How to Find Your Credit Card Security Code

CVV Codes Are a Security Measure to Protect Your Account

A man in a plaid shirt holds a credit card in his left hand and types on a laptop keyboard with his right.
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The next time you use your credit card to make a purchase online or over the phone, you may be asked to type in your card's CVV security code first. The simplest way to find your code is to check your card—they're typically printed on the front or the back. But what does this code mean and why is it important? Here's what you need to know. 

What Is a Credit Card Security Code (CVV)?

A credit card security code or CVV code is a security code that's unique to your card. The acronym CVV stands for Card Verification Value Code and it's not the same as your account number or your PIN if you have one assigned to your card. For example, you may need a PIN to take a cash advance withdrawal at an ATM using your card.

Security code numbers are designed to be a fraud prevention measure that businesses can use to verify purchases. The idea is that by asking for a CVV code, a merchant can be reasonably certain that the person using the card is the cardholder and has physical possession of it. 

To find your card's CVV code, you would just look at the front or back. American Express includes the CVV code on the front of the card, typically printed on the right just above your account number. Cards that are aligned with other payment processing networks, namely Visa, Discover, and MasterCard, have their CVV security numbers printed on the back. 

Some credit cards, such as the Apple Card, don't have their CVV printed on them. If you have a card that doesn't include the CVV number, you can call your card issuer to get your security code.

How CVV Codes Compare Across Networks

Aside from printing CVV codes in different places, there's another way to distinguish American Express codes from those of other card issuers. American Express uses four digits for its card security codes while cards that operate on the Visa, Discover and MasterCard networks only use three. 

Something else to know is that CVV codes may be referred to by other names. For example, it may be called a CSV code, which stands for Card Security Value. Though the name may be different, the purpose and function are still the same. A CSV code is another way for businesses to verify your identity as the cardholder and potentially head off fraud. 

Other names for CVV codes include:

  • CVV2 - Card Verification Value 2 (Visa)
  • CVC - Card Verification Code (MasterCard)
  • CVC2 - Card Validation Code 2 (MasterCard)
  • CVD - Card Verification Data (Discover)
  • CID - Card Identification Number (Discover and American Express)
  • CSC - Card Security Code (American Express)

Protecting Your Card's CVV Code

Your CVV code is designed to protect you against fraud. But it's possible that someone could obtain your account number and your CVV number and use them to make fraudulent purchases. This can happen in a couple of different ways. 

First, you might fall victim to a phishing scam unknowingly. You might be sent an email that looks like it came from your credit card company. The email asks you to verify your account number and CVV code, which you do. But without realizing it, you've handed over your card information to an identity thief who could then clone your card and use it for unauthorized purchases. 

Another possibility is fraud that occurs through the use of keyloggers. Essentially, this is a type of tracking code that can be lurking on a website. When you visit the website and type in your card details, the hacker can use the keylogger program to record your information, including your CVV number. 

Protecting your CVV code when shopping online is similar to protecting your other financial or personal information. These tips can help keep your card details more secure:

  • Install a firewall on your computer to protect yourself when shopping online from home.
  • Use an antivirus software for an added layer of security on your computer. 
  • Check for "https" on websites to make sure they're secure.
  • Avoid shopping online in public places using unsecured Wi-Fi.
  • Be cautious when sharing card information. 
  • Report a lost or stolen card to your credit card company as soon as possible.

Federal law limits your liability for fraudulent credit card purchases at $50, although some cards may offer a $0 liability guarantee.

Key Takeaways

Credit card security codes aren't just some random number—they serve an important purpose in preventing identity thieves from misusing your card information. Keep in mind that not every merchant will ask for your CVV code for every purchase, but it's helpful to know where it is if you're asked to share it.

Article Sources

  1. Federal Trade Commission. "Lost or Stolen Credit, ATM, and Debit Cards," Accessed Oct. 18, 2019.