Can Merchants Require ID on Credit Card Purchases?
When you use a credit card for a purchase, it's common for cashiers to ask for your ID to verify that you're the cardholder. They're trying to reduce the risk of credit card fraud by matching the information on your ID with the information on your credit card and by matching the picture on your ID with your face.
Merchants suffer substantial losses when thieves make fraudulent credit card purchases. By checking IDs, merchants are simply trying to keep from losing money.
Are Merchants Allowed to Ask for ID?
In many cases, merchants are not allowed to require an ID for credit card purchases. They can ask for your ID, but they cannot refuse to accept your credit card if you don't show your ID, as long as your credit card is signed. Here's what each of the major processing networks says about ID requirements.
Visa: Merchants cannot require ID if the credit card is signed. However, if the credit card is not signed, the merchant can ask you to show a government-issued ID and sign your credit card on the spot.
MasterCard: Merchants cannot require ID if the credit card is signed. However, if the credit card is not signed, the merchant can ask you to show a government-issued ID and sign your credit card on the spot.
American Express: Merchants should verify that the customer is the actual cardholder, but there are no specific requirements for (or against) an ID.
Discover: Merchants can request an ID if they believe the credit card isn't valid. For unsigned credit cards, the merchant can request two forms of identification, one of which must be a government-issued photo ID.
Why You Don't Want to Show Your ID
While merchants may ask for ID to prevent credit card fraud, your personal information is at risk when you show your ID. Remember that your name, address, driver's license number, and sometimes social security number are printed on your driver's license. This is just the information a dishonest cashier needs to steal your identity. Many credit card fraudsters are successful with just your zip code and credit card number.
What to Do if a Merchant Refuses to Accept Your Credit Card
While major processing networks have outlined their rules regarding ID requirements with credit card purchases, many cashiers aren't aware of these rules and will refuse to accept your credit card without you showing your ID. They're often incorrectly trained to ask for ID with purchases.
Unfortunately, attempting to force an employee to honor the merchant-credit card agreement at the time of purchase is a losing battle. There are several stories about employees who've refused credit cards because the customer wouldn't show ID. Store managers typically back up their employees. If you plan on refusing to show your ID, make sure the back of your credit card is signed.
Sometimes, though, when the stories reach national media, the higher-ups usually side with the customer and promise to retrain their employees not to require ID unless the law requires it, for example with tobacco and alcohol purchases.
If a merchant refuses to honor your credit card because you won't show your ID, you can report to MasterCard online or report to VISA violations by calling the number on the back of your credit card.