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What is a CVV Number on a Credit Card?

Last Updated: September 6, 2023
4 min read

Key points about: CVV numbers

  1. A CVV, or card verification value, is typically a three- or four-digit number found on a credit card.

  2. CVV numbers add an extra layer of security for your credit card.

  3. A CVV is different than the PIN associated with your credit card

If you ever use your credit card to make an online purchase, use your card to make payments over the phone, or otherwise have to provide your card number for a transaction without tapping or swiping the physical card, you’ve probably encountered the term “CVV.” If you’ve wondered what the meaning of CVV is, how to find the CVV, or why you have to provide it, you’re not alone.
We’ve gathered some of the top questions about the CVV code on credit cards to help shed some light on the subject.

What is CVV?

First things first: CVV stands for “card verification value.” It’s worth noting that different merchants or credit card issuers might use different terminology when asking for CVV, but they refer to the same thing, which is a number that’s used for card verification data. They may also be called:

  • CVC: Card Verification Code or Card Validation Code
  • CSC: Card Security Code
  • CIN/CID: Card Identification Number
  • Credit Card Identification Code or Card Code

CVV, or any of the other names listed above, is the term used for the three- or four-digit number that you can find on your physical card that isn’t part of the 16-digit credit card number itself.

The specific credit card security code is determined by the debit or credit card issuer based on specific factors, such as the credit card number, the card’s expiration date, a credit card issuer’s unique code, or a specific service code.

How do you find your CVV?

The CVV is typically on the back of a credit card, near the signature area. (American Express prints its four-digit card code on the front of the card.)

On Discover it® Credit Cards, the three-digit CVV is on the back of your card at the end of your 16-digit credit card number. It’s sometimes italicized.

If you can’t find your CVV security code, or if you can’t read it because it’s faded or illegible, call the card issuer. You’ll find the phone number on the back of the card.

Why do credit cards have CVV codes?

The CVV code is designed to provide extra security for your credit card information to help reduce the opportunity for fraud, theft, and unauthorized transactions. That’s why it’s usually required for a transaction where the physical card isn’t present (like an online purchase or payment by phone)—it’s a way to reassure the merchant that the person paying has the physical card in their possession.

CVV numbers are hard for hackers to obtain because retailers don’t store CVV numbers in their databases, so even if hackers breach these databases and get credit card numbers, they won’t obtain your CVV.

How much security does a CVV offer?

Unfortunately, identity theft, credit card fraud, and security breaches do happen. No security method is guaranteed, but a credit card CVV does provide a slight hurdle for hackers who may otherwise be able to access your account or credit card information.

How can you protect your CVV from being disclosed?

You should protect your CVV code as you protect your credit card number and other card details.

  • Don’t send the CVV code through unsecured channels, like text message, email, or social media messages.
  • Use your card only on trusted and secure websites, such as sites with “https:” at the beginning of the URL, and those with an SSL “padlock” icon next to the URL.
  • Never share photos of your credit card on social media.
  • Avoid using your credit card on unsecured WiFi networks and protect your home WiFi with a password.

Did you know?

Looking for more security features for your credit card? Discover gives you more control over your personal information online by regularly helping you to remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data.  It’s free, activate with the Discover app.1 Compare Discover credit cards against other industry-leading cards to find the one best for you.

CVV number vs. a credit card PIN

A personal identification number (PIN) is typically used to make debit card or credit card cash withdrawals at an ATM, or for in-person purchases using a debit card. (A credit card cash withdrawal is also called a cash advance.)

Though the PIN is sent in a letter to the cardholder, credit card and debit card PINs are set by the cardholder, not the credit card issuer.

How does a PIN differ from the CVV?

The intent of both a CVV and PIN are security features designed to reduce the potential of a fraudulent transaction being made using your personal information or card number. But they are very different. A credit card CVV is set by the card issuer and can't be changed by the cardholder. A CVV isn’t used to withdraw cash and is a standard security feature used in the payment card industry.

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  1. Online Privacy Protection: is offered by Discover Bank at no cost and only available in the mobile app. About every 90 days we will scan at least 10 select people-search sites for your online personal information and help you submit opt-out requests.  Types of personal information found on these sites will vary.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.