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How to Find the Credit Card Security Code (CVV)

man holding a credit card backwards showing its security code
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updated: January 8, 2024

When shopping online or by phone, your credit card number and expiration date aren't the only info a merchant may ask you to provide. You may also have to share your card's security code, which you can find on the front or back of your card, depending on the credit card issuer.

Your security code number adds extra protection against unauthorized credit card transactions. Here's where to find it and why it's important.

What is a credit card security code?

A credit card security code is a three-or four-digit number listed on your credit card. This unique identifier helps protect you against credit card fraud. Retailers usually ask you to provide this number when you're shopping online or by phone to confirm you have physical access to the card.

Tip: You can also protect yourself against credit card fraud by checking your credit card statements and credit reports often for fraudulent transactions. To view your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — for free weekly through Dec. 2023, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.

Other names for credit card security codes

A credit card security code is generally referred to as CVV (Credit Verification Value), but you may come across alternative names for it, like:

  • CVS/CVC2 (Card Verification Value).
  • CSC (Card Security Code).
  • Card Verification Data).
  • CID (Credit Identification Number).

When do you need your credit card security code?

You generally need to provide your credit card security code in scenarios where the physical card isn't present, like:

  • Shopping online. When shopping online, you may be asked to provide your credit card security number when checking out.
  • Making a purchase by phone. You may also have to provide your security code when placing an order by phone.

Why credit card security codes are important

Your credit card security code is important because it adds an extra verification step for transactions where merchants can’t confirm you have access to the physical card, such as online and phone transactions.

Merchants can store your credit card number in an online database, but according to Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards, they’re not allowed to store your security code number. Credit card security numbers make it harder for someone who steals your credit card from a merchant to commit credit card fraud against you.

Where to find your credit card security code number

Many major credit card issuers place credit card security code numbers on the back of your credit card. It’s usually a three-digit number, but American express uses four digits. 

The table below breaks down where to find your security code for four major credit card issuers:

Credit Card IssuerLocation
Discover
Back of the card and the right of your card number
Mastercard
Back of the card and the right of your card number
American Express
Front of the card and to the right of your card number
Visa
Back of the card and the right of your card number

How to find card security code without the card

A credit card security code is a way to provide proof to a merchant that you have a physical copy of your credit card. As a result, it’s not possible to locate your credit card’s security code without the card. If you’ve  misplaced your card, you’ll need to request a new one.

If you’d like to shop online without entering your card’s security code, consider asking your provider for a virtual card number. 

Make it harder on identity thieves

Your credit card security code helps protect you against credit card fraud. Discover, Mastercard and Visa credit card security codes are listed on the back of the card, while American Express lists the code on the front. 

That said, while credit card security codes can make it harder for a criminal to commit credit fraud against you, it doesn't make it impossible. Monitoring your credit reports and credit card statements are additional steps you can take to catch any fraudulent transactions.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Should you ever share your credit card security code?

You should only share your credit card security code with a legitimate merchant. Sharing your security code with anyone else can increase your chances of becoming a victim of credit card fraud.

What other technology ensures the payment account is mine?

Another technology that is used to verify transactions by some credit card issuers is dynamic credit card security codes. For example, some Visa cards allow issuers to issue dynamic codes referred to as dCVV2. Instead of using one security code, a consumer requests different codes, which can provide a greater level of credit card fraud protection than a regular credit card security code.

Do retailers need my CVV for a credit card charge refund?

The answer depends on a retailer's refund policy. Some retailers may only ask for your receipt to issue a credit card refund, while others may ask for you to provide additional information, like your credit card number and your CVV.

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

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