VISA signatures will soon be optional as chip takes over

Back in October, MasterCard announced that it will eliminate signatures for card holders starting in 2018. Following that, VISA has made a similar announcement, saying that signatures will be made optional for all merchants that support the EMV chip. The move away from signatures has started as many banking customers in North America use credit and debit cards featuring the chip.

The EMV chip, more commonly referred to among merchants and consumers as simply "the chip," is the small square-shaped, gold-colored contact point on the end of your credit and debit cards. Rather than sliding these cards, customers insert them into a slot on the bottom of the merchant's point-of-sale terminal.

Though the chip was still relatively uncommon a couple years ago, most merchants have upgraded their systems to support the chip. Signatures remain in some cases, though, which serves mostly just to slow the checkout line down at this point. Signatures are quickly becoming something like the checkbook of modern banking.

In a statement released today, VISA said that starting in April, all EMV merchants located in North America will have the option — rather than requirement — to get signatures from customers. This assumes they have a contact or contact-less point of sale terminal with support for the EMV chip; those that still require the customer to slide the card will still have to get signatures from the customer.

Talking about this change, VISA VP of customer products Dan Sanford said:

Visa is committed to delivering secure, fast and convenient payments at the point of sale. Our focus is on continually evolving the market towards dynamic authentication methods such as EMV chip, as well as investing in emerging capabilities that leverage advanced analytics and biometrics. We believe making the signature requirement optional for EMV chip-enabled merchants is the responsible next step to enhance security and convenience at the point of sale.