It’s so nice to be in a country where they actually CHECK your signature on the back of the card…

Posted on 24.09.2013


This has, of course, led to me explaining at least ONCE a day why I don’t sign the back of my cards. Do you sign the back of yours?

I’m from a little city called Baltimore, where my wallet had been stolen no less than 5 times. Once it was stolen at a candlelight vigil. Once right out of my office at work at a college. Once at the damn grocery store. I’m no stranger to credit card theft, or the silly things that happen once your wallet has been stolen.

creditcards_logoDid you know that most credit card thieves will try your card at a gas station first, to see if it’s been cancelled yet? They can do this because they probably have your wallet, too, so they can type in your billing zip code when paying at the pump. Because of this, I left my address on my driver’s license as one on Eutaw place, which I haven’t lived on since 2003.

If credit card thieves are brazen enough, they will walk RIGHT into a store, as I have seen done while working in retail, and try to forge the signature on the back of the card. I have watched cashiers swipe my card and never once turn it over to check the signature. It’s because of this that all of my cards now have my photo on the front of them. I am no stranger to forging signatures, and was a PRO at both my mom’s and my dad’s while in high school. Then again, I’m also an artist, drawing lines is what I do. This is the reason my signature looks like a doctor’s, and it in NO WAY contains all of the letters in my very long name. It’s more like a G, sometimes an M, and then what might be a star. But might not.

So because of all of this, I think I might be one of the few people who notices exactly how many times people check the back of my card. As an American, I tend to use my card a lot more than others (which my companies LOVE, because they get to charge an international fee for every swipe). This causes some issues in Europe, but mostly just two:

~ My cards are all American ones, so there are no microchips in them. Because of this, they won’t be read by chip-only card readers, and some stores ONLY have the chip reader. The chip reader, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, is effectively a card reader that is often PIN only, and reads the info from the microchip instead of from the magnetic strip that would get swiped, if the cards had them. At least this way, a card is never demagnetized.

~ There is no signature on the back of ANY of my cards, only a ‘please see ID’ note. I always have to explain this to the cashier, because they really don’t understand how often signatures are forged in the states. This is just an adorable sign of honesty, and I appreciate that maybe some things are just left alone. I like that a lot.

To add insult to injury, at the moment my signature doesn’t even look like the normal one, because of my MS-hands. I am lucky to hold a pen, but no signatures are happening. Thank goodness for all of those photos and IDs in my wallet, right?

Because of this, I get into the same conversation at EVERY cash register I stop at, unless I have cash on me (which, let’s be honest, I usually don’t). Thankfully I’m in England and not only speak the language, but am talking to friendly people who are über-skilled in small talk. If it didn’t happen at a register here, I would be concerned that the cashier was dead or dying.

Posted in: Culture shocks, life