Signing “Ask for ID” on my credit cards invalidates them?

I had a weird experience at the Post Office this afternoon when I tried to buy a roll of stamps and am hoping some of my blog pals can offer up some thoughts…
When I got the latest wave of credit cards I decided that this time, instead of signing them, I’d write “Ask for ID” on the back, as a bit of a fraud protection and identity theft prevention. So far, it’s distressing to see how few people actually care about asking for my ID, even when I point out that’s what I’ve written on the back. But that’s another story.
This afternoon, we popped into the local Post Office and dutifully queued up until it was our turn, then asked for a roll of stamps, $42, and presented my credit card to pay.


The clerk looked at “Ask for ID” on the back, seemed a bit embarrassed, and said “I can’t accept that.”
“What?” I said, in disbelief. “Why not?”
“We’ve been told not to accept ‘ask for id’ credit cards. Sorry.”
I pulled out my driver’s license and said “here, here’s my ID. I don’t see what the problem is.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t accept this card. Do you have another one?”
I looked at my wallet, wherein I only carry two credit cards, and realized that I’d written “Ask for ID” on the back of both rather than signing them. So I luckily had enough cash on me for the stamps, but was peeved by that point.
I asked for her supervisor and she said that it was official post office regulation. Then she pulled out a notebook of bulletins and showed me one that indeed says:

“A card with the words ‘see I.D.’ or two signatures on the signature panel is not acceptable. The card companies consider this to be an invalid card.”

She even generously made a copy of it for me, so I know that’s exactly what it says.
But that begs the question: Did I err in not signing the cards and instead writing “Ask for ID”? I now don’t remember where I read it, but I’m pretty darn sure it was a WSJ or NYT article or similar talking about fraud prevention and recommending strongly that not carrying around signature samples was a wise move.
Nonetheless, I now have an ongoing problem with the post office, a place where I often use my credit card and now, apparenlty, can no longer do so? WTH?
Anyone have any thoughts, insight or even links to any of the credit card sites or government agencies where they recommend that you do (or don’t!) use “Ask for ID” on your cards? Thanks!!!


Update: According to VISA if the card says “see ID” or equivalent, merchants are required to “Request a signature. Ask the cardholder to sign the card and provide current government identification, such as a driver’s license or passport (if local law permits).” So that’s that. I goofed and need to squeeze a signature on my cards. Oh well.

13 comments on “Signing “Ask for ID” on my credit cards invalidates them?

  1. I used to work in retail and I was fascinated by the “See ID” signature, it was mostly US tourists who would have it, I just assumed it was what the US banks suggested. Although the first time I saw it I actually had to ask the girl “Is this your signature?” 🙂

  2. Try another post office. They don’t all follow the rules. I have my signature and ‘ask for id’ on my cards and have no problem using it at the post office or anywhere else.

  3. All the more reason to buy stamps online or use the automat machine in the post office lobby. So far, the internet hasn’t asked me once for a signature or to see my ID.

  4. The back of my cards have signature/see ID. I think all the cards say “not valid unless signed”. I had a clerk one time not accept my card until I signed the back. Having both on there has worked for me.

  5. I tend to avoid the lines and use the self service machines…like the other poster said, they never ask for ID or a signature. I’m not sure how the U.S. Postal Service works around this…
    I did once also have a person ask me to “sign my card” as I was standing there (it was a new card). I can’t tell you how many things are wrong with this. Truth be known, we are working our way to the point that even credit cards are going to require a pin. I remember years ago jokingly thinking “someday we will just use a little card instead of cash” – I think we are very close to that day.

  6. That’s crappy. I also have my signature as see id and you know how many times I have had anyone ask me to see my id?
    None! Kind of Disappointing!
    I’m going to def blog about this also to my readers.

