Today, I received a new credit card which still needs to be signed in the little box on the back. I have never been able to do this successfully. A ballpoint pen won't write on the surface properly and leaves a miserly thin line. Most felt pens won't write on it at all. Those that DO write usually rub off after a short time. Most felt pens are FAR too fat to sign in the nano-scale box they provide. Any suggestions?

  • When was the last time any retailer asked for a signature for a card transaction? It must be over 10 years. Sign it in pencil. – Chenmunka Jun 30 '15 at 12:38
  • As it happens, I got asked for a "verification signature" in a major chainstore quite recently. I think it's a trick they use when they suspect it might have been stolen. – Lefty Jun 30 '15 at 15:13
  • @Chenmunka: Where do you live? Hereabouts, it's quite common for smaller retailers to have you sign paper receipts, while others have you do an electronic signature. Though I can't remember anyone actually looking at the signature on the card... – jamesqf Jun 30 '15 at 18:14
  • In the UK. All cards have had chips for years, authenticated at the retailer's terminal by keying a PIN. Recently, cards have NFC chips, some of those have biometric data. Even street vendors, if they take cards at all, will have a 4G-enabled card chip reader. Many people here don't bother signing the backs of cards at all any more. – Chenmunka Jun 30 '15 at 18:47
  • ... but we are getting off the subject. – Chenmunka Jun 30 '15 at 19:11

I sign with a Sharpie*. Not a fine tip one either. It doesn't wear off and it's easy to read. Nobody has ever objected. We keep one around for writing on CDs and DVDs anyway.

*Sharpie is a brand name of a permanent marker popular in the USA and some other countries - check your local stationery supplier for similar products if the name is unfamiliar in your country

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    I've got some of those, will give it a try. Thank you! – Lefty Jun 30 '15 at 15:13
  • Permanent marker is the best, short of ball pen. The fine ones work better, in my experience. – Zeiss Ikon Jan 26 '17 at 18:07
  • isn't a sharpie a permanent marker ? Mine says it is on the barrel – bigbadmouse Jan 17 '18 at 8:50
  • @bigbadmouse I don't think Zeiss was saying a sharpie wasn't a permanent marker - I think the comment is an agreement rather than a contra – Caius Jard Mar 4 at 7:47

Pens for labelling CDs/DVDs work very well for this. They won't wipe off and come in sizes of about 0.5 or 0.7 mm, around about that of a ballpoint pen.

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    I don't want to have to buy a special pen but will do it if the Sharpie suggestion is no good. Thank you! – Lefty Jun 30 '15 at 15:15
  • Yes, I've used them for signing my card because I had them available, but I doubt I would have bought them specially. – Dave Jun 30 '15 at 15:20
  • I've got some CD pens around - but they are much too fat to use for a signature. I would have to go and buy a finer one. – Lefty Jun 30 '15 at 15:25

Banks and financial institutions prefer the miserly thin line you dislike.
Forgers love thick lines that disguise small irregularities in a bogus signature. It's VERY difficult to forge a signature using a fine-lined writing instrument such as a ball-pointed pen.

Stop into a bank branch and use one of their pens next time you need to sign your John Bull. It won't cost you a pence and you're assured of using the proper tool.

Signature authentication is not there for legibility or aesthetics. It's there to spot differences and irregularities.

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    While true, the signature on your card will never be used as an exemplar. The bank will demand affadavits, invididually, for each transaction if there's a detail dispute and they don't just resolve it by giving your money back (which they almost always do). – Zeiss Ikon Jan 26 '17 at 18:06
  • but if one used thick lines first, then wouldn't it be even harder for forgers? :} – Puddle Feb 6 '20 at 15:36

An engraver/Dremel. I just signed my new credit card with an engraver with a thin point, and it looks great and is visible (even without ink). I might use a thin sharpie to write over it.

A related suggestion for new cards - scratch out or Sharpie-over the three digit CVV code, which is at the end of the signature line. Make sure it is not visible. Do it for all of your cards. Then write (or engrave lightly) a simple numerical variation, which you can remember.

Example variation:
Subtract 100 from the CVV.

Actual CVV    Re-written CVV
385           285
584           484
104           004

I've been doing this on all of my cards and it gives me piece of mind about online fraud, by hiding the CVV from others. Only 2-3 times in about 6 years has anyone (at restaurants - I think it was in a foreign country) asked for it. Otherwise I just use it when I need to make online purchases. I just used the engraver for this for the first time. Engravers are not expensive and useful for marking a lot of things. Comments/thoughts welcome, and thanks for letting me go off-topic.


Invest in the fisher brand of pens called "space pens". They truly live up to the hype, they write every time, on basically whatever surface you need to write on (within reason, obviously not concrete or some crazy surface). I just signed my new credit card with it 5 mins ago, it was like writing on paper and effortless. Worth the $!


There are other answers suggesting the kind of pen to use. To prevent it from rubbing off, EVER, put clear tape over your signature after you sign. :)

  • Tape solution won't work for chip cards =D – user15383 Jun 8 '16 at 21:19
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    Putting anything like tape over the signature strip will result in the entire strip peeling off along with the tape. It's designed to do this, so it can't be "washed" and redone. – Zeiss Ikon Jan 26 '17 at 18:05
  • You put the tape over the signature and leave it there. You don't peel it off. I have been doing this for over a decade and I have never had the experience you're describing. – BrettFromLA Jan 26 '17 at 18:15
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    i like that idea, nice one. I up-voted you. – bigbadmouse Jan 17 '18 at 8:51
  • @bigbadmouse Thanks! I've been doing it for a long time and it works great. – BrettFromLA Jan 17 '18 at 14:33

'Sign' the Credit Card, using a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point ™ marker with the phrase "Please Ask for ID" This works well for me in three ways:

1) I know that whoever is running my Credit Card is paying attention to detail. 2) I don't unwilling expose my signature. 3) I have a chance to compliment the person for their protection of My credit, AND that of their business

  • From Should You Sign the Back of Your Credit Card?: “Writing "see ID" or "check ID" on a credit card might seem like a great way to protect from fraud. But it actually may invalidate the card. This is because only your valid signature that a merchant can match with a signature on a sales receipt is acceptable. – grooveplex May 20 '20 at 13:14

I lightly rubbed fine sandpaper over the strip and then signed it with a standard ball pen.

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    It is kind of damaging the credit card I guess. This should not be the best way of doing this. – Kushan Randima Nov 3 '18 at 21:20
  • This answer is sensible; the strip on the back of the credit card is paper with a surface treatment to make it resistant to abrasion from being put in and out of a wallet, or kept in a jeans pocket, but it makes it hard to write on. Lightly abrading the surface of the strip will allow the ball of the ball point pen some better grip in order that it can roll and dispense ink properly. Complaints of "omg, it will damage the card" perhaps do not understand what "fine sand paper" is - we aren't talking about an 80 grit that your carpenter uses to put a half inch round on the corner of a worktop! – Caius Jard Mar 4 at 7:41

Take a small nail file or sandpaper and lightly scratch the surface to be signed. Scratch just enough to remove the sheen. Take care not to file above, on the magnetic stripe. Once you do this, you can sign with any pen. I guess you could put tape over the signature but every time you remove, or put away the card, the tape will start to peel off. That doesn't sound like a viable solution to me.

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    This is basically the same answer as the one by Andy, (which is not well received.) – Willeke Mar 3 at 16:06
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    That answer has already been given. – Chenmunka Mar 4 at 16:42

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