Card Verification Value (CVV)

Simple definition
The 3 or 4 digits on your card's back for safety.
Expanded definition
A security code found on payment cards, used to authenticate online and over-the-phone transactions.


When paying online or over the phone, you're often asked for a 3 or 4 digit number from your card - the CVV code. This small but essential code plays a big role in payment security. Understanding how it works can protect your transactions.

What is a CVV code?

CVV stands for Card Verification Value or Code. The CVV is the 3 or 4 digit number printed on the back of payment cards to the right of the signature strip.

The purpose of the CVV is to verify physical possession and legitimacy of the credit or debit card during remote transactions. Entering this code indicates the buyer has the card in-hand during an online, phone or mail order purchase.

How CVV Codes Protect Transactions

As an added authentication factor, CVV codes help prevent fraudulent use of stolen card data. A fraudster may have your card details, but it's highly unlikely they also have access to the CVV printed on the physical card.

When you provide the code during remote transactions, it gives merchants and card issuers added assurance you have the card and are the valid accountholder. This results in lower declines and asmoother customer experience.

Proper CVV Handling

To leverage CVV safely:

  • Keep the code protected and don't share verbally or in writing.
  • Only provide via secure online forms or phone keypads. Avoid email.
  • Enter the code carefully and double check accuracy.
  • If a site doesn't ask for CVV, consider using another merchant.

Correct use of CVV codes provides simple yet powerful protection against unauthorized card use and costly headaches.

The Bottom Line

The humble CVV code packs a big fraud prevention punch with just 3 or 4 little numbers. Treating it as a vital layer of card security, only to be entered in legitimate transactions, will help keep your money and identity safe.