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Identification And Credit Cards

by Lohengrin on June 6, 2009

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

You just finished shopping at a merchant, are at the register ready to pay with a credit card and a complete stranger asks to see your identification supposedly to complete the transaction.  Do you have to comply with the requests of this complete stranger?  The answer is:  Most likely not.

Of course merchants may ask for identification.  However, in most situations merchants may not require identification.  Consequently, you may refuse their request for you to waive your rights and the merchant must still accept your plastic.

Most merchants are ignorant of this condition of the contract.  Sometimes identification may be required if there is an unusual transaction that sets off a trigger in the credit card company’s black box during the authorization process.

Of course, if you desire to purchase alcohol, tobacco, perscription drugs, etc. then you may be required to provide identification as a matter of law.


Some individuals may erroneously feel that asking for identification may protect them from identity theft.  While most retail clerks may not have the mental aptitude to memorize your credit card numbers, name, address, date of birth, etc. from the various documents that is a lot of information to provide to a complete stranger.

A complete stranger who could use it for malicious purposes to steal your identity.  The information contained within your credit card and identification documents is generally worth about $150 on the black market.  How much does that clerk make per hour?  Did you tip well enough?  In their opinion, of course.

For those consumers naive enough to think that providing a credit card and their identification documents at the time of a transaction is a good idea then they can always write ‘Ask for ID’ below the signature although merchants are usually not bound by contract to honor the instruction.  These guidelines apply generally but may differ based on State differences.


If you desire to be a wise steward of your personal information by not revealing anymore than necessary to a complete stranger then simply sign your card and refuse to provide identification when asked.

If the clerk refuses to complete the transaction then inform them that they are obligated by their contract with Visa or Mastercard and you would be glad to speak with a manager about the issue.  If the manager is not cooperative then be prepared to threaten and carry out a complaint against the merchant.


Join the movement to flex your rights, protect your privacy and not reveal anymore information than absolutely required.  If you are asked to present identification when using a credit card then refuse.

This is a simple and inexpensive step you can take in learning how to vanish one more piece of information that will help protect your personal and financial privacy.  A complete strategy is found in the book How To Vanish.  Buy it just because you can.


The Visa FAQ states,

“Visa has certain regulations that all merchants that accept Visa cards must follow. … If you run into a problem like this with a merchant, please notify your Visa card-issuing bank. Visa member banks have access to the appropriate Visa rules and regulations as well as to the Notification of Customer Complaint forms which should be used by the bank to document and file merchant complaints.”

You can file a complaint here with Mastercard for these four reasons: (1) the merchant/retailer required a minimum or maximum amount, (2) the merchant/retailer is adding a charge for using your MasterCard card, (3) the merchant/retailer required identification, and (4) a merchant/retailer displaying the MasterCard decal in their window refused to accept my MasterCard card.


The Rules For Visa Merchants (also available here) states on page 29:

When should you ask a cardholder for an official government ID?  Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID, merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID. Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. Laws in several states also make it illegal for merchants to write a cardholder’s personal information, such as an address or phone number, on a sales receipt.

The MasterCard Merchant Rules Manual (also available here) states:

9.11.2 Cardholder Identification
A merchant must not refuse to complete a MasterCard card transaction solely because a cardholder who has complied with the conditions for presentment of a card at the POI  [point of interaction] refuses to provide additional identification information, except as specifically permitted or required by the Standards. A merchant may require additional identification from the cardholder if the information is required to complete the transaction, such as for shipping purposes. A merchant in a country or region that supports use of the MasterCard Address Verification Service (AVS) may require the cardholder’s ZIP or postal code to complete a cardholder-activated terminal (CAT) transaction, or the cardholder’s address and ZIP or postal code to complete a mail order, phone order, or e-commerce transaction.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lohengrin holds a degree in Accounting, a law degree from California Western School of Law and studies the Austrian school of economics. He works as an entrepreneur, investor, journalist, monetary scientist and operates Run To Gold. He is a strong advocate of the freedom of speech, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the San Diego County Bar Association. He has appeared on ABC, NBC, BNN, many radio shows and presented at many investment conferences throughout the world. This is merely one article of 43 by .
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