Many online shopping carts have a "What is this?" help dialog attached to a CVV input field.

Here is an example from Paypal:

CVV form field

My assumption is that more people are familiar with online shopping, and have become more familiar with the CVV/CSC field. Has there been any research into the effects of including a help dialog here?

  • 1
    FWIW I always hear that called "security code" and almost never CVV/CSC. Also your image disappeared, might want to upload it via the image button in the editor instead
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 22, 2012 at 20:01

3 Answers 3


I think it helps to have it there because the term itself (CVV, CSC) is not very intuitive when compared to the other terminology associated with a credit card. For example, card number, expiration date, name on the card, etc.

Even though online shopping is more common these days, some people may not quite understand what CVV/CSV means at a quick glance. For example, I myself was familiar only with CVV code. CSC term was new to me when I read this question.

In fact, even the cards themselves don't have the security code labelled anywhere. I have a full 7 digit code on the back of my card and it doesn't say CVV or CSV. Besides, not all 7 of the qualify as the code, it's only the last 3. And clearly, each card has it implemented differently. AMEX has it in the front of the card and is 4 digits. You don't have any of these problems with the card number, expiration date, etc. because it's consistent across different vendors and is self explanatory.

So to make up for the inconsistency among different cards, I think it makes sense to help the user out by giving them quick tips to find out where to find the code.

My recommendation is either make the term more intention-revealing, for example, "Security Code" and/or leaving helpful hints in there that's not obtrusive.


I would suggest not to assume anything about the user. Some of the people might not know about it. For example some of the countries are only starting out using card payments.

Also I just now realised(after reading) that American Express uses different numbers from the other cards.

So for example if I used MasterCard all my life and now got AE I would have no clue what to put in that field.

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    Agreed. Also, even in countries where cards are common there is still a steady stream of people who're new to eCommerce who've never needed to know about the code when shopping at retail or via mail order. Oct 22, 2012 at 21:08

I definitely agree with Igor-G's answer that you should never make any assumptions about the users. Sometimes it actually makes me frustrated to see the link everytime since I already know what it is, but you will have some first-time online shoppers that have never filled this out before, or some users that can never remember, or some who are just simply confused by the terminology.

If you want to save room, or you don't think the link fits well in your layout design, you could change this to a small question mark (?) icon next to the label or input.

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