I was reminded again last night that signing the back of your credit card remains a way of life in Europe.
It was a dry Christmas in Southern Germany, but we finally were hit with snow and I took my family up to the mountains yesterday. I stopped for some fuel on the way back and ran into a familiar situation.
After pumping the gas, I went inside to pay by credit card. As usual, after the credit card was processed the clerk handed me a receipt to sign while simultaneously pulling my card out of the reader and flipping it over to compare my signature on the card to the one on the receipt.
But my card was unsigned. As a rule, I do not sign cards.
I was prepared though. Before I even sign I pull out my Driver’s License (which is not a valid ID in Germany) and set it down next to the receipt as I sign. The card includes my signature and always does the trick. After many years, I realized this was easier than explaining why I don’t sign my cards.
I’ll never forget the first time I traveled to Germany. It was over 12 years ago and I was just a naive teenager at the time. I handed over my credit card at a gas station and the lady asked why it was not signed.
“We don’t sign credit cards in the United States,” I said.
“This isn’t America…” was her curt reply.
She forced me to sign my card on the spot. I should have just showed her my passport or military ID.
The reason I refuse to sign credit cards is simple. If someone steals my credit card, I also don’t want them to have my signature. Even though I am technically not responsible for any fraudulent charges, why make it easier for someone to steal my identity by getting ahold of one of my credit cards?
Germans are big on formalities. If you try to enter Germany with an unsigned passport, it is deemed invalid and you face a hefty fine (so does the airline). But in the case of credit cards, just have a form of ID handy that includes your signature. I strongly recommend against signing any of the cards in your wallet.
Credit card companies are already solving this issue for us with chip-based security and PIN codes that will (hopefully) will eventually replace the need for signatures.
> Read More: Your Driver’s License is not an ID Card!