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Identifying Visa Cards

Basic features

All Visa cards share similar card elements and security features that are essential. However, the unembossed Visa card has some elements that are different, compared with a normal Visa card.  The card number and information on the front of the unembossed card is printed instead of embossed, resulting in a smooth card surface instead of the raised surface found on other Visa cards.  Visa Electron cards also have slightly different features.  They can only be accepted at an electronic terminal and always require authorization.  These differences are highlighted below. 

  • Cards bearing the old Visa flag symbol always have the logo on the front, right-hand side.  The logo can be placed above or below the hologram.  On cards bearing the new Visa brand mark, the mark is always on the front and can be placed in a number of positions.
  • Dove hologram – in cards using the old Visa flag logo, the hologram is always on the front right-hand side, and the dove appears to fly when the card is tilted back and forth. The Visa Infinite card, issued by some banks to their best customers, has a different hologram design.  Cards using the new Visa brand mark can either carry a standard hologram at the front or a mini hologram on the back of the card.
  • Ultraviolet element - this is a security-related mark required on all cards carrying the Visa brand mark.  This mark is only visible under ultraviolet light.
  • Four-digit number – printed above or below the account number. This should always begin with a ‘4’, and should match the first four digits of the account number. If it does not, or if it is missing, the card may be counterfeit.
  • Account number – must be even, clear and straight, with all numbers the same size and shape. May be embossed or unembossed.  Some unembossed Visa cards have a partial account number (only eight digits) printed.
  • Cardholder name – letters must be even and straight. Whenever you are processing a transaction, this should be compared with the cardholder’s signature. For unembossed Visa cards and for some prepaid Visa cards, a cardholder name may not be present.
  • Dates – whenever you are processing a transaction, you should check that the dates are valid. If you are presented with a card with invalid dates, you must obtain authorization.
  • Signature panel – look for the signature on the signature panel.  In cards bearing the old Visa flag logo, you should see "Visa" printed repeatedly and diagonally in blue and gold.  For cards bearing the new Visa brand mark, you will only see horizontal blue and yellow lines unless the card is placed under ultraviolet light, in which case, "Visa" appears.  The length of the signature panel is dependent on CVV2 placement and whether a chip is present on the card.
  • CVV2 – there should be a unique three-digit code printed after the account number on the signature panel.
  • Chip – many Visa cards now have a chip. If you have a magnetic-stripe terminal, accept chip cards as you would accept magnetic-stripe-based cards. If you have a chip-capable terminal, the card should be inserted into the chip reader for the duration of the transaction.

How to identify a Visa Electron card


  • For cards carrying the old Visa Electron symbol – the symbol will always be on the front, right-hand side at either the top or bottom of the card. These cards may have a Dove hologram. Occasionally they may also have the Visa flag symbol and Visa Electron symbol.
  • For cards carrying the new Visa brand mark with the Electron identifier, there are a few options for positioning the mark.
  • Last four digits – a full account number will not always be printed on the card. Check that the last four digits on the card correspond to the last four digits shown on your terminal.
  • Electronic use only – printed on the front of the card to remind you that Visa Electron cards cannot be used with manual systems. This may appear in other languages.
  • Signature panel – may appear on the front or back of the card.
  • Ultraviolet element – this is a security-related mark required on all cards carrying the Visa brand mark with the Electron identifier.  It is only visible under ultraviolet light.
  • The dove hologram – this is an optional feature and might not be present on some Visa Electron cards.

Basic security features

All Visa cards include features that prove they are genuine and valid for use. This helps protect you against losing money to counterfeit cards and fraud. 
You should train your employees to recognize Visa security features and to know what to do if they are offered a card that does not contain them. Your employees should also know what to do if they have any reason to be suspicious.
If your employees know that a card is invalid, they should not accept it. If they suspect that a card may be altered or counterfeit, that it is being improperly used or is not signed, they should telephone the voice authorization center or bank and request a Code 103 authorization or contact their bank.

A word about suspicious behavior

If you or your employees have any reason to suspect that a customer is acting suspiciously, you must telephone your authorization center and ask for a Code 10 authorization or contact your bank. The customer may have a good reason for acting in a particular way, so your employees should be polite and use common sense. 
Be alert for any customer who:

  • Makes indiscriminate purchases without regard to size, style, color or price.
  • Makes purchases, leaves the establishment and returns to make additional purchases.
  • Hurries you to complete the sale at closing time.

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