As the lockdown stretches on, most New Yorkers are taking serious precautions with consistent social distancing, regular handwashing and wearing masks in public. But even the most fastidious observer of these norms still have to buy groceries, where they encounter a relic of the payment process: The debit or credit card signature.
Believe it or not, the payment networks handling our card transactions have not required signatures on most transactions for years—and it’s time for retailers to follow through.
“Maybe that grime on the pen is just hand sanitizer,” you hope while scrawling an illegible squiggle or smiley face on the signature pad or paper receipt. Indeed, you can scribble anything you like because no chip or contactless transactions require a signature anymore. That’s right: The whole signature process is superfluous in almost every payment situation, especially at grocery or other retail stores.
I have not even signed the back of any of my cards in the last decade. Indeed, I have only ever been asked to show my card signature panel in the U.K., where, in 2011, a young cashier at Sainsbury’s had never seen a magnetic swipe card before and had to ask the manager for help. (The UK fully transitioned to chip technology by the end of 2006.)
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