Retirements are usually bittersweet; we celebrate an individual’s long career and all the successes that came along with it. At the same time, while we may miss our former colleague, there is also excitement in what lies ahead for that person and their opportunity to enjoy a long retirement. Then some retirement announcements are just a good riddance of something no one will miss. Today, we learned that MasterCard has announced it is officially retiring signature authentication for credit and debit card transactions. This is a huge step in the right direction of once and for all putting signature out to pasture to never be seen again.
Signature authentication has had a long and storied career, from the early days of credit cards where a cashier used a “knuckle buster” to make an impression of a card; at that point, a signature was the best way to authenticate a transaction. In the decades that followed, technology advanced and the signature became useless. Signature does not contribute anything to the security of a transaction. Instead, they slow down in-lane checkout times and are a headache for merchants who have to store and retrieve them for issuers in some chargebacks. The old signature has lingered around for far too long, and like the old “knuckle buster” card imprinters its retirement has finally been announced.
Starting in April 2018, merchants can opt whether or not they choose to collect a signature on all MasterCard transactions. The retirement of signature will finally open the door to real innovation in payment card authentication security, and FMI looks forward to working with our members and the card brands to further strengthen our payments system here in the United States.