Yesterday morning I logged onto my computer to check the balance in my savings account and my credit card online.

To log into the ING Direct website (the custodian of my savings account), I entered my nine digit customer ID number.  That ID number took me to a page where I was asked to recognize a unique “Site ID” photo that I had chosen from over 1000 images when I created my account.  After positively recognizing my unique site ID photo, I was then asked to enter my PIN (at least six digits) by clicking on the numbers of a visual on-screen keypad.  After clicking on the correct sequence of numbers and hitting “Submit,” I was finally taken to a screen where I could review my account information.

After dealing with my savings account, I then navigated to the homepage of my credit card provider (  To access my credit card information, I entered my username (six digits long, numbers and letters) on the homepage and hit “Submit.”  That took me to a page where I was asked one “Security Question” which was selected at random from five security questions that I had answered when setting up my account.  This time, I was asked where I held my first job.  After correctly answering that question, I was then taken to a page where I was asked to identify my unique “Site ID” photo (again, selected from over 1000 images when I set up my account) and enter my password (at least 6 digits, case sensitive and must include numbers, letters and at least one symbol).  After correctly entering my password, I was then allowed to see the details of my account.

Having successfully completed my financial housekeeping for the day, I went out to get some lunch and enjoy the day with Miranda.  We dropped into a new French bakery in the neighborhood.  To pay for the sandwiches I used my credit card and to authorize my purchase, I scribbled my name on a tiny piece of paper, which the barista (without looking) stuffed into a drawer behind the counter.

Walking out of the sandwich shop I thought to myself, what a ridiculous tradition it is to sign credit card receipts.   Compared to the security precautions required for online banking, signatures are a laughable form of identity protection.  I could have written Mickey Mouse on that receipt and the barista would have still accepted it.

In addition to identity protection, I suppose another reason why we sign things is to signify that we will do something in the future (e.g. pay the credit card company for the sandwiches they just purchased for me).  However since credit card transactions can happen over the internet in real time, this is outdated as well.

It just feels a little silly to sign-off on payment for a sandwich using the same method of commitment that our founding fathers used on the Declaration of Independence.

What do you think?

Why do we still sign credit card receipts?
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  • It has more to do with ease and frequency and exploit. Online, a bank website might receive hundreds or thousands of fraudulent log in attempts – per second. Not to mention malware or social engineering might capture part of the logon credentials. By increasing the number and type you combat those exploits.

    You don’t have the same kind of problems with physical transactions. For starters, you’re rarely risking the entire account. Plus, being physical imposes limits on attempts per second. Also, the cashier captures a number, however clumsily. You really combat fraud purchases by flagging suspicious transactions – rarely risk the entire account at once.

    And companies have invested a lot in anti-fraud algorithms, so there have been significant changes there.

    Or, it’s not a fair comparison. Now, granted, you would do better with a PIN code… but either way.