How Your Credit Card’s Security Code Protects Against Fraud

Photo to accompany story about how to find the credit card security code. Getty Images

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People are shopping online in huge numbers this year, which means they’re benefiting in a big way from a very small number printed on the backs of their credit cards. 

Not only do e-commerce retailers require you to enter your card number manually, they also ask for additional information like your billing address, card expiration date, and security code.

This extra information, and the security code in particular, provides extra protection from fraudulent purchases.

What Is a Credit Card Security Code?

A credit card security code is a three- or four-digit number printed on cards to help prevent fraud. With online shopping and other situations where you don’t use your physical card to pay for items, these are known as card-not-present or CNP transactions. Merchants commonly ask for your card’s security code to prove you are in possession of the card and not using a stolen number.

Pro Tip

Your credit card’s security code is designed to help protect you from unauthorized use and fraud. Only give it out to trusted merchants for the purpose of verifying transactions.

There are many different names for credit card security codes, which are used interchangeably by merchants and financial institutions. Here are the most common examples:

AbbreviationName
CVV/CVV2Card Verification Value
CVC/CVC2Card Verification Code
CSCCard Security Code
CIDCard Identification Number
CVDCard Verification Data

Why Credit Card Security Codes Are Important

Credit card security codes play an important role in protecting you from credit card fraud.  PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards enforce credit card security code safety by forbidding the storage of this sensitive data. Credit card numbers can be stored, making them more vulnerable to fraud. With merchants unable to store security codes, it makes it more difficult to fraudulently use a card without having it on hand. 

According to the Fair Credit Billing Act, the majority of credit card fraud losses fall onto the merchant or the bank itself. Asking for credit card security codes is simply a way for both consumers and merchants to protect themselves.

You should always be wary of anyone contacting you for your card’s code. Only disclose the code to merchants you trust and with whom you initiate a transaction. Never give your security code out by phone or email to anyone who makes unsolicited contact requesting it.

Where to Find Your Credit Card’s Security Code

Your card’s security code is either three or four digits long and can be printed on the card’s front or back, depending on the issuer. Check this list to see where to find your security code.

Card IssuerDigitsLocation
VisaThreeBack of the card – to the right of signature box
American ExpressFour Front of the card – top right of the credit card number
Mastercard ThreeBack of the card – to the right of signature box
DiscoverThreeBack of the card – to the right of signature box

How to Find Credit Card Security Code Without the Card

The only way to find out your credit card’s security code is to have the physical card in your possession and check the code. If you’ve misplaced your credit card or the security code is no longer legible, you should call the issuer. Chances are they’ll issue you a new card with a fresh code.