Mastercard to stop requiring signature panels on cards

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Mastercard is making the first move among the card networks, again, on moving away from the signature requirement — completely removing the space for a signature from its cards.

Beginning in April 2019, Mastercard issuers globally will no longer be required to include a signature panel of the back of Mastercard-branded card products. Last year, Mastercard revealed that it was dropping the signature requirement on receipts for in-store transactions conducted in the U.S. and Canada starting April 2018. Thursday's announcement extends the optional signature requirement for in-store purchases to all merchants globally, not just in the U.S. and Canada.

“Mastercard desires to make the checkout as friction-free as possible by eliminating the need to sign for purchases globally. Also, now we are releasing the issuers of the requirement of having a signature panel on the back of the card. It only made sense,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president, merchants and acceptance, U.S. at Mastercard.

Last year, Mastercard said that more than 80 percent of its in-store transactions did not require a signature at checkout. This was due to a rule change implemented years earlier to eliminate signature authentication for low-value transaction. While these moves have been followed by competitors, Kirkpatrick noted that they have done so in slightly different ways which can cause confusion at the point of sale.

It was this variation in rules that Mastercard believed was creating friction at the checkout lane.

“Think about the retail environment where cashiers need to know different rules for different networks. By Mastercard’s decision, it improves the checkout and eliminates confusion. It makes is simple when 100 percent of the time no signature is required,” added Kirkpatrick.

Following Mastercard, Discover was the second to move on signature, dropping the requirement in April 2018 for point of sale for credit and debit transactions on the Discover Global Network in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. American Express then followed by eliminating the signature for purchase authorization on all card transactions at the point of sale, starting in April of 2018. Visa was the last to make an announcement, though it also aligned with the April 2018 date the other brands chose.

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