What Is a CVV Number and How Does It Work?

May 13, 2022

When making a transaction online or over the phone, you’ll frequently be asked for your credit card’s CVV number. A CVV, or card verification value, is a number you’ve probably typed hundreds of times, but have you ever wondered what it means or why businesses require it?

When making transactions online or over the phone, a CVV is a three- or four-digit number on your card that offers an extra degree of security. It helps safeguard you if your card number enters into the hands of hackers and identity thieves by confirming that you have a physical duplicate of the card in your possession.

Every financial institution that issues credit or debit cards has created a system that assigns a unique CVV code to each card. This code is necessary in order to complete any monetary transactions made with the card. 

The CVV number is distinct from the PIN number, which serves as a password for card transactions. The CVV number can be found on the magnetic strip on the back of your card. It confirms that the card is physically present with the person making the transaction.

How Is CVV Generated?

The CVV number is not created at random by debit/credit card issuers (banks or other financial organizations), but rather based on the following information:

  • Number on Card
  • Code of Service
  • Card Expiration
  • Unique Issuer Code

Where Can I Find the CVV Number on a Credit Card?

The CVV is a three-digit code written on the back of Visa and Mastercard cards, usually inside or just above the signature strip.

What is the CVV’s Function?

Every credit card and debit card issuer has devised a system in which each card is assigned a unique CVV code. This code is usually required when using your card for online or virtual transactions. 

The CVV helps protect credit and debit cards from theft, fraud, and unauthorized transactions by establishing the cardholder’s identity.

How Does Your CVV Keep You Safe From Identity Theft?

CVVs provide an extra degree of security against identity theft and can assist prevent fraudulent transactions. While many big merchants store your credit card account number in their databases, credit card compliance requirements prohibit the storage of your CVV or CID after the card has been authorized.

This implies that even if identity thieves break into a merchant’s system and steal your credit card number or gain access to it in some other way, they may not be able to use it if they don’t have the code when making an online or phone transaction.

Remember that businesses are not required to ask for a CVV or CID code, and not all do. Furthermore, some stores will ask for it the first time you make a purchase to verify your identity, but will not ask for it again if you are logged in as a customer on their website.

Identity thieves may also take your CVV or CID codes from stores using malicious software known as malware, or thieves may obtain one from you in a phishing effort if you’re not careful. Plus, if your physical card is stolen, they will have access to it. 

To make it even more difficult for fraudsters to conduct fraudulent purchases, some financial institutions are experimenting with dynamic CVVs, or CVVs that vary on a regular basis.

Is the CVV the same as the pin on my credit card?

User-created personal identification number Credit card issuers produce and print this information on the back of the card automatically.
Usually a four-digit number a three-digit code
PIN is used for cash advances on credit cards and cash withdrawals from ATMs and point of sale (POS) machines on debit cards. Used for virtual payment gateways or internet transactions


CVVs are used on all credit and debit cards to prevent fraudulent purchases made online or over the phone. Although CVV is more difficult to obtain than other card information, it does not always ensure security. They aid in fraud prevention, but they are not perfect. As a result, you must constantly take the required safeguards to protect yourself whether transacting online or on your phone.