Your credit card security code — sometimes referred to as CVV, CVV2, CSC or CVC — is a three- or four-digit number printed on the front or back of your credit card. It’s separate from your credit card account number (those are much longer) and your PIN (those are private and do not appear on your credit card). To help you fully understand what you need to know about your credit card’s security code, consider this fundamental information:

  1. What Is a Credit Card Security Code?
  2. Why You Should Protect Your Security Code
  3. Your Security Code Is Not Your PIN
  4. Where to Find Your Security Code
  5. What to Do If You Can’t Find Your Security Code

1. What Is a Credit Card Security Code?

Credit card security codes are three- or four-digit numbers printed on a credit card. They are often required to make online purchases because they help the merchants you’re buying from verify that you have the card in your possession at the time of purchase, which helps prevent fraud.

Credit card security codes may be referred to with a variety of acronyms such as:

  1. CVV or CVV2 (Card Verification Value Code)
  2. CSC (Card Security Code)
  3. CVC or CVC2 (Card Verification Code)
  4. CID (Card Identification Number)

2. Why You Should Protect Your Security Code?

Your credit card security code is a tool to help protect your credit, so you should hold it close. Never share it over the phone, in an email or in a text. When shopping online, stick to reputable sellers and sites, and beware of scams that might be seeking your card details.

Protecting your code is important because if someone has your credit card account number, expiration date and security code, they can make online purchases. The merchant will have no way of knowing it’s not you.

3. Your Security Code Is Not Your PIN

Your PIN is your Personal Identification Number; it’s completely different from your security code.

A PIN is a numerical code used with debit and credit cards to authorize transactions such as cash advances or to withdraw cash from an ATM. In contrast, a security code is used, for example, so a retailer can verify that you are in fact the cardholder placing an order online.

Like your credit card security code, protect your PIN when keying it in public and don’t share it with anyone.

4. Where to Find Your Security Code

Different card issuers put their security codes in different spots:

According to CreditCards.com, for Visa, MasterCard and Discover it® Cards, you’ll typically find a series of numbers printed on the back of the card, usually either on the signature strip or just to the right of it. Regardless of the number of digits, your security code consists of the last three digits (they may be italicized).

American Express cardholders can find their 4-digit security code on the front of the card. Note that these four digits will be printed in black, not embossed like your credit card number.

graphic of where to find your credit card security card

5. What to Do If You Can’t Find Your Security Code

If you can’t find your 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.

Your credit card security code is there to help protect you from fraud. Locate it on each of your credit cards, and take care when sharing it to reduce the likelihood of it falling into the wrong hands.

Published November 7, 2016.

Updated October 20, 2020.

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