Validation Code

Updated on March 19, 2024
Article byGayatri Ailani
Edited byGayatri Ailani
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Validation Code?

A Validation Code is a set of three or four numbers on a credit card. It is a security feature or measure that prevents unauthorized transactions. The card verification value (CVV) input is crucial during online, or credit card transactions initiated over various devices, particularly smartphones, as it facilitates user identification and authentication during transaction processing. This code is popularly called the CVV, CV2, or CVV2.

Validation Code

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The validation code on a credit card safeguards credit card users from losses due to fraudulent transactions using their cards. The CVV cannot be accessed via the card’s magnetic stripe or chip. Hence, an individual using a credit card is required to key in the number independently, ensuring additional security while executing transactions. This means even if a credit card number becomes available to fraudsters, they will likely need the validation code, making card misuse difficult.

Key Takeaways

  • A Validation Code, also known as a Card Verification Value (CVV) or Card Verification Code (CVC), is a security feature on credit and debit cards.
  • It is typically a three- or four-digit number, which is not embossed on the card; it is primarily used for online or phone-based transactions.
  • The code is designed to verify that the physical card is in the possession of the party attempting to execute a given transaction.
  • This code is a critical element of credit card security, as it helps protect both users and businesses from the ever-present threat of credit card fraud in the digital world.

How Does Validation Code Work?

Validation Code is present on a credit card and is typically a three or four digit long (four digits for American Express) unique set of numbers. It is not embossed on the card or encoded on the magnetic stripe or chip. It is a separate security feature.

When a customer makes an online purchase, they are asked to provide the code along with other card details, such as the card number, expiration date, and billing address. This code is a critical part of the transaction verification process.

The CVV is designed to ensure that the person making the transaction possesses the physical credit card. It strengthens card verification and security protocols because only the cardholder should ideally have access to this code.

In most cases, the validation code is printed on the back of the card, near the space provided for the cardholder’s signature. Placing it here makes it more challenging for thieves or unauthorized users to gather all the information necessary to initiate a transaction, particularly from only a single photograph of the front of a credit card.

Consumer protection laws and payment industry standards, like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), restrict merchants from storing customers’ validation codes after a purchase. This rule helps prevent potential data breaches and financial fraud and protects cardholders from unauthorized use.

These codes are a crucial component of securing online credit card transactions by verifying that the person making the purchase also has the card in their possession. This feature works alongside other security measures, such as Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) for in-person transactions, to protect cardholders from identity theft and credit card fraud.

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The section below covers the types of validation codes for credit cards.

#1 – Card Verification Value (CVV)

  • CVV1: This code is used for in-person transactions. It is stored on the magnetic stripe of the card and is read by card readers during card-present purchases.
  • CVV2: This code is used for online and phone transactions where the card is not physically present. It is printed on the back of the card and is typically a three-digit number for Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.

#2 – Card Verification Code (CVC)

  •    CVC1: Similar to CVV1, it is used for in-person transactions with Visa cards.
  •    CVC2: Similar to CVV2, it is used for online and phone transactions with Visa cards.

#3 – Card Identification Number (CIN)

The Card Identification Number (CIN) is similar to CVV or CVC. It is a number (three or four digits) printed on the card and is used for verification during online transactions.

#4 – Card Identification Digit (CID)

This is a security code (three or four digits) found on American Express, Discover, Diners Club, MasterCard, and Visa credit cards. It is also referred to as the CVV or CIN.

These codes are security features that help confirm that the person making a credit card transaction also has the actual card. The codes are particularly important to reduce the risk of fraud during online transactions or for transactions initiated using smartphones and other devices. The code type and its location on the card usually vary depending on the card network and issuer.


Let us study some examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Assume John decides to buy a product online. He visits an e-commerce website and adds items to his cart. At checkout, John chooses to pay by credit card. The seller asks John to enter his credit card information, including the three-digit CVV code printed on the back of the card.

This CVV code is crucial for security. It ensures that John physically possesses the card, enhancing the security of the online transaction. Without the correct CVV, the payment gateway will not authorize the transaction. In this way, the credit card is protected against potential fraudsters attempting to make purchases without the physical card in hand.

Example #2

In 2021, credit card fraud emerged as a significant issue in the United States, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receiving nearly 390,000 reports of such fraud cases. This made credit card fraud one of the most prevalent forms of fraud in the country. However, this figure only scratches the surface of the problem.

In December 2022, the Nilson Report released a forecast about the payments industry. The forecast stated that the US is estimated to lose around $165.1 billion over the next decade. Notably, card-not-present frauds (online, over-the-phone, and mail-order) were reported to the tune of $5.72 billion in the US in 2022.

According to the FTC, credit card fraud was right behind the most common fraud in the US—fraud executed for government benefits or documents in 2021. These are categorized under the identity theft fraud category. The burden of these financial losses from credit card fraud was distributed among various stakeholders in the payment ecosystem. In 2020, card issuers bore the brunt, assuming 65.4 percent of the total losses, while merchants, ATM acquirers, and merchant acquirers accounted for the remaining 34.6 percent, as reported by the Nilson Report. 

Despite efforts to combat fraud, it appears that both consumers and businesses continue to grapple with this pervasive issue. The Nilson Report noted that fraudsters are employing increasingly sophisticated methods to execute such fraudulent activities, challenging existing fraud prevention measures. This ominous trend was highlighted by the Nilson Report, which stated that global losses from card fraud are expected to reach a massive $397.4 billion over the next decade. Around $165.1 billion of these frauds are predicted to occur in the United States.


The importance of validation codes in credit card transactions cannot be overstated for several reasons:

  • Enhanced Security: Validation codes provide additional security by demanding a unique code not embossed on the card or stored in the magnetic stripe or chip. This helps verify that the person attempting to execute a transaction has the physical card in their possession.
  • Reduced Fraud Risk: These codes significantly reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions, especially in online or phone-based purchases. Without the code, it becomes considerably challenging for fraudsters to misuse stolen card information.
  • Consumer Protection: The code helps protect cardholders from unauthorized use of their credit cards. This added security feature assures users that their financial information is less likely to be misused.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Payment industry standards, like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), often require businesses to use validation codes as part of their security protocols. Compliance with these standards is essential for safeguarding cardholder data.
  • Merchant Confidence: Merchants and online retailers benefit from validation codes because they can be confident that the person making a purchase has the physical card against which the transaction is being initiated. This reduces the risk of chargebacks and potential losses.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is a card validation code?

A Card Validation Code (CVC) is a security feature found on credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards. It is also known by different names, such as Card Verification Value (CVV), Card Verification Code (CV2), or Card Verification Value 2 (CVV2), depending on the card network.

2. What is the ATM validation code?

Visa, Mastercard, and Discover: The validation code is typically a three-digit number seen on the back of the card, usually near the section assigned for the signature.
American Express: American Express cards have a four-digit validation code printed on the front of the card, typically above the card number.

It enhances card security by confirming that the buyer or entity executing the transaction has the corresponding physical card. It reduces the risk of fraudulent transactions.

3. How do I verify code validation?

To verify a code validation:
– It is important to ensure that the correct code, such as the CVV or CVC, is being referred to on the card.
– Carefully entering the three or four-digit code as it appears on the card is crucial to complete transactions.
– Double-checking for typos or errors in the code is important to avoid transaction failure.
– Confirming that the code entered matches the one on the card before proceeding with the transaction is necessary.

This article has been a guide to what is a Validation Code. Here, we explain the concept along with its examples, types, and importance. You may also find some useful articles here –

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