When you use a credit card to pay for something, the cashier may sometimes ask you for ID to verify that you’re the cardholder. I’ve found this to be especially true in tourist-heavy places. Of course, the vendor does this to match the name on the credit card to the information on your ID, to prevent credit card fraud.
But are they allowed to do that? Well, it’s complicated…
Why wouldn’t I want to show ID to prove I’m the person named on the credit card?
As much as merchants don’t want to be a victim of credit card fraud, you don’t want to be a victim of identity theft. Showing your ID gives the cashier access to your name, address, driver’s license number, and sometimes, depending on what state you live in, your social security number. If they have access to just your credit card number, credit card identification number (that’s that little 3- or 4-digit number on the front or back of your credit card), name and ZIP code (that last one is provided from your ID), those things alone are enough for them to use your credit card without your knowledge. Their having more info puts you at risk for other kinds of identity theft.
Can they ask me for I.D.?
In general, a merchant can ask you for ID, but as long as your credit card is signed (that’s important – make sure you sign your credit cards!), they usually can’t require it. But there are exceptions (I told you it was complicated).
Here’s the exact wording from each of the major credit cards:
As per Consumer Reports and other online entities, “American Express simply instructs merchants to “verify that the customer is the Cardmember.” (is it just me or wouldn’t that involve showing ID???)
Merchants are allowed to ask for identification if they have reason to think the credit card isn’t valid. If your credit card doesn’t have a signature, the merchant is allowed to ask to see two forms of ID, one of which must be a government-issued ID that has a photo (i.e. drivers license, passport, etc.).
“There are certain situations when you use your Mastercard during which a merchant may require personal information. For example, for shipping purposes. Additionally, if the Mastercard is unsigned, a merchant should request personal identification (but not record it) and ask the cardholder to sign the card before completing the transaction.
“If you believe that a merchant has violated the above standard or their actions requesting identification are questionable, you may report it by completing a brief online form.”
“In general, a merchant is permitted to ask for identification but cannot require it as a condition of Visa card acceptance. However, there are exceptions, for example, if Visa has granted the merchant permission to require identification under certain circumstances for fraud control.”
What if they insist on me showing an I.D.?
Again, it’s complicated. If you’re buying alcohol or cigarettes, for example, they’re allowed to require I.D. (it’s oftentimes state law). But if you’re buying other types of items, sometimes cashiers don’t know the rules. If you escalate it, there’s no saying if a store manager is going to take your side or the cashier’s (but I would bet [s]he’ll side with the cashier).
MasterCard has the online form so you can report it. Visa has a phone number on the back of their cards where you can call in violations. Whether or not you want to pursue those complaints or just take your chances by showing your ID is up to you.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary