American Express announced on Monday that it plans to stop requiring signatures when customers make debit or credit card purchases.
The company is now joining the ranks of MasterCard and Discover, and all three credit card providers will eliminate signature requirements in the U.S. and Canada in April 2018. The change, of course, will allow for a faster, simpler and more consistent checkout system for cardholders and merchants, American Express said.
“The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants,” said Jaromir Civilek, executive vice president of Global Network Business at American Express.
Signatures have long been required as an additional security measure for card purchases. But modern security technology improvement — including contactless payments and chip-based cards — have made signatures less of a necessity.
“Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud. In addition, the majority of American Express transactions today already do not require a signature at the point of sale as a result of previous policy changes we made to help our merchants,” Divilek said.
American Express and other companies have already eliminated signature requirements for purchases under $50 in the U.S., but the complete phaseout of required signatures is likely to be a welcome shift for consumers in the next few years. On the merchant side, it’ll likely reduce operating costs associated with retaining customer signatures.
While the changes apply to the U.S. and Canada, American Express said it’s working to phase out signature requirements globally. On the other hand, merchants will still have to collect signatures if required by local law.
The Effect of Apple Pay
Part of the reason credit card companies are simplifying the checkout process is the advent of mobile and contactless payment systems like Apple Pay and others. Mike Cook, senior vice president of Wal-Mart, said that consumers are increasingly expecting a streamlined checkout process.
But while the elimination of signature requirements will obviously streamline the point of sale process for physical cardholders, it’s also likely to speed up transactions for Apple Pay users in the U.S.
Occasionally, Apple Pay requires a signature for certain purchases over $50 in the U.S. With major credit card firms doing away with this requirement, it’s likely that the step will be eliminated for Apple Pay and other payment method systems when it’s introduced. While Apple Pay is already faster than chip-based credit card transactions, eliminating the signature requirement will make it quicker still.
On the other hand, there are still certain jurisdictions — such as some areas in Canada — where contactless payment systems can’t be used for large purchases. The phaseout of the signature requirement, unfortunately, won’t do anything to improve that process.