The days of signing your grocery receipt may be over soon, as the four major credit card brands (American Express, Discover, Visa, and Mastercard) are each making efforts to do away with signatures for various credit card transactions. The extent and geographic reach of these changes, however, are different for each brand, but one commonality is that the changes will begin in April 2018. In particular,

  • MasterCard will no longer require signatures for purchases in the U.S. and Canada;
  • Discover is doing away with the requirement in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean;
  • American Express is eliminating the requirement globally; and
  • Visa is making the signature requirement optional for EMV contact or contactless chip-enabled merchants in North America.

While most credit cards currently require a signature only for point-of-sale purchases over a certain amount, the changes in April will apply to all purchases regardless of amount.

The card brands indicated that the change will help provide a more consistent and simplified checkout experience for merchants and consumers while maintaining security through various technology advances. They cited particular innovations in EMV chip technology, tokenization, multi-factor authentication, biometrics, and machine learning fraud detection algorithms as newer and more secure methods for proving identity.

American Express also reported that the need for signatures in general has declined because of the growth of contactless payment options, including card-based and mobile tap-and-pay methods, and the continued expansion of online commerce.

Merchants will still have the option, however, of collecting cardholder signatures at the point of sale if they choose, and the laws of any particular jurisdiction may still require merchants to collect signatures. Also, merchants interested in no longer requiring signatures for credit card purchases may need to update their point-of-sale systems.