson, and service was denied for that reason.

    i’ve worked retail for the majority of my adult life, and it’s been interesting to note the change in attitude about asking for id. it seems like years ago everyone was offended, nowadays more people seem to appreciate it when you ask. i must say, as both a customer and a customer service rep, i’m surprised when people make such a fuss over being asked for id. shouldn’t you be happy that they are being careful? i know i am. and as for thinking they’re going to steal your information, seriously, they’re barely taking the time to make sure the names match, let alone memorizing all your sensitive data.

  73. Shawanda says 09 June 2009 at 09:03

    I used to write “See ID” on the back of my credit cards. I didn’t bother writing this on new or replacement cards once I realized almost no one requests your ID. It’s funny. I would sign the receipt and hand it over to the cashier. Pretending to make an effort to thwart fraudulent transactions, the cashier would compare the signature on my receipt to the back of my card which clearly stated “See ID.” Then, they’d just hand me my card as if to indicate they’ve some how verified that I am who I say I am.

    I found that people who didn’t bother writing anything on the back of their card were much more likely to have a cashier, server, etc. ask for their ID. As noted by @Karen, a thief could just sign your card and use it without question so I wouldn’t recommend this strategy.

  74. Bobbi says 09 June 2009 at 09:20

    I sign mine “Check photo ID” and do not sign it. They have to ask for a photo ID so I show it to them. I never hand over an ID to anyone for validation. They can do it while I am there. I have found that about half of the people check. I do feel more secure in case I was to lose it or something like that. No one has ever turned down the card either.

  75. angie says 09 June 2009 at 09:22

    JD: Your RSS feed works fine, I can read whole posts from the feed (using Google Reader).

  76. Brenda says 09 June 2009 at 09:30

    I use the “See ID” method (although I have it written out as CID, which is also a method that people use). So far, I haven’t had any troubles with it, and about half the merchants ask for ID when they see the back. The other half don’t seem to care.

    In fact, often merchants don’t even care WHAT you sign on your receipt, since they often don’t check ID or your signature on the back of the card. There have been experiments and pranks done testing this. One of the most famous ones out there is this one:
    It’s quite amusing to see all the ways he’s signed his credit slips, and that most of the merchants didn’t even bother asking about it. Worth a read!

  77. Erica Douglass says 09 June 2009 at 09:48

    I used to write CHECK ID on my business credit card. It worked about as often as you said in your article.

    Regarding the Post Office, I just used an unsigned credit card there (newly activated; forgot to sign it) and they didn’t check my ID…so it must just be a local thing for you.


  78. Lauren Muney, behavior change specialist says 09 June 2009 at 10:09

    My check card was stolen out of my purse once. It was a 16-year-old girl. She went to the nearest mall and spent $3000 of my ‘saving for a car’ money. No one asked her for an ID – even when she was buying $100-600 at a time. She was caught trying to apply for another credit card using my card.

    The bank paid me back due to fraud. The bank prosecuted, and I was a witness at the trial. (the girl tried to claim bipolar disorder and the judged laughed at her.) The bank later told me to sign the cards “ask for ID” – it was their card.

  79. Eric says 09 June 2009 at 10:12

    I had a stupid argument at the P.O. w/ a clerk who said if I signed the card they would accept it. So I said that if i just stole this card and was a criminal and signed the card, then the signatures would match correct? They agreed but still said I needed to sign if I wanted to complete the purchase. I decided to use my debit option, though I would have received a .5% rebate if it were a credit transaction. So not only did they waste my time, they cost me money.

  80. Eric says 09 June 2009 at 10:13

    Since that time, i actually do both though. I now write SEE PHOTO ID in large caps and in a tiny corner above the security code I sign it every so small so as to not be in violation of the CC company’s rules.

  81. Krystal says 09 June 2009 at 10:21

    I have seen people sign and write SEE ID. I think that is probably best, in my opinion, and I think I will do that with my new cards.

    I have SEE ID on my current cards, and only once have I told that SEE ID won’t fly, at the US Post Office! I had to sign my card right then and there…

  82. Michael Awbrey says 09 June 2009 at 10:32

    I have never signed the back of a card, and never had anyone say anything about it.

  83. Eric says 09 June 2009 at 10:32

    I write SEE ID in huge letters and my signature in small letters. My favorite thing with all this is when I worked at Sears. If a customer didn’t sign the card with anything I’d ask for their ID, and usually recommend at least writing SEE ID since it’d be very easy for a thief to take the blank card and sign it for them. One time I asked to see the ID for a blank card and the man got really pissed, accusing me of racism “You’re just asking because you think black people steal!”. Ugh.

  84. a conscience life says 09 June 2009 at 10:35

    it always seemed odd to me to assume that “See ID” was going to solve the problems associated with having your credit card stolen. Basically, it seems that if you lose/have your card stolen then;

    1) You notice it and cancel your card before any nefarious charges are made.

