DEFINITION of 'Validation Code'

A series of three or four numbers on the front or back of a credit card that provide an additional layer of security when a credit card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone. Validation codes are also called security codes or card verification values and are sometimes referred to as CVV, CV2 or CVV2 codes. On American Express cards, the validation code is a four-digit number located on the front of the card on the right-hand side, in small print above the credit card account number. Most other credit card issuers print the validation code on the back, on the far right side of the signature panel.

BREAKING DOWN 'Validation Code'

When you make a purchase online, you’ll be asked to enter your name as it appears on your credit card, the billing address associated with that credit card, the card number, the card expiration date and the validation code. If the validation code is incorrect or missing, the transaction will not be approved. In theory, someone should not be able to provide the card’s validation code unless they physically possess the card. It’s rare that a merchant will ask for your card’s validation code when you make a purchase in person, however.

Merchants are not allowed to store card security codes after you make a purchase, which provides extra protection against credit card theft. Still, validation codes can be stolen, and you should protect your card’s validation code just as you protect the card number and expiration date. The validation code is a key piece of data that can enable thieves to make fraudulent transactions with your card. However, if a thief does use your card, it’s unlikely that you’ll be responsible for the charges; just contact your credit card issuer as soon as you notice the problem and let them know about any charges you didn’t initiate.

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