Originally published by Stacy Cowley on The New York Times on April 9, 2018.
For nearly a decade, Doug Taylor, a sales manager who travels often for work, has signed credit card receipts with a doodle of a dog wagging its tail.
No cashier has ever rejected his “signature” as invalid.
“It gets a laugh, most of the time,” said Mr. Taylor, 44, who lives in Mobile, Ala. “Or they just glance at it and don’t really notice.”
Credit card networks are finally ready to concede what has been obvious to shoppers and merchants for years: Signatures are not a useful way to prove someone’s identity. Later this month, four of the largest networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa — will stop requiring them to complete card transactions.
The signature, a centuries-old way of verifying identity, is rapidly going extinct. Personal checks are anachronisms. Pen-and-ink letters are scarce. When credit card signatures disappear, handwritten authentications will be relegated to a few special circumstances: sealing a giant transaction like a house purchase, or getting a celebrity to autograph a piece of memorabilia — and even that is being supplanted by the cellphone selfie.
Card signatures won’t vanish overnight. The change is optional, leaving retailers to decide whether they want to stop collecting signatures.