The Great Credit Card 'See ID' Hoax

I had been led to understand that by not signing the back of my credit card and instead writing "SEE ID" on the back of it, I was somehow making my credit card safer. The reasoning went like this: if someone stole my credit card they wouldn't know what my signature looked like. In addition, they would be forced to show a valid ID in order to use it.

So I go to the post office to mail some packages, and when it comes time to pay I whip out my credit card and hand it to the postal employee. She takes one look at it and says, "I'm sorry, Sir. But this card is not valid unless you sign the back of it." I smirk and explain that by writing "See ID" on the back of it, I've actually made my card more secure. As I say this I thrust my ID eagerly in her face.

But she's not about to budge. She repeats, "I'm sorry, Sir. But this card is not valid unless you sign the back of it."

I hesitate. I'm thinking to myself, "how stupid can this woman be?" I explain once again why I haven't signed it. Her insistence on needing it to be signed doesn't change. Exasperated, and really not wanting to have to leave with my packages unsent, I say loudly, "Okay, I'll sign the card RIGHT NOW!" And dramatically I sign the card and hand it to her.

She takes it, runs it through the machine. And that's that.

But all the way home in my car I'm fuming about the stupidity of this woman. How could she not understand that my card was more secure by not being signed, I'm thinking. Does the post office insist on making credit card users less secure? And after all, why didn't the words 'SEE ID' count as my signifying mark? How did she know that that wasn't my signature? Don't illiterate people sign with the mark "X"? Would the post office not allow illiterate people to use credit cards?

I'm weaving these elaborate arguments in my mind as I drive, and plotting to return to the post office and have a showdown with her manager. Then as soon as I get home I run to the internet and do a search for "SEE ID" and "credit card".

To my dismay Google directs me right to the Visa and Mastercard websites which inform me that it is indeed not allowed to write "SEE ID" on the back of your card. That you MUST sign the back of it.

The reason is that the signature isn't there solely so that store employees can verify who you are. Instead, your signature on the back of the card also demonstrates that you've agreed to the terms of the contract with the credit card company. If the card isn't signed, then technically you're never entered into a legal agreement with Visa, Mastercard, or whomever, and you shouldn't be using the card.

So I guess I've been the victim of misinformation. I wonder how many other people are wandering around with "SEE ID" on the back of their cards, arguing with all the poor cashiers who tell them that the cards have to be signed?