Is a debit card CVV the same as the PIN?

No. A debit card CVV, also known as CVC, is a 3 digit code permanently printed on the back of the debit card by the card brand. The CVV is used as an extra layer of security when performing a card not present transaction. A Debit card PIN stands for “Personal Identification Number” and is set by the cardholder. The PIN is a 4 digit code used as an extra layer of security for in-person (card present) transactions. The PIN is not printed on the debit card like the CVV is.

Both of these numbers help to protect the cardholder from potential fraud, in similar ways. Per PCI DDS regulations (‘Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) both the CVV and PIN codes are not allowed to be stored in any database. This means that the system processing the transaction, whether that be a credit card machine or a computer server (used in websites), is not allowed to save either of these numbers after the transaction is complete. In this way, if the database is compromised there is a key piece of information missing making the credit or debit card information less useful to fraudsters. This not only keeps hackers from using the credit card information but also protects the cardholder from fraudulent merchants and employees alike.

You can actually observe this in everyday life. There are some systems that store your credit card info, for instance, your power or phone company account. When you make a payment you can select that credit or debit card but will always be required to re-enter the CVV for security reasons.

You may ask yourself, “if the CVV info can’t be stored then how do recurring payments work”? Great question!- Because of the security measures implemented by PCI DDS, recurring payments rely on a process called tokenization to function. Tokenization is a way of replacing card information with a heavily encrypted “token”. This is matched with the card information in the bank but is unable to be reverse encrypted to attain the actual credit or debit card information. In this way, systems that perform recurring billing store the cards “token” and use that to initiate the transaction.


CVV vs PIN In conclusion

Though both CVV and PIN numbers both add a layer of security to transactions they are not the same thing. CVVs are used for online and phone orders whereas PIN is used for in-person transactions where the cardholder is physically swiping or dipping their card.


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