If you frequently use your credit card or debit card, you might have noticed that merchants are inconsistent about asking for your signature. Although some merchants require your signature on transactions as small as $1, others let the signature slide on transactions of $20 or even more. Signature requirements for credit card authorizations vary depending on the merchants, their payment processors, and the type of card.
In general, credit card networks and issuers require a signature when completing an authorization, especially if the transaction exceeds $25. Even if the credit card issuer does not require signatures, the merchant might have fraud-related store policies that require signatures for every single transaction. In addition, some merchant account providers, the financial institutions that process credit card payments, have rules requiring merchants to collect a signature any time a customer is present.
Starting in 2010, Visa stopped requiring signatures on transactions of less than $25 for transactions within the United States. Though not all merchants who accept Visa can do so without a signature, about 98 percent of Visa’s merchant categories are eligible for the program that waives the signature requirement. Other credit card networks, including MasterCard and American Express, have introduced similar no-signature programs that waive the signature requirement for certain low-value transactions.
You might be able to avoid signing a credit card receipt even if the value of your transaction is for more than the no-signature threshold your credit card network has established. For example, if you use a debit card instead of a credit card, you can typically “sign” for your transaction by simply entering your debit card’s personal identification number. In addition, credit cards with payment chips can electronically authenticate the transaction, eliminating the need for a signature. And some tech-savvy merchants have even replaced the old-fashioned signature with biometric scans.
Despite the many exceptions, many merchants still require signatures on transactions of all volumes, often for fraud prevention. If you dispute the transaction with your credit card issuer at some later time, the merchant can present your signed agreement to pay the credit card charges in dispute of your chargeback. In addition, your credit card company considers your signature on the receipt a legally binding contract, and it might try to enforce the contract through collection activities. If you refuse to sign the receipt or if you sign a nonsensical name, it’s likely that the missing or fictitious signature will have little effect unless you later dispute the charges with your credit card issuer.
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