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My friend recently got an Amazon Credit Card. Interestingly, all the information could be found on the back of the card including name, expiration, number, and CVV. Here's an image I found of the front of the card. Name is on both sides.

Amazon Credit Card

I then discovered that American Express prints the CVV number on the front of their cards.

American Express Card

This number is usually on the back while the rest of the information in usually on the front. Wikipedia backs me up here. It seems this makes reading this information more difficult so there must be a reason. I was always under the impression that the CVV was on the back of cards for a security reason. Seeing this has me wondering if that's true and if so, what that reason is.

Why are CVV codes usually on the back side of a credit card?

closed as off-topic by schroeder Apr 26 '17 at 6:35

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about Information security within the scope defined in the help center." – schroeder
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I guess when producing a card with raised front most printers can easier apply customized symbols printed on the back, especially on the signature field which is not high gloss. But don't have a reference for it. – eckes Apr 26 '17 at 2:14
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Older people will likely remember the older way credit cards were handled.

Carbon copy forms were the de facto method of proving to the credit card processor that you in fact did have the physical card present. Not only was it faster, but allowed for a very unique process to capture the credit card details.

This process involved the card, a carbon copy form, and a device with a sliding weight. The clerk would place the credit card on the device, overlay the carbon copy form on top, then slide the weight over top from one side to another. Any raised type would be captured, which included the customer information, and more critically the card number and expiry.

When the internet eventually came around, and phone transactions proved to be much more common place, CCV2 was used for these "card not present" transactions

These "2nd generation" CCVs were introduced to curb credit card theft, as it introduces a "something you have" for online/phone transactions. A malicious store clerk can't simply double swipe your card to clone it. Copying down the number becomes obvious, and can't be done with sliding the card through a reader. You can think of it as a simple PIN, tying a true card holder to the card in question. Only the card holder should have/know the CCV.

On to the major question, why do some credit cards have it on the front, where as some have it on the back?

There doesn't seem to be any standard to this, and seems to be a preference of the credit card issuer.

Visa will have the CCV on the back, and does make some sense. On first glace, someone can't see the security code without flipping over the card. There are countless cases of people taking a photograph of their card to "show off". On a AMEX, the CCV code is on the front, and this would prove disastrous. Do you recall the old method of capturing credit card details? Nothing on the back of the card was captured, this includes the CCV.

AMEX CCV Visa CCV

In reality, it doesn't really matter where the number is. If you have access to the physical card, you have the ability to view the CCV, no matter where on the card it is placed. Placing it on the front is more convenient as all the relevant details are in one place.

Credit card signatures are another demonstration, a bit less "technical" of security. Can you honestly recall the last time someone verified your signature against that on the card? How many people do you know have their cards unsigned? Arguably this is more secure than a CCV, but does require the card holder to be present with the card.

The future seems to hold that "rolling" CCVs are the next thing. Changing at a set time (every hour), these would prove to be much more secure than current offerings.

  • I would argue that having the CCV on the front negates any security benefit from having it in the first place, because if a single carbon-copy capture (old method) or a single photograph (of an ATM spy camera) is enough to obtain all the necessary information to use (steal) the card, then the CCV had failed its mission. – Achraf Almouloudi Feb 1 at 11:00

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