It’s time to put the pen away. Visa New Zealand is phasing out signatures.

More than 96 percent of Visa transactions in New Zealand already use a PIN – and it’ll be PINs only from 18 October this year.

But you’ll still be able to sign at restaurants and cafes until October 2015. And there’s no change to contactless Visa “payWave” transactions: purchases under $80 can be made without a PIN but those over $80 need one.

Visa says the move away from signatures is part of its shift to EMV or “chip technology”. EMV is the international standard that’s regarded as providing the most security for electronic payments: signatures can be forged but a PIN, with its many combinations, is more secure.

If you’re travelling overseas to countries that don’t use PIN terminals, you can continue to sign to authorise Visa transactions. In Australia, the PIN has become the main way of card authorisation since the start of August. Visitors to New Zealand with overseas-issued Visa cards will still be able to sign.

MasterCard and American Express have no plans to make PIN use compulsory here. MasterCard sees it as unnecessary because the majority of transactions are already done using a PIN. All MasterCard cards are now issued with chip and PIN technology and American Express cards will follow by October 2015.

You don’t yet have a PIN for your Visa, or you’ve forgotten it? Get in touch with your card issuer (usually your bank) to arrange one. If you’re unable to use a PIN, it’s possible you can continue signing for purchases – provided the card issuer agrees.