<i>Illustration: Rocco Fazzari</i>

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

THE days of signing your name to verify your identity when shopping with a credit card could be numbered, with credit giant Visa deciding to phase out pens in favour of PINs.

From April 1, all Visa card transactions will be approved by customers using personal identification numbers instead of signatures.

The move is expected to reduce signature-based credit card fraud, which has been rising in the past two years - from 38 out of 100,000 transactions in 2010 to 52 out of 100,000 transactions last year.

The change will also affect 14,000 cafes and restaurants, where customers will no longer be able to sign their bills at the table.

''Right now you're used to putting your credit card into the black folder and then expecting the waiter to take it and process it,'' said the vice-president of sales and marketing at eftpos services company Tyro Payments, Garry Duursma. ''By the time this mandate comes in, you're going to have to get up and go to the cashier and make the payment or the cashier armed with a payment terminal has to come to you.''

A spokeswoman for Visa, Judy Shaw, said the change was part of a comprehensive security plan to phase out the use of signatures in favour of PIN and card chips, already widely used by customers in stores and at ATMs.

American Express will still allow customers to use signatures, although cards are issued with chips.

''We're giving our members both options as we understand that every person has their own preferred way of using their credit card,'' a company spokeswoman said. She noted that American Express had one of the lowest instances of fraud in the industry.

Australia's banking and payments industry is expanding the choice in payments methods, as customers embrace more digital banking options. Banks are racing to upgrade their processing abilities, while working to ensure the overall security of the system.