What Will Damage a Debit Card?

by Charlie Gaston ; Updated July 27, 2017
Debit card damage can occur regardless of the issuer.

When carrying a debit card, a card holder should be aware that certain household items could be potentially damaging. By understanding the dangers that such items pose to debit cards, a card holder can prevent unwanted damage, or use those items to help properly dispose of an old debit card.


A magnet can damage a debit card by erasing the encoding on the magnetic strip. Even if contact with the debt card is limited to a few seconds, when held in close proximity, a magnet can strip away important security information — for example, the card holder’s name and account number. Without such information, a debit card is unusable.


The least effective way to damage a debit card is to cut it in half. Card holders seeking to truly damage a credit card, and stop a thief from creating a clone of the original, must erase the security information encoded on the card. To demagnetize the magnetic strip on a debit card, a card holder may use a magnetic door latch on a refrigerator, swiping it across to demagnetize the card. Once demagnetized, the debit card is damaged for good.

Background Information

Oftentimes the demagnetizing of a debit card occurs while a debit card is in a purse, wallet or coat pocket. Such locations offer exposure to small novelty magnets, which, although weaker than larger magnets, can erase security information. If the novelty magnet is within 1 inch of the magnetic strip or passes across it — for example, in a back-and-forth action — the magnet can erase the magnetic strip. Card holders should remove all novelty magnets — especially those secured to a key chain — to prevent such an occurrence.


Once a debit card is damaged, a card holder should cut the card with a pair of scissors and dispose of it in a trash can. For good measure, notify the card issuer of all actions taken to damage the card.

About the Author

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images