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What is a debit card security code and how does it work?

Your code protects your bank account from hackers and thieves.

Your debit card provides a direct link to your chequing account, which means your balance could be completely wiped out if it ends up in the wrong hands. To minimize that risk, especially with online or over-the-phone purchases, most debit cards come equipped with a special security code.

What is a debit card security code?

The security code is a unique 3 or 4-digit numeric code embedded on the back of a debit card, similar to the code you’ll see on the back of credit cards. These codes allow debit cards to be used online just like you could with a regular credit card.

This numeric code is separate from the debit card number and verifies that the person providing the debit card details in a transaction has the card in their possession. This is especially important when you’re making online or over-the-phone purchases where you cannot provide a signature as proof of your authorization to use the card.

Is the security code the same thing as the CVV code?

Yes, there are few different names commonly used to identify the security code on your debit card. The code can also be referred to as a card verification value (CVV), card verification code (CVC) or card identification code (CID).

Where is the code located?

Similar to a credit card, a debit card’s security code can usually be found on the back of the card to the right of the signature panel. Instead of being embossed like your card number, it’s printed in small black letters.

Some cards may also have the security code printed on the front, to the right of the card number.

What are the security benefits?

Security codes aren’t stored in any database once the transaction has been authorized. This measure ensures that the card numbers can’t be misused if the merchant’s payment records are hacked.

The security code also isn’t included in the information that can be found on the magnetic strip, therefore making it virtually impossible for an individual who has obtained the card number and expiration date to use that information to conduct a transaction online or over the phone.

Example: How does the security code work?

Amanda is shopping for a pair of sneakers for her son and finds the pair of Nikes he wants on sale at an online store.

She proceeds to checkout where she is prompted to enter her personal information followed by her debit card number and expiration date. The last field asks for the security code, which she finds on the back of her card in small print. Once entered, the transaction is processed and the new pair of kicks is on their way to Amanda’s house.

If the merchant’s website were hacked, Amanda’s bank account wouldn’t be affected, because her security number was never stored on the merchant’s database.

How to use a debit card online

Are there any limitations?

Yes. While security codes increase the security of your card, they don’t completely get rid of risk. In order to keep your card safe, don’t give out your debit card information to anyone you don’t trust and notify your bank immediately if you lose your card or notice any suspicious charges.

  • Although merchants are not permitted to store the debit card security code, they are not required to ask for it when making a transaction. This could allow for fraudulent activity from individuals who have obtained only the information found on the front of the debit card.
  • Phishing scams, where you are tricked into giving out your debit card information along with the card’s security number on a false website, steal that information and are then able to use the card over the phone or online until it’s frozen by the bank.
  • You may not be able to set up a recurring payment using your debit card if the merchant requires a security code. But you can still set up a recurring payment that’s taken directly from your bank account.

What to do if your bank account is hacked

Compare all chequing accounts

1 - 6 of 6
Name Product Interest Rate Account Fee Debit Transactions Interac e-Transfer Transactions
Simplii No Fee Chequing Account
Earn $350 when you become a new client and set up direct deposit of at least $100 for 3 months. Offer ends May 31, 2022.
Scotiabank Basic Bank Account
$3.95 per month
12 free per month
With a low monthly account fee, you can earn points toward the Scene+ rewards program.
Scotiabank Preferred Package
$16.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
Earn a $300 welcome bonus. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 2.70% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Ultimate Package
$30.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
Receive a welcome bonus of $300. Valid until September 30, 2022. Plus, earn up to 2.75% interest on your MomentumPLUS Savings Account.
Scotiabank Student Banking Advantage Plan
Open an account and earn $75. Terms apply. Apply by July 31, 2022.
Scotiabank Basic Plus Bank Account
$11.95 per month ($0 if requirements met)
25 free per month
Pay no monthly account fee by maintaining a minimum daily closing balance of $3,000 for the entire month.

Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

Your debit card’s security code helps keep you safe while shopping online or over the phone. You can also keep your finances secure by regularly checking your transactions in your bank’s app or online portal and reporting any suspicious transactions. If you don’t have a debit card, or your bank doesn’t have an online portal, compare chequing accounts that can help you keep your money safe.

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