If you have ever had to make a payment online (card not present transactions), you should be familiar with Card Security Code (CSC). For Mastercard* and Visa*, it is a three-digit number whereas for American Express* and Discover*, it is generally a four-digit number. Card Security Code is recognized by various acronyms depending on the industry, product, or service you are working with:
Card Security Code (CSC), Card Verification Value (CVV or CVV2), xCard Verification Value Code (CVVC), Card Verification Code (CVC or CVC2), Security Code, Credit Card Security Code, Debit Card Security Code and some other variations
What is Card Security Code (CSC) and why do merchants ask for it?
Basically, your Card Security Code is an additional layer of protection to prevent fraudulent transactions. Every credit card would have the Card Security Code physically imprinted on it. It is just like your credit card number and expiration date. The combination is always unique and is an enhanced safety mechanism as these codes are generally not printed on receipts or stored in internal systems.
Merchants would generally ask for the CSC in addition to your credit card number and expiration date. Some merchants will have strict matching requirements so your mailing address must match with the credit company’s records to the T. Even the slightest variation could cause the transaction to fail. In reality, many merchants do not setup their payment processing systems at the highest security levels. Primarily, to make the process easy for consumers and avoid transaction failures for even small data errors.
If you are able to verify your mailing address and Card Verification Value (CVV), merchants can be assured that you are in physical possession of the credit card and not some scammer who has hacked into an online credit card database to unscrupulously download credit card numbers and rob innocent victims.
Chargebacks are another reason why online merchants and E-commerce stores ask for CVV numbers. If the transaction has a security code associated with it, the transaction would be considered a legitimate transaction that the owner of the card probably consented to. It is not a guarantee that the transaction was legitimate but certainly proves that an additional barrier was accurately verified. Just one more defense in the merchant’s arsenal should the credit card owner question the legitimacy of the purchase.
Not all merchants ask for the Card Security Code number, though. Some online storefronts setup their payment processing systems at moderate or low security levels (for reasons discussed earlier) and often bypass the CVV requirement to make transaction processing a breeze for customers.
Where to find the Credit Card Security Code?
Fortunately, that is not the hard part. The Card Security Code is physically imprinted on the credit card itself and is very easy to spot. Generally, Discover, Mastercard and Visa follow a similar protocol when it comes to the security code, whereas American Express has its own protocol. Discover, Mastercard, and Visa make use of a three-digit security code, while Amex uses a four-digit number.
How to find the security code on Mastercard?
For Mastercard users, simply flip the card the three-digit CVV code for Mastercard is generally the last three numbers you see on the back of the card (toward the right).
As a rule, merchants are required not to store the CVV code so even if other variables are hacked, CVV will still serve as a final layer of protection against deceptive purchases.
How to find the security code on Visa?
For Visa credit cards, the Card Verification Value (CVV) is found in a similar manner. It is the last three numbers you see on the back of the card (extreme right).
How to find Discover’s CSC Number?
Discover again follows a similar protocol: Last three numbers on the back of the card.
How to find the CVV code number for American Express?
American Express uses a four-digit number that is normally on the front of the card. These four numbers could be found just above the credit card number (toward the right).
Debit Card Security Code
Do debit cards have a security code as well? Yes. If you see a Mastercard or Visa logo on the debit card, the security code can be found in the same manner as you would on a regular Mastercard or Visa credit card: The last three digits on the back of the credit card. If your debit card does not have one of the association logos, ask your issuer as to how you can find the CSC code number.
Do prepaid and gift cards have a CSC as well?
Each issuer would have its own protocol for the security code but as a rule of thumb, you would find the code the same way as on a regular credit card. Mastercard, Visa, and Discover cards would use a three-digit number (reverse side) whereas Amex would have a four digit number on the front.
A word of caution when it comes to providing your Card Security Code number
Generally, CSC codes are not printed on purchase receipts and that is the primary reason why they are considered to be “relatively hacker safe.” Further, merchants are required to avoid storing the CVV number in their internal systems and databases. Whether all merchants comply with this requirement is something we are not aware of.
* Registered trademarks owned by the individual companies.