Debit cards allow you to make purchases without writing checks or carrying a wallet full of cash.

However, because these cards provide direct access to your checking account, keeping your card information safe is critical.

That's especially true when you're using a debit card online or over the phone and can't insert the card into a payment terminal. Security codes on debit cards were created to help ensure account safety in these types of transactions.

What Is the Security Code on a Debit Card?

The security code is a three- or four-digit numerical code that is usually — but not always — located on the back of a debit or credit card. It's distinct from the 15- or 16-digit card number and the card's expiration date. By supplying your security code, along with the debit or debit card number and expiration date, you're verifying that you are the cardholder.

The security code on a debit card is sometimes referred to as a card verification value (CVV) or card verification code (CVC).

The security code is different from your account PIN. Typically, your account PIN is a four-digit number that you either were assigned or chose yourself when you opened the account. Your PIN is not written anywhere on your debit card; you should keep your PIN information safe and enter will typically enter it when using an automated teller machine (ATM) or store payment terminal.

Why Is the Security Code Important?

The security code is important when purchasing goods or paying for a service over the phone or through the internet because, unlike buying something at a shop, these purchases don't require your physical debit card.

When you use your card in a shop, the store's payment terminal typically collects information from the chip or magnetic strip to verify the card's authenticity.

Because this is impossible to do remotely, you must usually supply the card's CVV as an extra layer of security.

Where Is the Security Code Located?

On most debit and credit cards, the security code is located on the back under the magnetic stripe. However, some banks and issuers, put the CVV on the front of their cards.

For PNC Bank debit cards, meanwhile, you can find the security code on the back to the right of the white signature strip.

Tips To Help Keep Your Security Code Safe

Here are a few tips to help you keep your security code and debit card safe and secure:

  • Never supply your card's security code when making a purchase in person. You should be able to complete an in-person transaction by tapping, inserting, or swiping your debit card and entering your PIN.
  • Use only websites that you trust when making an online purchase. One way to tell if a website is trustworthy is by looking at the URL; secure transactional websites have URLs that begin with "https://".
  • Never make a purchase over the phone unless you trust the vendor and have initiated the call yourself.
  • Make a habit of regularly monitoring your checking account using your bank's app or website, and call your bank if there is any suspicious activity.

The Bottom Line

The security code on a debit card is just another added layer of protection for your account. These codes have become even more important today as online transactions grow increasingly popular.