Welcome to the 21st century, American Express Co. (AXP) ! Come April 2018, no signatures will be required on purchases over $50 when using the card.
However, Amex is trailing other major credit-card companies in reducing or eliminating the number of transactions that require a signature.
Some 80% of MasterCard (MC) purchases already need no signature, and the company announced on Oct. 19 that it would eliminate signatures on nearly 100% of purchases starting in April. As for Visa Inc. (V) , a spokeswoman told TheStreet that "more than 75% of Visa card face-to-face transactions in North America do not require a signature." Discover Financial Services (DFS) also announced last week that it would eliminate signatures on 100% of in-person transactions next April.
"I would almost suggest it is long overdue for Amex," John Ulzheimer of the consulting firm Ulzheimer Group, told. He said Amex's move is "almost normalizing the process of buying things," as the company doesn't require signatures for e-commerce sales or smaller in-person purchases.
Ulzheimer added that signatures are often unclear anyway on purchases made at grocers or other stores. "If anyone call tell me with a straight face that those signatures at the grocery store [machines] look like the signatures on the cards, I'd be surprised," he said.
And not surprisingly, mobile-payment systems are already way ahead of the game. For example, purchases that shoppers make with Apple Pay from Apple Inc. (AAPL) don't require a signature. The system relies credit-card data preloaded onto a feature called Wallet on an iPhone that allows users to buy goods or services. Similarly, Walmart Pay, a mobile app that Walmart Store (WMT) rolled out nationally in 2016, comes preloaded with payment information that uses QR codes.
Walmart is on board with Amex's move, WMT spokesman Randy Hargrove told TheStreet. Hargrove added that the signature has been "worthless as a point of sales verification," and it's time to move forward. "[Getting ride of signatures is] another positive progression within the card industry that's going to offer convenience for customers, and it will quicken the transaction time."
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