What Is CVV2?

A shopper uses her credit card to make an online purchase.

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A CVV2, or “card verification value,” is a security code that payment processors use to reduce fraudulent credit and debit card transactions made over the internet or by phone.

Key Takeaways

  • The CVV2 is a three- or four-digit code printed on the front or back of your credit or debit card.
  • You'll need to provide the CVV2 for many online and phone transactions.
  • The code helps protect against fraudulent transactions by providing proof that you're in possession of your card at the time of purchase.

Definition and Examples of CVV2

Major payment processing networks use a security code to protect merchants and consumers against credit and debit card fraud, particularly with internet and phone transactions. A CVV2 code is a three- or four-digit code printed on credit and debit cards. Providing the code when you make online or over-the-phone purchases confirms that you actually have possession of your card.

The CVV2 code appears in different places on your card depending on the payment network.

Card Network Appearance Number of Digits
American Express Front of the card 4
Discover Back of the card within the signature panel 3
MasterCard Back of the card within the signature panel 3
Visa Back of the card within the signature panel 3

While physical cards have a CVV2 code printed on the card, virtual and digital cards may also have a CVV2 that you can request for making transactions for online shopping. Some credit card issuers make a digital CVV2 for approved card applicants so you can use a digital version of the card while you wait for the physical card to arrive in the mail.

  • Alternate Name: Card verification value, card verification code, card identification number, security code, CID number.
  • Acronym: CVV2, CVC, CSC, CCID


The CVV2 code is different from your PIN, which is used for PIN-based debit card transactions or for credit-card cash advances at an ATM.

How Does CVV2 Work?

Merchants ask for the CVV2 during a transaction to make sure that you actually have the payment card in your possession. If a thief gets your credit or debit card information, they'll have a much harder time making fraudulent purchases without the CVV2 code. Or, if the CVV2 entered doesn't match, the transaction may be declined.

The code isn't stored in your card’s magnetic stripe or EMV chip, so it's not transmitted with your card information when you're making in-person transactions as long as the card is swiped, tapped, or inserted into the credit card terminal.

Instead, merchants and retailers usually ask for the CVV2 when you're making online or phone transactions to ensure you have the card with you.


Because your CVV2 is so important for online and phone purchases, you should never write it down or share it with anyone you don't know. When you're entering your card information online, make sure you're using a secure website to protect the transmission of your sensitive financial information. Never enter your CVV2 code on public Wi-Fi.

Payment security standards prohibit businesses from storing the CVV2 code on their servers or in their records. This way, if your information is compromised in a data breach, you're at less risk of being a victim of fraud even if the hacker gains access to your payment information.

Not all retailers request the CVV2 code for purchases, so it's still important to monitor your credit card and bank transactions frequently and report suspicious charges to your bank right away.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USAePay Help. "CVV Result Codes." Accessed May 21, 2021. 

  2. PCI Security Standards Council. "FAQ: Can Card Verification Codes/Values Be Stored for Card-on-File or Recurring Transactions?" Accessed May 21, 2021. 

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