What is CVV or Security Code on Credit Cards?

A credit card security code is a unique three-or-four-digit number located on the front or back of your credit card. The purpose of the code is to safeguard your card from fraudulent activity.

What Is a Card Verification Number (CVV)?

Your credit card comes with a unique numerical code printed on it known as the card verification value (CVV).

It’s sometimes referred to as the card verification code (CVC) or the card security code.

CVV codes play a critical role in ensuring that would-be thieves don’t compromise your credit card details.

They’re used primarily during card-not-present transactions (CNP).

Card-not-present transactions occur in instances where you and your card are not physically present at the time the merchant processes it.

Examples include payments made online, over the phone, or by mail.

When you conduct a purchase online, the merchant will ask you to enter your credit card’s CVV code, in addition to the account number and expiration date.

Before completing the transaction, the merchant’s payment processing system will use the CVV code to verify that you’re the card’s rightful owner.

Should there be a discrepancy between the card’s account number/expiration date and the CVV code linked to it, the transaction will decline.

How to Find Your Credit Card Security Code?

You don’t have to search far and wide to find your CVV code – it’s printed right there on your credit card.

Here’s how to quickly identify it based on your card type:

  • Visa – Three-digit code located on the back of the card, to the right of the signature box.
  • Mastercard – Three-digit code located on the back of the card, to the right of the signature box.
  • American Express – Four-digit code located on the front of the card above the 15-digit account number
  • Discover – Three-digit code located on the back of the card, to the right of the signature box.

Key Insight

A CVV2 code is a card verification code produced using 2nd generation security technology, which makes it more challenging for a criminal to guess.

Why is a CVV Important?

Credit card issuers utilize CVV codes to help detect and mitigate fraudulent transactions, primarily online.

CVV codes are a way for merchants to validate the cardholder’s identity, independent of the card’s account number and expiration date.

Supplying your CVV code to complete a transaction is like the second step in a two-factor authentication procedure you’d use when logging in to a personal account on a secure website.

Suppose a thief obtains your username and password.

In that case, they’d still lack the security code needed to successfully gain access to your account since it’s transmitted strictly to your phone or email.

Likewise, a CVV code provides the same extra layer of security.

It ensures that no one can freely use your card to conduct unauthorized transactions, even if they know your account number and expiration date.

But what if a merchant is hacked? Couldn’t the thieves acquire your CVV code from the credit card information that the merchant has on your customer file?

The answer is no.

The reason your CVV code isn’t vulnerable is that card issuers and networks prohibit merchants from storing your card’s CVV code in their databases.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) outlines similar stipulations, which apply globally to merchants who store and process credit card data.

As a result, a merchant retains no record of your card’s CVV code once they process your transaction.

Should hackers successfully bypass the merchant’s security measures and collect your credit card information, they’d still be missing the CVV code.

They’ll be less likely to engage in fraudulent activity without the code because it’s necessary to complete online transactions.

Did You Know?

Contactless credit cards generate their own CVV code, known as iCVV.

Can I Share My Security Code with Others?

Given how vital the CVV code is for authorizing online credit card transactions, you should never share it with anyone.

Should an individual obtain your CVV code, in addition to your other card details, they’ll have free reign to conduct unauthorized transactions.

When making purchases online, you should provide your CVV code only to businesses you know to be legitimate and trustworthy.

You should be wary of someone who requests the code over the phone, as well.

To mitigate the risk of your CVV code falling prey to criminals, always observe prudent security practices when shopping online:

  • Use anti-virus software
  • Use secure websites (look for “HTTPS” in your browser’s address bar)
  • Looks for signs of a phishing credit card scam
  • Avoid conducting transactions using public Wi-Fi
Lady making online purchase and typing in CVV

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is a credit card security code the same as a CVV?
  • Is a credit card security code 3 or 4 digits?
  • How to find credit card security code without card?
Mark Gregorski

Mark is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.