    2) You don’t notice it until the card is used and you have charges on there that you did not make.

    Even #1 seems to carry no negative consequences. Neither does event #2. Credit card companies protect you from fraud, so that you don’t have to pay for the expenses of event #2. So why do people bother, when it has already been addressed by the credit card companies and you are protected?

  85. Steve-O says 09 June 2009 at 10:49

    For those of you who say you leave the back of your card blank, I have to ask WHY??? You say if the cashier sees a non signed card they’ll ask to see ID. But if a thief gets your card they can just sign the card in their own handwriting! So they won’t even have to try and match your signature.

    I personally write “SEE ID” on the back of all my cards and am asked to show my ID a majority of the time. I without a doubt feel that this is the best option. I’ve never seen a cashier actually pay attention to whether or not a the signatures match up. And honestly what will the CC company do if they find out you didn’t sign the card? Not pay for your purchases? I seriously doubt it.

  86. Eric says 09 June 2009 at 10:57

    not necessarily ‘solve’ but hopefully pre-empt.

  87. Rob Douglas says 09 June 2009 at 11:00

    i actually dont sign mine. all 3 of my cards (1atm, 2 cc) are unsigned, and noone in the 5+ yrs of having them has said a thing, hardly ever get asked for ID either.
    and of course the only real way to prevent abuse is to not lose your wallet. 😉

    @JD, and california law, dont ask me to cite, forbids detaining at the door unless they suspect theft, so i always tell the FRY’s guy (and Wal-Mart Elderly), ‘no thank you’ and walk right past him.

  88. Jeremy Bettis says 09 June 2009 at 11:01

    This is crazy! 84 comments so far, and everyone is missing the point. The signature is to protect the store from you (or imposers holding your card), not to protect you from theft. If the store decides that it’s not worth the trouble to check ID, why do you care? It is not you that are at risk, it is them. And if someone steals your wallet do you really think they are going to use the card anywhere that someone MIGHT ask for an ID? Of course not, they are going to use it at self-pay stations, and on the internet.

  89. Sarah says 09 June 2009 at 11:08

    I’ve always written “please see ID” on my credit and debit cards. It is definitely interesting to see who actually looks (and who actually looks carefully enough to realize it isn’t just a signature).

    When I was living in the UK, I once had a merchant refuse to accept my card. Somehow we ended up with the merchant calling the customer service number on the back of the card, at which point the company (don’t remember if this was debit or credit) told the merchant that they in fact encouraged people to do this rather than signing and would appreciate it if they would accept my card as payment.

    This obviously isn’t a fool-proof method of protection, but it does give me a warm fuzzy feeling that I like!

  90. Rob Douglas says 09 June 2009 at 11:12

    @Jeremy Bettis, your argument confuses me, you say its not to protect ME from theft, its to protect the stores from theft, and your main arguing point is self pay stations.. *confused*

  91. John says 09 June 2009 at 11:15

    I sign then rub the signature off. There is the evidence it was signed and the “security” of reducing my personal information.

  92. Sara says 09 June 2009 at 11:28

    I don’t see the point of this…the only time someone would be using your physical credit card to make fraudulent purchases (rather than stealing your number and buying stuff online) would be if they stole your actual card, in which case you can easily report it to your credit card company and not be responsible for an fraudulent charges. So why do you care?

    In my experience with fraudulent use of my credit card (no idea how they got the number, but it was used to make some sort of weird internet purchases), I just called the credit card company, got a new card, signed some papers they sent me, and never had to pay the $500 in unauthorized charges, no effect to my credit report, etc.

  93. Dan says 09 June 2009 at 11:28

    Even if the point is to protect the stores I’d still write See ID on the back. What incentive is there for me to protect the stores? What protection is there for me if I sign the card?

    The arguments against this are all over the place, but the two main ones are conflicting. 1) No one checks and 2) it potentially invalidates the card. If no one checks then the card won’t be invalidated. Even if it were the worst case scenario is that you have to pay another way. You’re far more likely at that point to have the vendor accept the card with your identification than to have them refuse to take your card.

    At worst, keep a signed card for those times when you simply must pay a vendor who runs things by the book. Then you’re limiting the signature to a single card. I really don’t see the downside, and there’s absolutely no effort in doing this.

  94. bethh says 09 June 2009 at 11:45

    I live in California (Bay Area), and I guess stores are extra cautious here: I estimate that at least 90% of the time I use a credit card, the cashier asks to see my ID. I don’t use my card that often, but it’s very rare that the credit card is NOT followed by a request for ID.

  95. Carla | Green and Chic says 09 June 2009 at 12:04

    I used to, but it didn’t really make a difference because merchants rarely asked. That’s especially true for stores that use those machines where you slide your own card (many grocery and departments stores for instance) – the checker doesn’t even see the card in those cases because you’re practically checking yourself out.

  96. kat says 09 June 2009 at 12:06

    I stopped signing mine a few years ago. Especially with the growing prevalence of swipe-it-yourself machines, I would say 90% of places don’t even blink, much less ask to see ID. Another 5% glance at the back of the card and then just shrug and hand it back. And of the remaining 5%, I know that some of them (e.g. my local grocery store) have a policy of asking to see ID with ALL credit cards, so it has nothing to do with the card being unsigned. (But I do always smile and thank them when they ask for ID — after all, that is the point.)

    I only once had a problem with this, and it was at least four years ago, so I don’t remember where it was. The cashier actually told me I had to sign it on the spot, and handed me a pen. I rolled my eyes at how retarded that was, but signed it anyhow. And then signed the receipt. Amazingly enough, THEY MATCHED. Well, as much as my signature ever matches itself, anyhow.

    My funniest story is about a day that I went to Filene’s Basement and had forgotten my license wasn’t in my wallet (I’d taken it out the night before when I went to a club and didn’t have pockets, so I just shoved it and some cash into my boot-top). I tried to pay with my bank card as credit and they wouldn’t do it without seeing ID. I then told them to run it as debit, since I knew the PIN, but they said they had to run everything as credit. So I saved a few bucks on clothing I didn’t really need!

    The comments above make sense about how leaving it unsigned might make it easier for a thief. I had heard that writing “check ID” was illegal (well, not “illegal”, but “invalidates the card agreement”), so I just decided to leave it unsigned until someone demanded I sign it. Thinking that would surely happen within a few weeks, but, no such luck. Maybe I will start writing something there though…

    Oh, BTW, entire posts are showing up fine in my RSS reader. (I use Google Reader.)

  97. Jim says 09 June 2009 at 12:12

    I have never signed any of my credit/debit cards, and I have never had a merchant refuse it. I can’t remember the last time anyone even turned the card over.

    It’s the illusion of security. Why couldn’t a thief steal your card and sign the back? Why couldn’t he use the card at a self-swipe machine? The fact is, you have to be careful with your cards, and cancel them if you notice they’re stolen. Anything else is either redundant or unnecessary.

  98. Donna says 09 June 2009 at 12:14

    Re: incomplete blog feed…I’m receiving the full feed. Make sure to check your blog reader settings. 🙂

    Here in the Joliet area, I’ve never ever had anyone ask me for ID. Ever. I sign my cards, but leave the debit card at home, and always keep track of/check the credit cards I do use to catch anything unauthorized immediately. I never had heard of the “ask for ID/See ID” idea. Maybe I’ll give it a go next time around, and since I don’t use my debit card at all, see if they still make just plain old ATM cards.

  99. Sean says 09 June 2009 at 12:14

    I am in the camp of signing AND writing SEE ID. I used to just put SEE ID on my cards, but 2 things made me start signing it as well:
    1. The Post Office is a stickler as has been mentioned
    2. A small business owner warned me against just writing SEE ID on a card. They claimed that card companies could potentially use this against you if you disputed charges and they found out that you hadn’t signed the card. I’m not sure how they would find out, but I wouldn’t put it past card companies to try and wriggle out of disputed charges any way they could. Since it is technically required to sign the card, I’m sure they could claim you weren’t in compliance or some such nonsense.

    I am asked for my ID at a surprising number of places, but I also shop at a lot of smaller local shops who are probably more affected by fraud than your average Target…

    Oh yeah, I also put stars to either side of SEE ID to draw some extra attention to it. The thing that kills me is that most places the cashier doesn’t even look at your card because of the self-swipe machines at most major retailers. Best Buy is the only store I can think of that requires the cashier to look at the card when you self-swipe.

  100. Dan says 09 June 2009 at 13:31

    I don’t sign my card at all. With all the electronic signatures which never match and just the lack of stores that even check. When asked for an ID I show my drivers license however cover my name and address with my thumb so only thing showing is my picture. This is accepted I would say 98% of the time small or big box places.

  101. Budgie says 09 June 2009 at 13:52

    I got the idea to do this with my main credit card after seeing several people do it when I used to cashier at Target. Another variation I used was to black out the entire signature area with a Sharpie. I don’t do that anymore, though, cause it would black out the 3-digit code and I use it quite often online. Like many others, I was only asked to see my ID some of the time. I’ve only had a problem at the post office, otherwise it was never a real problem.

  102. xtina says 09 June 2009 at 14:24

    I used to work at a bank and we were prohibited from accepting unsigned credit cards or “See ID” credit cards for transactions such as cash advances.

