What is a CVV number and where is it on a credit card?

If you’ve shopped online, you’ve likely had to give your credit card information, including your card verification value (CVV) number, to make a purchase.

A CVV is a security code that helps protect you from credit card fraud. Keep reading to learn where you can find your CVV number, why your CVV number is important, and how to help keep your online payments secure.

Key takeaways

  • A CVV number helps protect your card from unauthorized purchases.
  • To find your card’s CVV, look for a three-digit number on the back of the card or the four-digit number on the front of the card.
  • A CVV is different from a personal identification number (PIN). A CVV is typically used for online or phone transactions, and a PIN is often for in-person payments or using your debit card at an ATM.

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What is a CVV on a credit card?

A CVV is a three- or four-digit number on a credit or debit card that helps prevent fraud. Sometimes called a CVV2, it’s meant to protect cardholders from unauthorized transactions by providing a second layer of protection.

A CVV number is also known by other names, including: 

  • Card security code (CSC)
  • Card verification code (CVC)
  • Card validation code 2 (CVC2)
  • Card identification number (CID) 

What’s the difference between a CVV and a CVV2?

You may also see a CVV referred to as a CVV2. CVV2 is one of the various forms of CVV that are used to protect your account against unauthorized transactions.

Where to find your card’s CVV code

Like your credit card number and expiration date, your CVV number often appears directly on your card. But its exact placement depends on the network

For Visa®, Mastercard® and Discover® cards, the CVV is a three-digit number, and it usually appears on the back of the card, typically next to the signature box. American Express cards have four-digit CVV numbers, and they appear on the front of the card.

Images show a three-digit CVV number on the back of a credit card and a four-digit CVV number on the front of a credit card.

The importance of a CVV number and how it protects you

Your CVV number adds another layer of protection to help you avoid credit card fraud. It’s a way for the merchant to confirm that the cardholder is the one using the card. According to the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council, CVV numbers are considered sensitive authentication data. Merchants are required to protect the information and delete the CVV number after the purchase is authorized. 

Keep in mind that not all online merchants require you to provide your CVV number to make purchases. And a CVV may not protect you in all cases of credit card fraud.

How to protect your CVV and credit card number

Making sure that your CVV and credit card number are safe at all times is important. Capital One has a variety of credit card security features to help you protect yourself. And there are always additional measures you can take.

1. Be careful when saving your credit card or debit card information

Saving your credit card or debit card information online might make checkout a breeze. But it could also lead to unauthorized purchases if your account is compromised. Consider adding an extra layer of protection by using virtual card numbers. They’re still linked to your credit card account, but they let you use a different number to fill out online payment information.

2. Only shop with legitimate online merchants and websites

It goes without saying that there are illegitimate businesses on the internet. Steering clear of sharing your information with sites that you’re wary of goes a long way. If you’re making a purchase, be sure the site has an “s” after “http” (https://) in its URL—or a lock icon before the URL. Those are signs that the site is secure and data is encrypted.

3. Watch out for phishing attempts

Have you ever received random text messages that looked like a scam? Or maybe you received a strange call asking for personal information. Those were likely types of phishing scams

Whether they come in the form of an email, text message or phone call, try to beware of scams. And never share your personal information or click on any links you believe are fraudulent.

The Federal Trade Commission also recommends following these best practices:

  • Unless you’re sure the caller is who they say they are, don’t give your account information over the phone. If you’re not sure, you could consider calling the organization directly instead.
  • Don’t lend your card to anyone.
  • Use multifactor authentication to help protect your accounts, if possible.
  • Monitor your account often for any suspicious activity.
  • Save your receipts to compare them with your monthly statement.
  • When it’s time to get rid of old cards, statements and receipts, make sure you’re careful about how you get rid of them.

If you’re a Capital One cardholder, you can access and enable security features through the Capital One Mobile app or by signing in to your account online.

CVV code FAQs

Learn more about CVVs with these frequently asked questions.

What does CVV stand for?

CVV stands for card verification value. You may also see it referred to as CVV2, CSC, CVC, CVC2 or CID.

How are CVVs assigned?

CVV numbers are issued based on a number of factors, including:

  • Account number
  • Expiration date
  • Card network

What’s the difference between CVV and a PIN?

Your CVV and PIN aren’t the same. Your CVV is used to verify your identity and make more secure purchases online or over the phone. Your PIN is used to help verify your identity when you use your debit card at an ATM or for in-person purchases. Credit cards may also issue PINs for cash advances.

Credit card CVVs in a nutshell

Although CVVs offer a level of protection, they can’t guarantee your information stays secure. Like other account information, be sure to keep your CVV private. If you’re worried about credit card fraud, remember to be cautious while shopping online—and know how to spot and avoid scams

Another way you can help protect yourself is to regularly monitor your credit. Get free copies of your credit reports by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Or consider CreditWise from Capital One. With CreditWise, you can access your free TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 credit score without hurting your score. Plus, it’s free and available to everyone, whether or not you’re a Capital One cardholder.

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