Visa is to stop accepting signatures for its New Zealand-issued credit cards for most transactions from later this year in a bid to strengthen security.

Card-holders will have to enter a PIN instead although there will be no change to those who pay using its pay wave system, phone or internet transactions.

Already more the 96 per cent of Visa transactions use PIN over signature in New Zealand, the company said.

Caroline Ada, Visa country manager for New Zealand South Pacific, said the move was part of a seven point security plan announced by the company in 2009.


"Where Visa card holders currently sign to authorise their purchases today, we are encouraging them to start using PIN instead.

"This is about taking better advantage of the chip technology on Visa cards which is the international standard that provides the most security for electronic payments today. It is through the chip that PIN and contactless transactions are made at the point-of-sale," said Ada.

The change applies to New Zealand-issued cards although card holders will still be able to use their signature to authorise transactions when they travel to countries where PIN is not used.

A Visa spokeswoman said there was no fixed date for the cut off and it would be up to the individual banks and financial institutions when they decided to stop processing signature payments.

Card holders should contact their bank if they wanted more information around the cut off.

Visa card holders in New Zealand will still be able to sign at restaurants and cafes until October 2015.

The spokeswoman said the longer time frame would allow those merchants to switch over to the new system.

Ada said anyone unable to use a PIN should contact their financial institution to discuss their options because they may still be able to sign for purchases.

Visitors to New Zealand will not be affected by the change.