  103. Joshua says 09 June 2009 at 15:11

    I always thank the people that ask to see my ID, since I have chosen not to sign my card. I want to encourage that type of response from businesses. As far as not accepting my card, I’ve never had anyone not accept my unsigned card.

  104. JadoJodo says 09 June 2009 at 16:26

    I disagree. If you purchase something at a retailer as credit and sign the box, and if you were to simply place a small smiley face, or a line, or a dot, etc, it still counts as you “signing” for it. Writing ‘See ID’ doesn’t violate the terms, as you are signing the card.

  105. Kristen says 09 June 2009 at 17:50

    I’ve never had my SEE ID cards turned down, including at the post office. My state driver’s license not only has my name and picture, it also has my signature on it.

    SEE ID doesn’t invalidate the card agreement, as SEE ID serves to establish that only someone with the cardholder’s signed identification has authorization to use it, which is an acceptance of the terms. It’s not an ironclad means of protection (as someone who steals my card possibly has my ID), just fractionally better.

    Writing SEE ID came in extremely handy when my purse was stolen at the gym. I had my ID with me (separated from my wallet), and while some things were stolen (my actual emptied wallet) – all my SEE ID credit cards were left with the discarded purse.

    The average pickpocket is likely looking for cash anyway.

  106. Alex says 09 June 2009 at 17:55

    Why? I don’t see the point of writing “see ID” on the back of a credit card…

  107. T says 09 June 2009 at 18:36

    I currently work at a convenience store that is owned by a major corporation. About 2 years ago an email came down from our corporate offices letting us know that the merchant agreements had changed and we were no longer allowed to asked for IDs. I didn’t believe it so I did some research I my own and found out that a merchant cannot ask you for your ID, along with the fact that they can’t make you have a certain purchase amount before they will run your card. As someone who has worked retail for 10 years I’m glad because of the countless times I have been yelled at because the person has left the ID in the car, or in some cases at home. I stand by my position that it is YOUR responsibility to safeguard your debit, credit, and ID cards, not MINE.

  108. Myron A. Semack says 09 June 2009 at 19:24

    I’ve never understood the point of writing “SEE ID”. Because it will make it harder for a thief to use your card? Who cares. If your card is stolen, you have a $0 liability anyway.

    Also, it does nothing to prevent against signature-less Credit Card transactions:
    – Pay at the Pump
    – Internet Purchases
    – Transactions where you swipe the card at a paypad.

  109. Uncle Meat says 09 June 2009 at 19:34

    I work for a major financial services processor and I frequently have to consult operating regulations for both Visa and MasterCard. I can tell you that both sets of regs state, in no uncertain terms, that a card shall not be considered valid if the signature panel is not signed with the name of the cardholder. “See ID” doesn’t count unless it’s your name.

    It’s worth pointing out that I worked here for years before I ran into that particular piece of information, and I’ve always signed my cards “See ID.” I use my cards A LOT, and though I am frequently asked for my driver’s license, I’ve never actually been turned away for what’s in my signature panel. Technically, though, if your name isn’t signed to the back of the card, the merchant is required to deny you. I’ve never heard of that happening though, and I’ve never heard of a merchant getting in trouble for accepting a “See ID” card. It might make a difference if an issue were escalated to a court of law, but that almost never happens.

    Also, these regs pertain only to Visa and MC. I couldn’t speak to the requirements of Discover or AmEx.

  110. mjukr says 09 June 2009 at 19:55

    Sign it, then write SEE ID next to your signature with a Sharpie.

  111. Michael@TheSafeLife says 09 June 2009 at 20:26

    I would tend to recommend to just sign the card as the card merchant requested. As someone mentioned previously, most credit card theft occurs at the server level. If someone steals your card, you are not liable for the charges if you follow card policy and report as required.

  112. Chad says 09 June 2009 at 20:46

    Writing SEE ID should not invalidate your card as how ever you sign something is your signature. If I signed the card as Bugs Bunny then I am still liable for the charge as I signed it. Signing your card SEE ID (and writing SEE ID on the back of your card is signing it) is still your signature even though it is not your name and would be just as binding as signing with your name. The merchant may not accept your signature as it does not match the signature on the back of the card.

  113. theMayor says 09 June 2009 at 22:20

    I’m rather surprised to how many people here say merchants don’t ask to see their ID when CID is written on the back.

    Me and a friend were actually having this conversation recently, and as I told him, I’d say 90-95% of all merchants ask to see my ID when they see it written on the back.

    I wouldn’t say I’d ever *want* to lose my card, but in all honesty, I’d sleep a little better knowing that most do check it(at least in my neck of the woods).

  114. Matt says 10 June 2009 at 00:01

    Despite having signed my credit card “Check ID,” when it was lost last week, the person who found it still managed to spend $40 at a bar. My experience has been that people only ask for ID 15-20% of the time, which is a bit disconcerting.

