What is a CVV Number?

CVV stands for “Card Verification Value” is a security feature found on most credit and debit cards. The CVV is a three or four-digit security code printed on credit and debit cards. The code is used as an added security measure for card-not-present transactions – such as an online or telephone-based payment. For card-present transactions the CVV is not used. Since CVV was introduced, it has helped to greatly reduce incidents of online, phone, and mail order credit card fraud.

The History of CVV Security Codes

CVVs, also commonly known as CVC, CSC, CVD, or CINs depending on the card company, was created and implemented in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The creation of CVV was in direct response to the rise of online shopping. With online shopping came an increase in online credit card fraud creating the need for increased security to protect cardholders. The original concept for the CVV was created in the UK by Michael Stone, an employee of Equifax. At first, it was an 11 digit number but was quickly reduced to a more reasonable 3-4 digit code. In 1997 MasterCard® was the first company to implement CVVs on their credit and debit cards. In 1999 American Express® implemented CVV followed by Visa® in 2001.

Where is a Credit Card CVV located?

The card security codes for MasterCard®, Visa®, Discover®, and JCB® are usually found on the back of the card, to the right of the signature space and are a group of 3 numeric digits. The American Express® CVV is a group of 4 numeric digits printed on the front face of the card above and to the right of the card number.


What are the different terms for card security codes?

Each card company has their own preferred name for their version of a card security code. Below are a list of card security code names, what each stands for, and which card brands use them.

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    “CVV2” – Card Verification Value 2 – Visa®
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    “CVC” – Card Verification Code – MasterCard®
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    “CVC2” – Card Validation Code 2 – MasterCard®
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    “CVD” – Card Verification Data – Discover®
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    “CID” – Card Identification Number – Discover® and American Express®
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    “CVN2” – Card Validation Number 2 – China Union Pay®
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    “CSC” – Card Security Code – American Express®

Why is CVV2 used instead of CVV1?

Technically one or the other is used in a transaction. The CVV1 is a code embedded in the second track of the credit or debit card’s magnetic strip. During swipe transactions, the CVV1 is read by the credit card machine or swiper. The CVV2 is used when the card is not able to be swiped such as in phone or online orders. Since the CVV1 cannot be read, in such situations, the cardholders are asked to supply the CVV2 number.

What are the security benefits of card security codes?

Per the ‘Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (aka PCI DDS) regulations, CVV2 data must not be held in any payment system database after a transaction is complete. This is a cornerstone to why CVV security works. Because CVV information cannot be stored, if the database is comprised the card data stored within is less useful to fraudsters. This not only protects from online hackers but also protects the cardholder from fraudulent merchants or employees.

The other main security benefit is the obvious one; In card-not-present transactions, requiring the CVV helps to verify that the physical card is in the possession of the customer performing the transaction.

Is a CVV the same as the card PIN?

No, a CVV is different from a card PIN. PIN stands for “Personal Identification Number” and is the secret passcode the cardholder sets for their debit cards. During a “card-present” transaction, the PIN is required as a security measure to ensure the customer is the owner of the card. On the other hand, the CVV is a 3-4 digit security code printed on the back of the card and is used as added security in “card not present” transactions.

The Future Of Card Security Codes - Dynamic CVV

Dynamic CVV is a new system in which a card will have a tiny screen that displays the CVV code rather than it being printed on the card. The card will change the security number every 30 to 60 minutes for the life of the card – usually 3 or 4 years. The screen will be similar to popular e-reader screens that only require energy to change the displayed numbers and none to keep them displayed. In this way, the system will have extremely low energy requirements. This is a proposed future technology that does not have firm adoption dates but is likely to be implemented in the next few years.

CVV in Conclusion

CVV is a three-digit code created for added security when paying online or over the phone. It was instituted in the late 1990s in response to the birth of online shopping and fraudulent use of cards online. Though different card brands have different names for the CVV security code, “CVV” is the commonly accepted term for all of them. Next time you enter your credit card info online to make a purchase and you are required to enter your card’s CVV, you will have a full understanding of just how important those 3 tiny numbers really are.

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