What is a CVV/CVC, and where can you find it?

2020-06-17 - 6 min read

Shopping online is convenient, although not without its risks. However, there are some security measures in place that even your bank card has. You might know them as CVV or CVC numbers. So what are they, where do you find them, and how do they protect your money?

What is CVV?

CVV stands for card verification value code. It’s a 3-4 digit number used as an extra security measure to verify your card-not-present transactions. You’ll need it when shopping online or over the phone, where you can’t enter your PIN, and the seller can’t check your signature. Both debit and credit cards have CVV codes, which can be found either on the front or the back of the card.

What is CVC?

CVC stands for card verification code and is essentially the same as CVV. Different card issuers have different names for it, but it serves the same purpose — to confirm your transactions. You might also come across CVV2, CVC2, CSC (card security code), or CID (card identification number).

Where to find CVV/CVC?

  • The Visa, Mastercard, and Discover CVV/CVC code is three digits long. You can find it on the back of your card to the right of the signature panel.

  • The American Express CID code is four digits long. You can find it on the front of your card to the upper right of your account number.

How secure is CVV number?

CVV number protects you from losing your hard-earned cash in the following scenarios:

  • Card skimming. Unlike other card information, CVV isn’t stored in the magnetic stripe. This means that even if someone uses a card skimmer to steal your information, they won’t buy anything. They won’t have your CVV and, therefore, won’t be able to complete the verification.

  • Data breaches. Industry regulations prohibit merchants from storing your CVV number. You can save your credit card details for future purchases, but no legitimate shop should offer to remember your CVV or store it without your knowledge. If a merchant does that and gets hacked, your credit card details will end up in the wrong hands, and they won’t be able to do much. Saying that, beware that some online shops might only ask you to enter your CVV once and then treat any future transactions as legitimate.

How to keep your credit card information safe

Having a card verification number adds a layer of security to your online transactions. However, that doesn’t mean you should not take your card security seriously. Many other cyber-attacks can snatch your CVV and cause a lot of damage. For example, you might land on a spoofed site that looks exactly like your favorite online shop. Or you might book a holiday on a legitimate website that is infected and sends your bank details straight to the hacker. So what should you do to protect your financial information?

  • Learn to recognize phishing. Phishing is a type of social engineering technique that tries to lure sensitive information out of you. It can appear in the form of an email with a malicious attachment, or it may include a link to direct you to a spoofed website. Remember, if you received an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Shop on secure sites. When shopping online, notice whether you visit HTTPS or HTTP sites. Look at the URL bar: does it have a padlock symbol? If you see one, that means you are shopping on an HTTPS site, which encrypts your traffic. It also means that the website is legitimate.

  • Use a prepaid or virtual card. Ask your credit card issuer whether they can help you set up a virtual card, or simply get a prepaid one. You can top up such cards before you make any purchases. If anything happens, the hacker will only get the details of your virtual/prepaid card. They will not be able to drain your bank balance to an absolute limit or steal your identity.

  • Watch your accounts closely. The most common situation when fraud stays unnoticed is when hackers only steal small sums of money, and victims fail to check their bank balances. Do so regularly and question any transactions that don’t seem familiar.

  • Avoid saving your data on retail sites. Even though it’s convenient, resist the urge to save your details on merchants’ sites. It’s difficult to track what type of security measures each of them uses. It’s much easier to store your details in one secure place, like the NordPass password manager, which keeps your details in an encrypted vault and automatically fills them in when you shop online.

Store your credit card details in an encrypted vault. Access whenever you need them.

Chad Hammond
Chad Hammond
Verified author
Chad loves traveling and technology. His global view and open-mindedness add interesting angles to various security topics. He has already traveled to over 80 countries and is not planning to stop any time soon.
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