    My replacement card now is signed, “CHECK PHOTO I.D. NO EXCEPTIONS!!”

  115. Zack says 10 June 2009 at 03:50

    I never even signed my card, and have been using it over a year now. Not a single problem.

  116. Chris Arney says 10 June 2009 at 04:29

    I’ve got a friend who also does this. When she was in Australia, a vendor wouldn’t accept her signature on the receipt till she signed it “See ID”!

  117. john says 10 June 2009 at 05:25

    In 4 or 5 years of SEE ID only one person ever checked me.

    In 10+ years of multiple cards with no signature at all, I got the card rejected once due to this (post office.) I simply signed it and the cashier let me go through with it — which kinda defeats the purpose?

    In the mostly the same 10+ years my main debit card from Bank of America had my picture on it, a then Bank of America security feature which they don’t seem to do anymore? oh yeah, because it doesn’t work. On the back I wrote, SEE PIC ON FRONT. I never saw anyone check the back, and I only noticed few people (mostly in the first few years) who actually looked at the pic, and I think they just found a card with a pic on it new and interesting, probably thought it was a good security idea, and then didn’t even look at my face. I even sent co-workers out to pick up lunch for me with that card, no trouble; loaned it to a friend once for gas and smokes, no trouble. My wife still uses the card. She has never been ID’d with it, and she looks nothing like me. 😉

  118. Anthony Aziz says 10 June 2009 at 06:46

    I also have “Check ID” on my card. I’ve gotten into a argument about it with an old woman at Wal-Mart once, but other than that I occasionally get asked (it’s really surprising at the lower-cost grocery stores where most cashiers don’t care).

    A women also berated me at Canadian Tire about it. The only issue I’ll give is that it now leaves the credit card open to be signed by a thief. It’s certainly better than leaving it blank, though, as then there’s not even that “Check ID”.

    There are problems with it – but I think it’s the safest out of all the options (short of not having a credit card!)

  119. Mike says 10 June 2009 at 06:57

    I used to leave my cards blank, but someone pointed out that a thief could just sign however he wanted and use it, so now I write “See ID”. However, I am asked for my ID so infrequently, I’m surprised when it happens!

    It’s really a moot point, as you’re not responsible for any credit card purchases you don’t authorize, regardless of the presence or absence of a signature.

    Funny story: I had to go to the post office once, and there was a BIG sign that said credit cards needed to be signed. I forget if mine was either not signed at all or said See ID, but the clerk took it, looked at the back, and proceeded with the transaction without a word!

  120. EEJ says 10 June 2009 at 07:00

    Make sure you thank every vendor that asks to see your ID. They get lots of grief about it from everyone else, so make sure you let them know that you appreciate them looking out for your security.

  121. mark says 10 June 2009 at 10:23

    Question: Would it increase security (and be in the realm of possibility) to have your credit cards linked to your ID card by RFID chips? That way you wouldn’t find out that someone bought a tv from Bestbuy in a city 100 miles from where you live while you were taking a shower at your house.

  122. Michael@TheSafeLife says 10 June 2009 at 16:50

    If you want the real answer, you should read VISA’s merchant instructions:

    “Some customers write “See ID” or “Ask for ID” in the signature panel, thinking
    that this is a deterrent against fraud or forgery; that is, if their signature is not on
    the card, a fraudster will not be able to forge it. 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.
    “See ID” or “Ask for ID” is not a valid substitute for a signature. The customer
    must sign the card in your presence, as stated above.”

  123. David says 10 June 2009 at 17:12

    This would be somewhat useful if anyone bothered to even look at the back of my cards. Most times, I pay at a self-swipe terminal anyway. Places that make me leery are US restaurants where they disappear with your card to run it or bars that toss your card into a bowl with dozens of others when you run a tab–I much prefer the portable terminals common in Europe that are brought to your table where you swipe & sign/enter a PIN.

  124. Peter says 10 June 2009 at 17:35

    Let’s get 2 things straight here.
    1 – True identity theft and simple credit card fraud are two completely different things. Having someone steal your credit card and make a fraudulant purchase IS NOT IDENTITY THEFT. People have to stop calling it that. It’s credit card fraud and that’s all it is.
    The moment you report the card stolen, the thief will just throw it away.

    2 – Writing SEE ID on your credit card and merchants asking for ID is completely pointless and does nothing to help you. Merchants who ask for ID say they are doing it to protect you, but they are really doing it to protect themselves and I fight it as hard as possible. What good does having the cashier ask for ID do? All it does is protect the merchant from a fraudulat transaction. As the person who had their card stolen, I am equally inconvenienced regardless of what the card was used for. Even if the thief steals my card and immediately cuts it up and throws it away, I still have to report it stolen and wait for a new one. If they make a fraudulant transaction, I just report the card stolen, say the transactions are fraudulant and wait for my new card to arrive.
    Don’t be fooled into thinking asking for ID is for your own protection. It’s for the store’s protection and it’s an invasion of your privacy.

