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What is CVC? Understanding the Basics

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The movement of many businesses online has seen a rise in the increase of online purchases. Consumers can now get what they need in the corner of their homes using their credit or debit cards.

If you are very familiar with making payments online, you must have had to type in some pieces of details on your card before you can make a payment. Many stores ask you for a three-digit number or four-digit code before your payment can be processed.

Since you have been using this CVV or CVC number, have you ever asked yourself what it means or its purpose?

What CVC means?

CVC is an abbreviation for card verification code. This code is usually a three-digit number on the back of your credit or debit card. At times, the code may be four digits on some cards such as American Express cards.

A CVC is usually printed but not embossed on the card. It serves as a security measure for a consumer when they make a purchase online.

CVC has other common names it is called and these include; card verification value, card identification code, and card security code, amongst others.

Also, the CVV code is usually found on the back of your card, but it is printed on the front of American Express cards.

Why is CVC on my card?

digital cards with cvc on it

The CVC is developed to protect consumers against fraud. It is proof that the card user is in possession of the card at every point in time when they make online transactions are to be made. So, it helps to prevent unauthorized transactions.

Aside from your card number and account number, your CVV provides an additional security layer to protect against fraud. It helps to verify the identity of every cardholder when the card is being used for a transaction.

As a measure against fraudulent transactions, a credit card company, card issuer, or financial institution among others is expected to include a CVC on the debit or credit cards they issue.

Types of CVC

Every card (visa cards, MasterCard, debit cards, credit cards, or even postpaid cards) has more than one CVC. Each of the CVCs works based on the type of transaction you want to make.

CVC for physical transaction

This CVV code can be found on the magnetic stripe of your card. So, when you make payments using POS or ATM withdrawals, you are using this type of CVC.

You do not need to type this CVC code. The machine will read it via the magnetic stripe. The CVV code works with the last four digits of your card number.

CVC for online purchases

This is the type of CVV you used to make online purchases such as phone payments. An algorithm helps to generate this code and it is printed on the back of your card.

Usually, it is a three-digit code but it can also be a four-digit number.

Dynamic CVV

This third type of CVC is usually offered by some banks. The CVV numbers are randomly generated to work for just a single purchase. This type of CVV code is great because it is not physically printed on the card.

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The limitations to CVC

While it seems like card issuing companies, such as credit card companies are trying their best to ensure that a secure socket layer is added to their customer’s credit cards, there are still certain underlying limitations to the effectiveness of CVV for users.

Below are some of the limitations of CVV:

  • Despite the security feature of CVV, it cannot prevent phishing scams. With phishing scams, the credit card owner is tricked to input their CVV and other card information such as pin code, expiration date, and credit card number through a fake website.
    Sometimes, the phishers make fraudulent calls to card owners having illegally obtained their card account number from a merchant database through hacking and use the information to request the CVC number from the card owner.
  • Another limitation is based on the fact that card owners will be put through the stress of inputting their CVV every time they need to make online payments with some merchants that do not offer automatic card billing. The reason for this is that the CVV is not expected to be stored in the database of the merchant after using it once.
  • The use of card verification value is not mandatory for making online transactions. So, a merchant may decide not to request your CVV while you use your credit card or debit card. As a result, your card is still prone to phishers’ activities.
  • Smart fraudsters may be able to guess a person’s CVV once they have the other details of a person’s credit card. They use a method called the distributed attack.
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Protecting your credit or debit card

Protect your card verification value by following the tips below:

  • Make sure you engage in online purchases only on reputable websites.
  • Avoid making payments on a call using your credit card or debit card. You may only consider this if you make the call yourself or you are in talks with a vendor you trust. This will protect you against fraudsters who cold call their victims to defraud them.
  • Do not write down your credit card details where a third party can find them.
  • Stay away from reading out your credit card details in a public place.
  • Avoid clicking just anyhow mail or text message. Use powerful cybersecurity software to protect your devices against possible data compromise.
  • Always monitor your credit card usage and your account statement to notice if there are unauthorized charges.

Finally, CVC is a security feature developed to help secure consumers’ credit card usage online. Your CVV or CVC number serves as your card identification number to prove to online vendors that you are the real user of the card at the point of transaction.


How do I find my CVC on my credit card?

The CVV numbers are printed on the back of Visa and MasterCard credit or debit cards. But for American Express cards, it is on the front.

What do I do if my card doesn’t have a CVC number?

All credit cards and debit cards have a CVC number. However, this number can be rubbed off due to wear and tear. In case yours rubbed off, just reach out to your credit card issuer for a new card.

Is CVC a three-digit or four-digit?

For Mastercard and Visa cards, your CVV number is a three-digit code but for American Express, your card has a four-digit code.

Gintaras Baltusevicius

Gintaras is a fintech enthusiast with extensive experience working with startups in various industries, including cybersecurity, SaaS, and aviation. He has a passion for exploring new technologies and innovations in the financial industry and enjoys sharing his knowledge with others.

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