When and Why You Sign for Credit Card Purchases

Get the scoop on when your John Hancock is required for credit card purchases.

By Navy Federal June 29, 2017

When you’re out shopping with your credit card, you may notice that sometimes you need to sign for a $30 purchase, while other times you make a $40 purchase and immediately get your receipt—no signature required. What gives? Did that other place just really want your autograph? Actually, there’s a rhyme and reason for when you need to give your signature—and it has nothing to do with celebrity status.

Why We Sign

The reasoning behind signatures for credit card purchases is the same reasoning for signatures anywhere: they’re a way of proving your identity. In the case of credit card transactions, a signature is only one of the methods that may be used to verify that you are who you say you are. Merchants and card issuers can compare the signature on the back of your card with the signature provided at the point of purchase in order to verify that you made the purchase and are not a fraudster. In the event of suspicious activity on your credit card or if you dispute a charge, your credit card issuer can request a copy of the receipt with your signature from the merchant. If the merchant fails to produce a signature or if the signature doesn’t match yours, your card issuer may investigate further to determine if you’re eligible for a refund.

When You Need to Sign

In the case of purchases at a grocery or discount store, you normally don’t have to sign until you spend over $50. Most other purchases will need a signature once you get past $25. Certain types of spending, such as gambling, and some merchants, such as mom and pop stores, may require a signature for purchases of any amount.

You may notice that the more common and less expensive the purchase, the less likely it is to need a signature. That’s no coincidence—credit card network rules continue to allow more purchases to skip the signing process in order to make it easier for you to use your credit card. Nobody wants to sign for every cup of coffee they buy, and now they don’t have to. However, even if you aren’t required to sign for a particular purchase, you’re still liable for all transactions you authorize.

A Card That Protects You

Whether you sign or not, whenever you use a Navy Federal Credit Card, you’re protected from unauthorized purchases with Navy Federal’s Zero Liability policy. That means you won’t be held liable for any unauthorized charges, regardless of the amount. We’ll also notify you immediately of any unusual activity and give you extra protections against credit card fraud. Learn more about what Navy Federal Credit Cards have to offer.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.