  125. Peter says 11 June 2009 at 07:51

    @EEJ – “you appreciate them looking out for your security.”

    Don’t fall for the lies the merchants tell you. Do you really think that the merchant is taking the time to ask for ID because they care about YOUR security? They do it for their own security. They don’t care one bit if your card is stolen or not, they just care if it’s used in their store.

  126. JimmyDaGeek says 11 June 2009 at 10:44

    It’s true that merchants agreements require that the CC has to be signed before they are allowed to accept it. Regardless, I put SEE ID on all my cards. I don’t do it so much to check on how well merchants are verifying signatures, as much as a defense against any merchant claiming they did check my signature but still allowed a thief to illegally use my card. And when I am asked for my ID, I always gratefully thank them.

    I don’t understand why some posters are against providing ID for their purchase. And, yes, SEE ID is not a deterrent as my local grocer does not even ask for a signed receipt after a small buy.

  127. Peter says 11 June 2009 at 10:54

    @JimmyDaGeek – “I don’t understand why some posters are against providing ID for their purchase”

    Let’s go over the reasons:

    1 – It’s a violation of the merchant agreement.
    2 – It’s an unnecessary violation of my privacy. I should have to provide a photo ID to buy a loaf of bread.
    3 – In your own words it “is not a deterrent”.
    4 – If my card is stolen, I don’t really care if it’s used or not. I still have to report it stolen, and go through the process of canceling it and getting a new card.
    5 – You’re not liable for any fraudulent purchases anyway.

    And the worst reason of all to show ID when making a purchase:

    6 – It is solely for the protection of the merchant, not me. It’s a waste of my time, an invasion of my privacy and it doesn’t help me one bit. Why should I do the store’s police work for them when I get nothing for it?

  128. Anthony Aziz says 11 June 2009 at 11:08

    @Peter – then I’d recommend, for you, *don’t* put SEE ID on your card. If you’re so worried someone’s going to know your birthdate, or whatever private information is on there, don’t use that method. It doesn’t provide a lot more protection that signing, but it’s not really any worse.

    Any theif who has my card can fake my signature. If I have “SEE ID” on my card, and the cashier happens to ask the theif for ID, there’s a bit of extra protection. Sure the theif can refuse – but most people don’t know that a cashier can’t ask to see your ID. I worked at Wal-Mart and McDonalds for 3 years when I was in highschool, and was never told this by superiors or customers.

    So it’s not really much more dangerous than just signing it. And it gives you something interesting to think/talk about when a cashier does ask. And also something interesting to argue about when they lecture you about not putting “SEE ID” on your card :/

  129. JimmyDaGeek says 11 June 2009 at 11:14


    OK, lets go over the points, but remember, I am asking the merchant to ask for my ID:
    1 – It’s a violation of the merchant agreement.
    True, but if I’m asking, I don’t care
    2 – It’s an unnecessary violation of my privacy. I should have to provide a photo ID to buy a loaf of bread.
    See 1 above, but if you object on principal, use cash.
    3 – In your own words it “is not a deterrent”.
    Only in stores that don’t care. I had cards stolen and it seems that merchants are in cahoots with the crooks to defraud the CCCs because they don’t check signatures.
    4 – If my card is stolen, I don’t really care if it’s used or not. I still have to report it stolen, and go through the process of canceling it and getting a new card.
    True, but it irks me that crooks are stealing using my credentials. While this is not ID theft in the traditional sense, I had stolen credit cards used to open credit elsewhere.
    5 – You’re not liable for any fraudulent purchases anyway.
    See 4 above.
    6 – It is solely for the protection of the merchant, not me. It’s a waste of my time, an invasion of my privacy and it doesn’t help me one bit. Why should I do the store’s police work for them when I get nothing for it?
    Sorry, that’s a moronic statement as you are combining other whines. If you don’t want to show ID, don’t use plastic. When I last checked, you can still buy things with cash.

  130. Peter says 11 June 2009 at 12:12

    @JimmyDaGeek – OK I’ll narrow it down to one question for you?

    How does writing “Ask for ID” or having the merchant voluntarily ask for my ID, prevent my card from being stolen in the first place?

    It doesn’t, so what protection are you getting? If you want to voluntarily show your ID, that’s up to you. What I object to is the merchants requesting ID on their own.

    If you really think merchants are asking people for ID for the customers’ protection, you have drunk a lot of Kool-Aid. They couldn’t care less about whether your card is stolen or not, all they care about is whether the thief is going to use it in their store.

