What Is the Card Verification Value (CVV) on Credit and Debit Cards?

What Is the Card Verification Value (CVV) on Credit and Debit Cards?
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Point Editorial

CVV stands for card verification value. It is also known as a card's security code. For Visa, Mastercard, and Discovery cards, it is a three-digit number located on a card’s backside. The CVV for American Express cards is found on the card's front side and is four digits long. 

The CVV is a standardized feature on every bank card, be it credit or debit. For consumers, this piece of information typically comes into play when shopping online. 

Read on for more details on CVVs, how they work, and how to protect your CVV. 

What is a CVV?

Think of CVVs like financial fingerprints: the three- or four-digit code is unique to every card. The purpose of this number is to protect you from fraud and to validate the card itself. 

Where is the CVV? 

Most cards are printed with the CVV on the backside, usually underneath the signature panel. In rare instances, the last four digits of your credit card number – the 13-digit sequence imprinted on the card's front face – are listed with the CVV. It is important to note that the first four numbers are not part of the CVV.

American Express cards deviate from the norm, listing their four-digit CVVs on the front surface instead. 

How does the CVV code work?

Transactions automatically verify the number to confirm the card itself is activated and is currently in possession of an authorized cardholder. 

Merchants and businesses are not allowed to record this information. So, if hackers manage to infiltrate their databases or websites, your CVV number won't be available for them to steal. 

Not all online retailers require your CVV. If they do, it is often only for first-time purchases and thus unnecessary for subsequent transactions. This can increase the risk of identity theft if you are a frequent visitor to that site. 

How to protect your CVV 

Your CVV is there to help ensure financial privacy and protection, alongside other features built into your credit or debit card, such as the hologram icons and the encrypted chip. But nothing is perfect, and it is up to you as a cardholder to protect your information regardless. 

Here are four tips to keep your number safe and to avoid fraud:

Tip 1: Keep your CVV secret. Never share this information, even with people you know, and especially not over the phone. Credit card companies will never call and ask for it, and if someone does, they're probably a scammer.

Tip 2: Don't send your card information over email. This is an extension of the tip above. Your emails are hackable, especially if you're working on an unsecured Wifi network. Any site that doesn't start with "https" is not safe.  

Tip 3: Never share photos of your card. Whether it's over text message or through email, don't do it. This also applies to your 13-digit credit card number. Even if you cover most of the sequence, the visible numbers may be enough for hackers to figure out the rest through software and common knowledge. Most people know that all Visa card numbers begin with the number four, for example. 

Tip 4: Don't make transactions with your debit card. When it comes to fraud prevention, credit cards are safer and have more security features than debit cards. If you lose your credit card and a thief racks up fraudulent charges, they're technically stealing from the credit company and not from you. You can call and dispute these charges, or you cancel your card. However, if someone steals your debit card, they can drain your funds entirely since the card withdraws money directly from your bank account. 

FAQs

Is the CVV the same as my card's PIN? 

No. Your CVV and your PIN are two different values. But both are used for identification purposes.

What happens if I swipe my card? 

In-person purchases require the swiping of your card through the POS machine. This is known as the transaction process. When the cashier swipes your card, the action authorizes both the payment of the current purchase and authenticates you as the card user. Next, the bank receives your card details and delivers that information to the credit card network. In turn, that information goes to the credit card network, and your payment is approved. 

The information gathered and verified in every transaction includes your credit card number, your card’s expiration date, your billing address, the purchase amount, and the CVV. 

The bottom line and Point's contributions 

Ultimately, a credit card is a tool designed to help you handle your money wisely and provide you with the freedom to make good financial choices. Even though credit and debit cards have nearly identical physical features, some cards are more advantageous than others. 

That said, allow us to introduce Point Card.  

You work hard for your money, and Point works hard for you in return. Compared to a traditional debit or credit card, Point is an easy-to-use, alternative tool designed for those who want to use their own money while receiving exclusive benefits, including unlimited cash-back on all purchases. Alongside the card’s common built-in measures like the CVV, Point also has fraud protection with zero liability. Cardholders also receive bonus cash-back on subscriptions, food delivery, rideshare services, and coffee shops. Plus, Point Card comes with car rental and phone insurance, plus travel perks. 

Simply put, Point is an excellent tool for intelligently navigating your financial journey. 

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Point Editorial
A group of writers, thinkers, & designers from varying backgrounds — all part of the Point Card team. Sharing perspectives on concepts in design, finance, and culture through an everyday lens.
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