Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
You’ve probably encountered this situation numerous times. You are in a store paying for your purchase with your credit card. The cashier asks to see your driver’s license. Do you have to show it? Probably not!
Merchants may ask a customer for identification, but in most situations, a merchant may not condition acceptance of a Visa or MasterCard credit card upon the customer presenting identification. In other words, you can refuse to provide identification, and the merchant still must accept your credit card. Many merchants are unaware of this rule. Be aware that identification may be required for purposes other than the credit card transaction, for example, when purchasing alcohol, tobacco products, or certain drugs. Identification may also be required for unusual transactions flagged during the credit card authorization process.
Some consumers feel that asking for ID helps protect them from identity theft, but others want to protect their privacy and personal security by not revealing their address, birth date, and other information contained on their driver’s license to a stranger. If you want merchants to ask for your ID, sign your card and write “Ask for ID” below your signature (however, merchants are not bound to honor that instruction). If you do not want to show ID, simply sign your card and refuse to provide ID if asked.
The MasterCard Merchant Rules Manual provides as follows:
9.11.2 Cardholder Identification
A merchant must not refuse to complete a MasterCard card transaction solely
because a cardholder who has complied with the conditions for presentment
of a card at the POI [point of interaction] refuses to provide additional identification information, except as specifically permitted or required by the Standards. A merchant may require additional identification from the cardholder if the information is required to complete the transaction, such as for shipping purposes. A merchant in a country or region that supports use of the MasterCard Address Verification Service (AVS) may require the cardholder’s ZIP or postal code to complete a cardholder-activated terminal (CAT) transaction, or the cardholder’s address and ZIP or postal code to complete a mail order, phone order, or e-commerce transaction.
MasterCard has an online form for reporting merchant violations of this rule. Go to http://www.mastercard.com/us/personal/en/contactus/merchantviolations.html  and check the box: “The merchant/retailer required identification.”
The Rules for Visa Merchants provides:
When should you ask a cardholder for an official government ID? Although Visa rules do not preclude merchants from asking for cardholder ID, merchants cannot make an ID a condition of acceptance. Therefore, merchants cannot
refuse to complete a purchase transaction because a cardholder refuses to provide ID. Visa believes merchants should not ask for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures. Laws in several states also make it illegal
for merchants to write a cardholder’s personal information, such as an address or phone number, on a sales receipt. (http://usa.visa.com/download/merchants/rules_for_visa_merchants.pdf ,
Rules for Visa Merchants, page 29).
Unfortunately, the MasterCard and Visa Merchant Rules are often ignored by retailers. If you feel strongly about not showing identification as a condition of using your Visa or MasterCard credit card, you may wish to print out a copy of the relevant merchant rule (from the pdf links cited above) and ask to speak to a store manager.
For additional information on other personal information you might be asked to provide to a merchant, see our newly revised Fact Sheet 15 “What Personal Information Should You Give to Merchants?” at http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs15-mt.htm