  131. Anthony Aziz says 11 June 2009 at 12:17

    I can answer that. I don’t want to prevent them from stealing it (well, I do, but not by putting “SEE ID”). I want to decrease the chance they’ll be able to use it before I realize it’s stolen and just misplaced and cancel it. Simple as that. There’s no harm in it, and if you don’t want to be asked for ID, don’t put it.

    Sure you aren’t responsible for the purchase anyways, but it’s a lot easier to not have the charge on your bill in the first place.

  132. Danielle Marsh says 11 June 2009 at 13:35

    I work for a credit card processing company, and we (fortunately) know ALL the rules that merchant’s must follow when accepting credit cards.

    The most important thing to know is that Visa and Mastercard accepting merchants are advised to NEVER check for ID.

  133. Joaquin says 12 June 2009 at 00:09

    In Spain it’s becoming quite usual to write “SEE ID” on the back of the cards instead of a signature, though here it is a common practice to ask for an ID to pay with a credit card.

    To ask for an ID in order to pay using a credit card I believe it is a safer way of protecting against fraud.

  134. Bob says 12 June 2009 at 04:44

    I used to write “See ID” on my credit cards. One day, a police officer friend of mine noticed and said that’s a bad idea. He said that anyone can print up an ID on their computer, laminate it, and they’re good to go. He said that you need to be specific. So, I now have “See Minnnesota Driver License” written in the signature box.

    And, stores do, sometimes ask to see it. And, I *always* thank them for doing so.

  135. JimmyDaGeek says 12 June 2009 at 08:01

    I am not worried what a merchant’s motivations are. If a merchant asks for ID in defiance of the rules, you complain to the CC company. If it bothers you, stop using plastic. This is not a right, yet. Just wait for Y’Obama to appoint judges that will make it one.

    Crooks don’t waste time looking at a card when they steal it. The question is how easy is it for them to use it? Since putting SEE ID on my card is such a small, insignificant effort, I do it. But as you say, each to his own.

  136. Finance Girl says 12 June 2009 at 11:41

    I used to work at a bank and a grocery store, and this has always been a pet peeve of mine! I think it is stupid, because if you ever lose your wallet, the thief is going to have your ID anyway. As if the cashier is really looking at your signature or your ID picture in the first place!

  137. mathew says 12 June 2009 at 16:03

    So if an unsigned card is not valid, that means the store is liable if they accept it as payment, and you can refuse to pay the charges. Anyone willing to admit to trying that?

  138. james says 13 June 2009 at 15:03

    didn’t read all of the comments, but..

    Merchants may *not* ask to see your ID unless your card is not signed, when they *must* see your ID, AND watch you sign the card. The card is not valid without being signed.

    NOT signing your card is leaving you open to fraud the most, as ANYONE can just sign your card, and then use it freely.

    Presenting your ID to a merchant also leaves you open to fraud, as they can lift more personal information from your card. Identity theft is a real and present danger.

  139. Drakar2007 says 13 June 2009 at 17:00

    I’ve been “signing” my cards with “See I.D.” for years now. I have only been refused once EVER, and it was at the post office. I have also used credit cards successfully at (other) post offices more times than I can remember thereafter, and not had a complaint.

    My way of looking at it is: if they insist that the card be signed, I will simply say that my handwriting is SO BAD, that my “official signature” merely comes out looking like the words “See I.D.” How do THEY know that’s not my official signature? It sure the hell is if I say it is.

    The really ironic thing is that on that particular occasion at the post office, I was mailing something critically-important on the last possible day, just before the post office was about to close. If I hadn’t had a $5 bill in my wallet just by luck, I would have been *screwed*.

  140. Duh Wilbur says 15 June 2009 at 15:59

    To Jennifer, and those who don’t bother signing your card at all, aren’t you just making it easier for the thief to just make up a signature? Thus, it makes it easier for them to use your card and in the event that the cashier checks the signature, it will be identical…

    WRONG. This completely misses the point. If you steal my blank-backed card and then sign it however you want, you will do two things, (a) add to your crime forgery and (b) 100% distinguish your stolen purchases from my real ones, thus making it very simple for me to win disputes with the creditor if needed.

  141. Beth says 17 June 2009 at 07:53

    When you opt to not sign your card, you don’t leave it blank so a criminal can sign it, you fill that space with the word “see ID”. That makes the clerk ask for your id to verifiy the pic on the ID matches the person using the card. They don’t write anything down from the id, just check the picture. Consumer REports recommends it and it’s worked for me for DECADES, never been refused, even at the post office.

  142. Meaghan says 18 June 2009 at 15:24

    It always bugs me when a cashier doesn’t even pretend to look at the signature on the back. I try to stick with cash.

  143. storewanderer says 19 June 2009 at 23:28

    See ID is NOT ALLOWED with Visa and MasterCard. What benefit are you, the cardholder, getting from writing this on your card? None.

