PhotoThe lightning-fast pace of technology has dug deeper into consumers’ billfolds. Mastercard announced on Friday that signatures will soon be optional for all cardholders, not only on the card but on receipts, as well. Mastercard issuers will start distributing the signature panel-less cards in April, 2019.

Having the luxury of get-it-and-go without having to sign anything offers consumers the ability to save time and deal with a little less hassle at the tail end of a transaction for those who “tap-and-pay.”

Mastercard didn’t come to this change quickly. In a study of 1,200+ credit card users, only 40 percent said they had put their John Hancock on the back of their cards, and one-third of those who haven’t signed said they didn’t really see any value in doing it anyway.

“With modern, advanced forms of authentication now available, removing the requirement for signature capture at the point of sale and now signature panels on Mastercard cards is an important step in support of our digital evolution,” said Linda Kirkpatrick, executive vice president, U.S. Merchants and Acceptance, Mastercard. “Issuers, merchants and cardholders will benefit from this change as faster, safer options improve satisfaction and increase sales.”

Mastercard said the move to signature-less was also delayed until cards embedded with chips became common.

Any security risk?

In Mastercard’s research, most of the survey takers didn’t believe that leaving their signature off posed a risk, and two-thirds of the respondents said they preferred biometrics over the standard signatures, PIN numbers, and passwords when paying with their card.

“We see this as a win for all. The investments we’ve made in technology like artificial intelligence and biometrics are what’s powering this next step,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of Mastercard’s cyber and intelligence solutions.

“We believe our merchant and issuing partners everywhere will embrace the ability to deliver a simpler checkout experience while maintaining the highest levels of security.”

To give consumers an extra ounce of confidence in Mastercard’s technology move, the company says that users will remain protected against fraud via Mastercard Zero Liability coverage. However, knowing the caveats of the policy will be important to ensure that there are no gaps.

If a consumer’s card ever gets compromised, the company’s Zero Liability policy states that the card user will not be held responsible for unauthorized transactions only if:

  • The user has used reasonable care in protecting their card from loss or theft; and

  • The user promptly reports loss or theft to their financial institution.

Verifi, an ecommerce solution provider, tells ConsumerAffairs that adding three-factor authentication through biometrics will help ensure that consumers’ identities are protected. However, there are drawbacks to consider.

“The plus for biometrics is that they cannot easily be counterfeited as they are unique to the customer and they are easily accessible for the user,” a company representative said. “On the flip side, this type of authentication is less convenient for consumers and usually requires a longer time commitment for the checkout process as the merchant is requiring an additional factor of authentication.”


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