Credit cards showing the signature and cvv number on the back
The Helcim Blog / Merchant Guides

What is a CVV on Credit and Debit Cards?

Ryleigh Stangness | March 5, 2018

“What is a CVV and what role does it play in securing transactions. Read on to find out.”

5 min read

The 411 on CVVs

You have probably been prompted for a CVV number at some point and asked yourself, “what is a CVV number for?” Aside from being three small and unremarkable numbers on the back of your credit card, it might not be something you’ve given much thought to. Good news, we’ve taken out all the digging to give you the surprising scoop on CVVs and the starring role they play in ensuring secure transactions. Read on to find out the reason for a CVV, where to find a CVV on credit and debit cards, why merchants ask for it, and how it protects you from fraudulent activity.

What is a CVV Code, and How Do I Find it?

A CVV code is a unique three or four-digit pin used to secure and verify that the cardholder has the card in their possession for card-not-present transactions. During a purchase, this number, along with your card number, expiration date, and the transaction amount, is first sent for approval to a card payment processor, then to a card network, and finally to the customer’s issuing bank. In mere seconds, the bank will receive this and return an approval or decline code to the payment processor and then back to the merchant to complete the purchase. A merchant may also use this information to verify the validity of a card without charging it or pre-authorize a purchase, such as reserving a hotel with a deposit.

What Does CVV Stand For?

CVV stands for Card Verification Value, and it has many different names. The issuer of the card determines the term. Here are some of the most common cards and their names:

CVV numbers are also known as CSC numbers (“Card Security Code”), as well as CVV2 numbers. They are the same as CVV numbers, except that they have been generated by a 2nd generation process that makes them harder to “guess.”

  • What is a CVV on a Visa? Card Verification Value (CVV)
  • What is the CVV on an American Express card? Card Identification Code (CIC)
  • What is a CVV code on a MasterCard? Card Verification Code (CVC)
  • What is a CVV on a Discover card? Card Verification Data (CVD)

Where Is The CVV Number On My Card?

The CVV is usually found on the back of your card, except for American Express cards which are on the top right above your 15-digit card number. You will almost always need your physical card to find the CVV unless you have it memorized or stored in your banking app. Some debit cards do not have a CVV which indicates online purchases are not approved for that card; however, if present, a debit card’s CVV number is usually found on the back in the signature box following the last four digits or the total sixteen-digit card number.

What is a CVV Number For?

A CVV number is an authentication tool to protect your card and transaction when the physical card is not present to ensure you are indeed the cardholder. E-commerce sites will usually prompt you for a CVV at checkout, or a merchant will ask to punch in the CVV when the virtual terminal or card reader prompts them.

Transactions that commonly require a CVV code:

  • E-commerce transactions
  • Electronic invoices
  • Subscriptions
  • Payments & Orders over the phone
  • Approving recurring payments
  • Checkout processes that store your credit card information

The CVV is different from your PIN (Personal Identification Number). This secret number is not on the physical card like your CVV. However, like your PIN, it is essential to keep your CVV protected because it gives thieves the ability to make online or phone purchases if they have your card number and expiration date. The CVV is not part of the data stored on the magnetic stripe or the EMV chip. The payment Card Industry Data Security Standards prohibit the storage of a CVV unless it is stored in a card vault, for example, so if a database is hacked and credit card numbers are stolen, ultimately, your banking information will still be safeguarded.

How To Protect Your CVV Number And Card Security The CVV number protects both consumers and merchants from fraudulent charges, chargeback or friendly fraud claims, and disputes. Nothing spoils your day like an expensive case of identity fraud. Merchants can protect their business by familiarizing themselves cyber security and best practices when taking card-not-present payments.

As a merchant, here are a few best practice tips to protect your customer information and yourself:

  1. Always ask for a CVV (Required by Helcim, Visa and all E-commerce transactions).
  2. Collect all requisite customer and billing information.
  3. Check AVS or Address Verification Service to verify card holders’ addresses using their billing information.
  4. Follow PCI compliance requirements to handle cardholder information securely, prevent or safeguard against security breaches and protect your business against fines.
  5. Card brands such as Visa and Mastercard suggest keeping organized customer records and files and notes of any potential or recurring issues.

Final Thoughts

Learning about CVV codes, although it may seem a bit dry, is incredibly valuable; Whether you are new to credit card processing and learning the ropes on all the terms and processes or looking to bolster your transaction security. Protect your customers and your business by following the above tips and knowing how and why to use CVV codes during card-not-present transactions.

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FAQs

Do you need a CVV when using American debit cards in Canada?

A CVV is required to complete any payments made online or over the telephone. In contrast, a PIN is used for making in-person transactions. American debit cards only need a CVV when completing transactions online or over the phone.

Is Visa a debit or credit card?

Visa is a major credit card company that issues both Visa-branded debit and credit cards. Visa credit card purchases deduct from your card’s remaining credit, while Visa debit card purchases deduct from the available balance in the customer’s chequing or savings account. In the US, Visa customers have the added benefit of using the same card to take both credit and debit purchases because the cards run on the same credit network regardless of the payment type;

However, in Canada, it is mandated to have separate debit and credit cards. Therefore, customers can only conduct debit & credit purchases with their respective Visa cards.

How can customers protect themselves during card-not-present transactions?

There are a few general guidelines customers can take as a precaution to securing their card and CVV to guard against prying eyes such as:

  1. Don’t give your CVV out to unverified websites via text or email as these are not secure.
  2. Freeze or cancel your card immediately if ever lost or stolen.
  3. Keep your card information private. Don’t post any information on social media.
  4. Memorize your CVV and possibly physically cover it on the card.
  5. Opt-out of autofill or “Remember me” on websites to prevent your information from being stored.

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