Times are changing and signatures are on their way out

The New York Times recently reported that a number of large credit card companies in the US, including Mastercard, Visa and American Express will stop requiring signatures to complete credit card transactions at the end of April 2018. This concession confirms what many merchants and shoppers have established long ago – handwritten signatures are not the best way to prove a person’s identity.

Whilst some retailers still verify the signature a customer provides by checking the back of their credit card, many do not. The addition of microchips to cheque and debit cards more than a decade ago has made it significantly more difficult to copy cards, as they create unique codes for every transaction. This was done to counter fraudulent credit card spending, the cost of which is to be covered by credit card companies.

Requiring signatures for verification and identification purposes became largely obsolete when microchips came along, but microchips only became the norm in the United States three years ago, which meant that merchants would still rely on the old John Hancock. This is set to change in the near future, although there is still an expectation that many smaller retailers will still require signed verification.

In South Africa, like many other parts of the world, signatures are still required for large purchases like property, as well as for other contracts, and it remains to be seen whether this decision will also be implemented in our country. American Express has announced that the decision to drop signatures will be applied globally, while Mastercard has said that the decision will only affect residents in the US and Canada, and Visa has said that they will make signatures an optional requirement in North America, but only for retailers that have card systems that can read chipped cards.

Comedians Mark Malkoff and Greg Benson recently made a video of just how useless signatures seem to be in the modern world, when they went to retailers and signed very obviously fake names when asked for handwritten verification. What do you think? Are signatures a thing of the past? Tell us in the comments below.

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