AmEx ditches signatures

Source: American Express

American Express (NYSE: AXP) today announced it is eliminating the requirement for merchants to collect Card Members’ signatures for all purchase transactions at the point of sale beginning in April 2018.

The move, which applies globally to all American Express-accepting merchants, will help provide a more consistent and simplified checkout experience for merchants and Card Members in regions around the world, speed up the process of paying in store and help reduce merchants’ operating expenses associated with retaining signatures.

“The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants,” said Jaromir Divilek, Executive Vice President, Global Network Business, American Express. “Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud. In addition, the majority of American Express transactions today already do not require a signature at the point of sale as a result of previous policy changes we made to help our merchants.”

The need for signatures has declined around the world due to a number of advancements in the payments industry. These include the growth of contactless payment options, including card-based and mobile tap-and-pay methods, the global adoption of EMV chip technology, and the continued expansion of online commerce. American Express has also deployed advanced machine learning algorithms that allow for more precise detection of fraud while minimizing disruption of Card Members’ genuine spending.

The elimination of American Express’ signature requirements will apply to purchase transactions of all amounts at the point of sale. American Express is the first payment network to announce this change globally, expanding previous policy changes it has made in various regions. For example, American Express has already eliminated signature requirements for transactions at the checkout that are under $50 in the U.S., under $100 CAD in Canada, and under £30 in the U.K. In regions outside the U.S. where signatures are already less common, this change can help provide a more consistent checkout experience for Card Members traveling from countries where signatures are more common. Once this change takes effect in April 2018, merchants will still have the option to collect Card Members’ signatures at the point of sale if they choose to do so, and must continue to collect signatures if they are required to do so by applicable law in a particular jurisdiction.

The Merchant Advisory Group, an organization that represents many large merchants on payments-related topics, believes American Express’ decision will make the checkout process more efficient for merchants and their customers, said Laura Townsend, Senior Vice President of Operations for the group.

“We commend American Express’ decision to eliminate signature requirements,” Townsend said. “This move will help merchants provide a quicker check-out experience for more customers by removing potential friction at the point of sale.”

Mike Cook, Senior Vice President and Assistant Treasurer at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said American Express’ decision provides greater flexibility to merchants as they experiment with and adopt new technology to provide customers with a faster and more convenient shopping experience.

“The introduction of our Walmart Pay mobile app has raised our customers’ expectations for being able to check out quickly and easily,” Cook said. “Having to sign a receipt can be a hassle for customers and is not necessary to prevent fraud at the point of sale. We’re pleased American Express has decided to eliminate its signature requirements, which will promote a more seamless shopping and checkout experience for our customers.”

Providing merchants the option to no longer collect signatures is one of several changes American Express has made in recent years to provide an improved experience for merchants. Other adjustments include increasing speed of payment for eligible small merchants and adjusting dispute policies to provide American Express merchants with a more consistent experience across all card brands that they accept. 

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