    You are NOT liable for fraud provided you follow the terms associated with your cardholder agreement (one of which being to SIGN YOUR CARD). If you do not sign your card, and the bank finds out, you will be held liable for the fraud. Your card may well be recovered; the card issuing bank will pay a retail clerk $50 for finding, calling and reporting, and sending in a lost or stolen credit card.

    Both Visa and MasterCard make it very clear that “See ID” is not allowed.

    Oh, and they can also not pay the merchant for accepting an unsigned or “See ID” credit card since an unsigned credit card is technically invalid.

    Are many of you living under a rock? Are you unaware how easy it is to get a fake ID? I’d argue it is easier to get a fake ID than forge a signature.

  144. SteveP says 24 June 2009 at 20:13

    I am a product security specialist. I’ve thought of doing this, but it seems to be self-defeating in that there seems to be one HUGE downfall in the additional risk one takes by showing more info.

    Show them the credit card they get your CC #, date, and code.

    Then show them your drivers license and you also give them your address, full name, DOB & drivers license #.

    I pay with CC 99% of the time because as I understand it, at most you are liable for something like $50. And you can can a CC in a matter of seconds of reporting it stolen…

  145. Todd Eddy says 08 July 2009 at 09:11

    My regular credit card is signed. The writing of check id as well as sign it sounds like an excellent tip. In fact I think that’s what chase’s brochure is implying. They don’t say to write check id on the signature panel, just on the back of the card.

    I do use the check id on one card though… My debit card. I only use that card at ATMs or at the gas pump. No where else. Since no person is ever seeing the card then even if that completely invalidates the card no one will know it.

  146. Joel in Philadephia says 07 August 2009 at 10:22

    Great Article. I’ve actually written SEE ID on every card I’ve ever had and I’ve never had it rejected for any reason. I’m curious though, if it nullifies the agreement with the issuer, are you responsible for the charges? What if you just wrote, “Not Authorized” on the signature line of the paper receipt or on the line at the pos terminal when signing for the purchase. They NEVER, EVER check to see if your signature matches…would you then be responsible for the charge? Things that make you go “Hmmmmm”

  147. Lisa says 06 October 2009 at 09:13


    I recently moved back after living overseas for a couple of years, and just started using my cards again. I completely forgot that merchants are even supposed to check IDs! I haven’t been asked a single time, and honestly doubt I will be.

    There was one time where I didn’t sign the back. The merchant flipped over and told me to sign the back but didn’t ask for ID. I’m sure they thought they were helping me out with keeping my card safe from identity theft.

    I really like KateKasham’s idea, leaving the sticker on is ingenious. Thanks for the article.


  148. dtea says 13 July 2010 at 21:51

    To those who DO NOT SIGN:

    This is probably the worst thing you can EVER do. If your card is stolen, it leaves a blank slate so a criminal can sign the name with THEIR handwriting, and it will ALWAYS match the card and then those few cashiers who actually do pay attention will not be able to tell.


  149. Common_Sense says 31 July 2010 at 12:22

    This is stupid.

    Identity theft occurs when the thief has enough information about you to steal your identity. A credit card just has your name and your credit card number. If fraudulent charges, you will NOT have to pay them. The credit card company protects you.

    If you instead give them your id and credit card, then a COMPLETE STRANGER has your name, credit card number, home address, and driver’s license number!! They don’t need anything else to steal your identity. You just handed it to them for the taking. Does that sound like a good idea??

    You’re not protecting yourself by writing “See ID.” You’re asking to have your identity stolen.

  150. Laura in Cancun says 26 February 2011 at 11:49

    I waited tables for 5 years, and I would get this maybe once every 2 weeks or so.

    Whenever I asked for their ID, I would get 1 of 2 responses:

    1. “Is something wrong?” I’d have to remind them they had written “See ID” on the back of their card because they’re not used to being asked.

    2. “Wow! Thanks! Nobody ever checks for that!”

    So I don’t see it as very useful… but like other commenters said, there’s no reason not to sign and ask for ID.

    **Note: Most people abbreviate it as “C.I.D.”

  151. Chrissy says 01 February 2014 at 20:45

    So, Roaming Gnome and Jennifer, you prefer leaving them a neat little space to sign your name in their OWN handwriting, so that they don’t have to practice copying yours?

  152. credit user says 17 February 2014 at 17:37

    I once asked a retail clerk who was checking my ID against my credit card, what he would do if they didn’t match.

    His answer: “Probably nothing”.

    He explained (not unkindly) that the store doesn’t want trouble, he doesn’t want any trouble, nor does he get paid enough to risk a possibly dangerous confrontation. He would just put the charge through.

    It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but I could totally see his point about not getting paid enough to play vigilante cashier.

    The moral of the story is, you can’t win!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*