Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Published: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 12:24 AM

Credit cards.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
Credit cards.(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

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American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

2018 SAG Awards: Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, complete list of winners

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 8:18 PM

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 21:  Statue of the Screen Actors Guild Actor is seen at the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_009  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner Image)
Dimitrios Kambouris
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 21: Statue of the Screen Actors Guild Actor is seen at the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_009 (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Turner Image)(Dimitrios Kambouris)

Hollywood stars honored television and cinematic performances at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday. 

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Morgan Freeman honored with lifetime achievement award at SAG Awards

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 11:43 PM

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 21:  Honoree Morgan Freeman accepts the Life Achievement Award from actor Rita Moreno onstage during the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_010  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner Image)
Christopher Polk
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 21: Honoree Morgan Freeman accepts the Life Achievement Award from actor Rita Moreno onstage during the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. 27522_010 (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Turner Image)(Christopher Polk)

Legendary actor Morgan Freeman was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards — one of the most prestigious honors in the entertainment industry — which was given to him by longtime colleague and friend Rita Moreno.

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“Morgan is way more than just an actor, narrator, producer, humanitarian. This man is a national treasure,” Moreno said.

When he came to the stage, the 80-year-old icon traded a few playful jokes with Moreno, before moving on to the thank you’s.

“These moments in one’s life usually will call for an entire litany of thank you’s. I can’t do that because I don’t know all of your names, so I won’t try,” said Freeman. “This is beyond honor. This is a place in history.”

But towards the end of his speech, Freeman commented on the SAG award statue: 

“I wasn’t gonna do this, but I’m gonna tell you what’s wrong with this statue,” he said. “It works from the back. From the front, it’s gender-specific. Maybe I started something.”

Former Disney star Orlando Brown arrested after family disturbance, police say

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 7:11 PM

Orlando Brown. (Photo: Barstow Police Department)
Orlando Brown. (Photo: Barstow Police Department)

Former Disney Channel star Orlando Brown was recently arrested following what authorities say was a violent altercation at an apartment in California.

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The 30-year-old “That’s So Raven” actor was reportedly engaged in a dispute with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s mother when an officer from the Barstow Police Department arrived on the scene at around 8 a.m. Thursday.

The officer realized there were active arrest warrants on Brown and his girlfriend’s mother, so they were both arrested and booked into the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Barstow Jail, according to a police press release.

Brown’s bail was set at $25,000.

He previously served time in 2013 after failing to complete court-ordered alcohol education classes in connection with a previous DUI arrest.

John Coleman, The Weather Channel founder, dead at 83

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2018 @ 5:39 PM

CORRECTS THAT COLEMAN IS AT RIGHT, NOT LEFT - In this July 30, 1981 photo,  John Coleman, weather channel founder, right, and Frank Batten, publisher of the Norfolk, Va., Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star, and chairman and chief executive of Landmark Communications, Inc., are seen during a news conference in New York. John Coleman, the founder of The Weather Channel and longtime KUSI weatherman, died Saturdaty night, Jan. 20, 2018, at home in Las Vegas, said his wife Linda Coleman. He was 83.  (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)
Marty Lederhandler/AP
CORRECTS THAT COLEMAN IS AT RIGHT, NOT LEFT - In this July 30, 1981 photo, John Coleman, weather channel founder, right, and Frank Batten, publisher of the Norfolk, Va., Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star, and chairman and chief executive of Landmark Communications, Inc., are seen during a news conference in New York. John Coleman, the founder of The Weather Channel and longtime KUSI weatherman, died Saturdaty night, Jan. 20, 2018, at home in Las Vegas, said his wife Linda Coleman. He was 83. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)(Marty Lederhandler/AP)

John Coleman, who helped found and develop The Weather Channel, died Saturday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 83.

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Coleman, a longtime weatherman, innovated the position when he started at Good Morning America, according to the Washington Post. 

Coleman started The Weather Channel in 1981 with Joseph D’Aleo. Coleman left the network and continued forecasting on stations in New York and Chicago. He last worked in San Diego until he retired in 2014, according to the Washington Post

The Associated Press contributed to this report.