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What is a credit card security code (CVV)? 

Whether you’re booking a plane ticket, renting a car, or buying a new computer, you’ll need to provide your security code to confirm the transaction if you pay online or over the phone with your credit card — something that’s also known as a CVV (card verification value). Read on to learn what this code is and where you can find it on your credit card. You’ll also discover how you can use Avira Password Manager to manage your passwords and other personal information more securely. 


What is a credit card security code? 

The CVV, or card verification value, is typically a three-digit code that you use to authorize payments over the internet or phone. For American Express cards, it might also be four-digits long. Whether three or four digits, this security code is unique, allowing it to be assigned to a card and to the account holder in question. In addition to CVV, card issuers use other abbreviations: 

  • CVV2: Like CVV, CVV2 is a card verification value. The key difference lies in the “2”. This signifies that it’s generated using a second-generation algorithm, making it even more secure. You can usually find it on Visa cards. However, the way it works doesn’t differ from the first-gen CVV.  
  • CVC: One of the most common security codes, the card issuer Mastercard is the primary user. CVC stands for card verification code. A second generation of this code also exists: CVC2. 
  • CID: You’ll find a CID, or card identification number, on credit cards issued by American Express. 

By contrast, debit cards will typically have a CSC (card security code). No matter what the name, any credit card security code helps make online or phone transactions more secure. If hackers with malicious intent have ever stolen your credit card number, the credit card security code makes fraudulent transactions more difficult. Why? Since it’s only present on the credit card itself, the credit card number alone is typically not enough to complete online or phone purchases. That’s how the CVV number can help reduce phishing attacks or further risks through other social engineering techniques. 

Where do I find the security code on a credit card? 

Flip over your credit card, and you’ll see its 3-digit security code. It’s either located on the signature strip or to the right of it on Visa and Mastercard cards. The 4-digit security code for American Express credit cards, however, is located on the front of the card — usually to the right above the account number. Compared to the card number, the credit card’s security code isn’t embossed, but printed. This means it isn’t machine readable. 

How are CVV numbers generated? 

The card verification value is generated using a complex algorithm. It’s based on factors such as the card number, expiry date, and specific codes that vary depending on the issuer. When you receive a new card, the security code will also change. Another safety factor is that there’s no mathematical connection between the verification value and the card number. This means only the card issuer can verify the card’s security code. 

What is a dynamic security code? 

Along with a static CVV number on the credit card itself, temporary security codes also exist. Some credit institutions use these dynamic card verification values instead of the static CVV number. They change regularly and work like two-factor authentication methods or other authentication apps, helping to increase your security when making online payments. Typically, you access dynamic security codes in your banking app. 

What’s the difference between a CVV and a PIN? 

The security code on your credit card and your PIN (personal identification number) serve different purposes. The card verification value provides some protection against identity theft because it helps verify payments when shopping online or over the phone. The credit institution that issues the card generates it. 

By contrast, the PIN is a code that you, the cardholder, enters yourself, such as to access your account at an ATM or to authorize an in-store purchase. The PIN is usually a 4-digit code that you can update whenever you want. Therefore, you should never enter your PIN when asked for your CVV. 

Is it safe to share the security code on my credit card? 

If a reputable online shop asks you to enter your credit card security code online when making a purchase, it’s fine to do so. It allows you to confirm your identity, and retailers can check whether the card you are using is actually in your possession. Verifying your security code is common. However, on certain websites you only need to enter it the first time you make a purchase. 

Cases when you shouldn’t reveal your CVV number 

Never reveal your security code on your credit card to anyone you don’t know and don’t trust. The same applies to online retailers who ask you for your card verification value even though you haven’t bought anything from their store. If you pay by card when making an in-person purchase, you don’t need your security code. If you are asked for it, alarm bells should be ringing. That’s because your CVV code is only ever needed for credit-card transactions you make online or over the phone. 

How to protect your security code and credit card number 

To protect your identity and your bank account, it’s important that your security code and credit card number are also secure. Read on to learn what steps you can take to shop more safely online or by phone. 

  • Visit trusted websites: Check the website security before making a transaction. Only https websites have an SSL certificate and encrypt your data. 
  • Do not save your card details: Never save your card details in your browser or on the retailer’s website. Although it’s convenient to have the data filled in automatically, it’s a security risk. It’s far safer to re-enter your card details manually each time you make a purchase. 
  • Only use your security code with online or phone purchases: Only share your credit card security code for purchases made online or over the phone. If you use your card for in-person purchases, you won’t need to give your card security number. Therefore, never reveal it when shopping in person. 
  • Do not photograph your card details: Never take photos of your credit card or security code. Photos are often stored in the cloud, which makes it easier for hackers to gain access to your card details in the event of a data leak. 
  • Do not open suspicious links: Phishing attacks might aim to snoop on your credit card information. As such, never open suspicious links in emails or text messages. Also, avoid emailing or texting your credit card details or other financial information. 
  • Use a VPN in public spaces: You ought to use a VPN when traveling or using public Wi-Fi hotspots. This allows you to protect personal information, making it harder for hackers to access it. 
  • Monitor account activity: Keep an eye on your account transactions and check anything that’s suspicious. If a debit seems unfamiliar to you, contact your bank immediately to avoid further damage. 

It’s also worth installing antivirus software like Avira Free Security on your devices. This software allows you to surf more safely, and avoid computer viruses, keyloggers, and other malware designed to harvest personal information. It’s also a good idea to use a password manager to protect your logins. This tool reduces the risk of hackers gaining access to your accounts. It also strengthens the protection of e-commerce accounts where you’ve entered your credit card security code or other sensitive data. 

Avira Password Manager generates super-strong, unique passwords and stores them securely. Only you have access to them. The tool allows you to log in to your online accounts automatically using only a single master password. And to safeguard against this master password falling into the wrong hands, Avira’s solution offers additional security measures. These include using your device’s touch or face ID function as well as two-factor authentication. 


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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.
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Use Avira Password Manager for secure password management.

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Use Avira Password Manager for secure password management.

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Use Avira Password Manager for secure password management on your iOS device.

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Use Avira Password Manager for secure password management on your Android device.