For as long as we can remember, paying with a credit card required you to sign your name on the dotted line. While this system has changed over the years — mandating your John Hancock only for purchases over a certain amount — MasterCard is perhaps planning the biggest change of them all: The payment company will eliminate signature payments altogether.
Starting in April 2018, MasterCard users will no longer be required to sign their name when they purchase something using their debit or credit cards.
The change comes as the company has eliminated signatures over time. To date, the company says that just 20% of transactions in North America still require a signature at checkout.
Convenient & Secure
By doing away with signatures, MasterCard says it is taking another step in its “digital evolution of payments and payment security,” while also providing convenience for customers.
“At first glance, this might sound like a radical proclamation, especially to people who have had credit and debit cards for decades,” Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president of market development at MasterCard, said in a statement. “However, the change matches all of our expectations for fast and convenient shopping experiences.”
According to MasterCard’s own consumer research, the majority of people believe it would be easier to pay and that checkout lines would move faster if they didn’t need to sign when making a purchase.
As for security, MasterCard assures customers that removing the need for signatures at the time of checkout will not impact the safety of their purchases.
For starters, shoppers generally just scribble their name in the “sign here” box at checkout. Often those signatures aren’t checked against anything, otherwise we’d probably have a lot more denied transactions.
MasterCard notes that its network and payment system already include other methods to prove someone’s identity, including the use of chips, tokenization, and personalized identification numbers.
“Beyond what you see and experience at checkout, there is behind-the-scenes technology at work every second of every day to protect every transaction,” Kirkpatrick notes.
All In Agreement
MasterCard’s impending signature change has already been greeted with support from merchants.
Kirkpatrick says the move will help partner merchants speed customers through checkouts, provide more consistent experiences, and decrease the costs associated with storing signatures.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association — which counts a number of major retailers, such as Apple, Best Buy, Gap, Target, Walmart, and others as members — called MasterCard’s end of signature requirement a “good first step.”
The change addresses retailers’ long-argued position that signature requirements are costly, and a now less relevant way to secure transactions.
“RILA supports this policy change and encourages other payment networks to follow Mastercard’s lead,” Austen Jenson, president of government affairs for RILA, said in a statement. “Going forward, the payment industry needs to focus on finding solutions to the growth of fraud both in stores and online, where current measures are inadequate for protecting consumers and merchants.”
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Consumerist.