Discover plans to drop signature requirement for card payments

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Only two months after Mastercard eliminated the signature requirement on credit and debit card transactions, Discover says it also will drop the sometimes controversial cardholder authentication method.

Beginning in April 2018, Discover will no longer require signatures at the point of sale for credit and debit transactions on the Discover Global Network in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

When EMV chip cards came into the U.S. along with a liability shift, it triggered a debate on whether such a major change in payment methods at the point of sale was worth the expense if it did not go hand in hand with a switch to PIN over signature. Though the major card brands had differing viewpoints on the signature vs. PIN debate, they mostly agreed that it was up to the issuers to establish a process with their customers.
Still, Discover stood behind PIN in the case of EMV, a position that likely made it even easier to dispatch with signature and provide better security tools for its merchants.

The contention among many in the payments industry for years has been that signature is the least secure of all authorization methods, in part because clerks at the point of sale rarely take the time to check it against a signature on a back of a card, and that digital card acceptance monitors call for signatures that do not remotely appear like a cardholder's regular signature.

Discover says it was a move to continually improve the payment experience by speeding up the time spent at checkout, while also maintaining high levels of security. The card brand cited digital technologies such as tokenization, multifactor authentication and biometrics as more secure than a signature.

“As the payments industry continues to evolve and introduce new methods of transacting, we’re making sure that Discover is providing customers and merchants with a smooth and more secure payments experience,” Jasma Ghai, vice president of global products innovation at Discover, said in a press release.

“With the rise in new payment security capabilities, like chip technology and tokenization, the time is right to remove this step from the checkout experience,” Ghai added.

Discover did acknowledge that merchants interested in no longer requiring a signature for Discover transactions might need to update their point of sale systems.

In light of recent breaches, Discover has introduced a monitoring service that cardholders can sign up for that will alert users if their Social Security number is found in use, or as part of any new accounts opened on their Experian credit report.

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