  7. I work in customer service and I have to say that it’s really annoying when we get the See I.D. cards. Signatures already don’t matter and aren’t required in a lot of places (like the internet and my second job where we just have quick pay). I wouldn’t ever not accept a card because the person’s signature looks different. After all a lot of people give their boyfriends or children permission to use their card, which I think is totally valid. I was delighted when I heard that according to the credit companies it actually invalidates the card. Now I have something to tell smug customers that give me crap for not checking their I.D. When you work in a job that frequently has a long line of people, the last thing you want is to have to do something unnecessary that holds up everyone else in line.
    If you’re interested in the lack of security involved in credit card signatures, you might want to check out this blog post I found http://lemonsinspace.blogspot.com/2005/04/what-would-you-have-to-do-to-get.html

  8. Clerks actually have no right to ask a person for ID when taking credit cards. If a person does ask for ID they are probably uninterested in stealing your identity, BUT, the cases where a clerk asks for ID and takes the drivers license number down is becoming less than rare. Protect yourself, dont give your identity away for free every time you use a credit card.

  9. Listen… Why the hell do you people buy credit cards. I guarantee all of you will say “convenience.” If you want a “convenience card” use your damn bank/debit card. A CREDIT CARD IS FOR YOUR SECURITY NOT YOUR CONVENIENCE SO DON’T BE SO DAMN OBJECTIVE IF THE RULES THAT ARE PUT IN PLACE TO PROTECT YOU AREN’T CONVENIENT FOR YOU!
    First off, let’s talk about UNSIGNED cards. Working in retail I see this a lot. I will not accept an unsigned credit card. I will ask the customer for Photo ID and then ask them to sign their credit card. If the signatures and name match with the Photo ID at this point, I am authorized to proceed with the payment. This is the only thing that the merchant agreement with the credit card companies allows us to do in this situation. What is there to stop someone from stealing your card and signing the back of it themselves? If someone named Bill Smith gave me a credit card that said John Doe, but the back was signed in whatever squiggle that matches Bill Smith’s signature… I would accept it.
    Now… Let’s talk about “Ask For ID.” I first must say this. If for instance, someone stole your credit card that said “Ask For ID” and used that to make a purchase at a retail store and signed the credit card slip “Ask For ID” technically that is a valid signature and they could in fact make a statement in saying that any retail outlet is not actually allowed to ask for photo identification during a credit card transaction. So people that are going around saying “Oh, I won’t sign my card because someone could practice my signature!” are just making it easier for someone to practice “ASK FOR ID.”
    Now on that same note… I’ve seen a lot of the American Driver’s Licenses and actually most of the Canadian one’s are the same way… They look like library cards!!! I live in Alberta where luckily our DLs had a great face lift about five years ago so we do have much added security. Anyways… Say someone stole your card… How did they steal your card? Oh… Maybe by STEALING YOUR WALLET. They have your wallet! They have your PHOTO IDENTIFICATION. Oh now you say “Well there isn’t somebody that looks exactly like me!!” Well I don’t know if you know this, but the crooks that go around using fraud credit cards are usually working in groups. Which means that they are bound to have access to someone with similar build, face and hair colour as you. What’s to stop them from throwing on a hat and sunglasses and making a purchase with YOUR “ASK FOR ID” credit card and using YOUR ID that they were able to obtain by stealing YOUR WALLET.
    So look at that. I just shared an exploit for each of your guys’ “security tactics.” I must share this with you to reinforce my idea that credit cards are for SECURITY. If for instance, you had your wallet stolen like i had described above and your card said “ASK FOR ID” but the crooks were able to get away with all that spending. Say the police find your wallet and return it to you, of course it would have been robbed of all that cash that was in it but hey, you got your wallet back, congrats.
    Now let’s hear about what Visa has to say about how the police report stipulates that your card is signed “ASK FOR ID.” Oh shucks, looks like you broke your terms of use with Visa! Too bad! It looks like those two laptops those fraudsters bought on your charge card aren’t going to be covered under Visa’s insurance policies! Game over man.
    My Dad has been a victim several times. Once he even had a new card stolen in the mail! But you know what… Since he abided by Visa’s policies, he was always reimbursed for the transactions that he did not make and those merchants that did not properly verify the signature with the card holder were penalized!! So you know what guys… Just suck it up, quit being so ****ing scared all the damn time. If you want convenience use your damn debit card, but if you want security than just do as your Bank and Credit Card Company tell you to and quit listening to your idiot friend that knows some cop that told him not to sign your credit card.
    Some of you people need to get just suck it up and quit living in fear all the time.

  10. Wow! After reading this last comment I feel like I just watched a clip of “Back in Black” with Lewis Black at the Daily Show… :-O

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