All major card brands eliminating (or making optional) the signature requirement at the point of sale

In October of last year, Mastercard® announced that as of April 2018, it would “no longer require signatures at checkout for any credit or debit card purchases in the Canada and the U.S.” The news may have come as a shock to consumers who have long been accustomed to signing credit card receipts at the point-of-sale. Others may not be surprised about this development, recognizing that fewer and fewer transactions have required a signature.

In making the announcement Mastercard noted that the change would allow consumers to pass through checkout lines more quickly, without having an adverse effect on safety and security, thanks to “new digital payment methods that include chip, tokenization, biometrics, and specialized digital platforms [that] use newer and more secure methods to prove identity.”

The change is likely to help speed consumer adoption of the aforementioned digital platforms, including Masterpass®, a digital wallet by Mastercard. With a digital wallet, a consumer simply creates an account and loads in their credit or debit card information, then selects a card to “tap-and-pay” at the point of sale.

Discover® and American Express® Follow Mastercard’s Lead

In the wake of Mastercard’s announcement, Discover followed suit advising that beginning in April, it would “no longer require signatures at the point of sale for credit and debit transactions on the Discover Global Network in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.”

Discover’s rationale was similar to that of Mastercard, noting that it has already implemented digital authentication technologies (including multi-factor authentication), “that are more secure than providing a signature and provide a more seamless payment transaction.” Much like Mastercard’s Masterpass, Discover offers “Digital Exchange,” which “manages payment credentials on mobile and digital devices, and enables tokenization to secure the transaction.”

Days later, American Express joined the party, advising that it was “eliminating the requirement for merchants to collect Card Members’ signatures for all purchase transactions at the point of sale”—also in April 2018—with the move applying to all Amex-accepting merchants around the world.

American Express went on to emphasize how signatures have become superfluous. “The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants,” explained Jaromir Divilek, Executive Vice President, Global Network Business, American Express. “Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud,” a reference to tools like EMV chip technology and contactless payment technology.

American Express had already eliminated signature requirements for transactions at checkout under $50 in the United States, under $100 CAD in Canada, and under £30 in the United Kingdom, indicating the new policy is an extension of an existing trend.

Visa® Makes Signature Optional for EMV Merchants

In mid-January Visa weighed in with its own press release making the signature requirement optional for all EMV contact or contactless chip-enabled merchants in North America, effective on the same timeframe as Mastercard, Discover, and American Express. Much like its competitors, Visa noted how convenience and advances in security were big factors in the decision.

All of this is great news for consumers and merchants alike. For one, it makes the payment process faster and more consistent for consumers. For merchants, the policy changes provide greater flexibility to adopt new technology that promises to further speed and improve the shopping experience.

However, if you’re a merchant and you don’t like change, it’s still an option to ask for a signature. Know too, in some cases you may need to upgrade your point-of-sale system if you’d like to dispense with requiring a signature.

To recap, the territories where the signature policy changes apply (effective April 2018) are as follows:

  • Mastercard: United States and Canada
  • Discover: United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean
  • American Express: Global
  • Visa: North America