What Is The CVV on a Credit Card?

JAN 02, 2014

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The CVV on your credit card is its card verification value.  The CVV or CVV2 code is one of the many security systems built into modern credit cards. It’s typically used when you aren’t making a purchase with a physical credit card, for example, to protect your personal information when shopping online. If you’re asked for the CVV, it’s because the payment system wants to ensure that you have the card in your possession.

CVV card numbers have different names and locations depending on the card you’re using, but they serve the same purpose. Discover, MasterCard and Visa cards all use three digit numbers that are located in the upper-right corner of the signature panel on the card’s back side. On American Express cards, the four-digit code is printed on the front of the card above the last few digits of the card number. While American Express and Discover call the code a “card identification number” or CID, MasterCard and Visa refer to it as a card verification value, or  CVV.  

How CVVs Work
When you enter your credit card online and a merchant collects your CVV number, it uses it to verify your card’s validity. If you input the correct CVV, the merchant can be relatively sure that you have the card, as opposed to just having the card number, which could have been pulled off an old receipt or statement.

Other Card Security Features
When you use your credit card online, there are two other features that help to protect you from fraudulent charges and protect merchants from false credit card numbers. First, credit card numbers aren’t assigned at random. Every credit card number follows certain mathematical rules and, as such, randomly generated numbers that don’t follow those rules can be easily detected.

In addition, the Address Verification Service can look up a credit card’s billing address to ensure that what the user enters matches the card issuer’s records. The combination of card number validation, billing address verification and CVV codes makes it difficult for others to use your card fraudulently.

Detecting Card Fraud
The CVV code on your credit card is one of the many features that merchants can use to spot and stop fraudulent use, but it isn’t perfect. Unfortunately, criminals can still find ways around these security measures.

If your credit card company detects unusual activity, they may call you to confirm the transaction is accurate. You might also see strange charges on your statements. Sometimes, you won’t realize it until you check your credit reports and see that your balances are too high or that you have additional cards that you didn’t open yourself. Ultimately, its the consumers responsibility to check for signs of identity theft and take the steps to recover from the aftermath.


About the Author
Solomon Poretsky has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. Poretsky holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.


This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. © 2014 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc. All rights reserved.