No matter how well-protected you keep your credit cards, damage can occur. Scratches, heavy smudges and cuts can make your credit card unusable in swipe-based credit card machines. Damage that makes your name, account number or other distinguishing marks unreadable can occur to the front of the card. The magnetic strip on the back of your card also is susceptible to damage through normal wear and tear. If the damage to your card is severe enough, you may not be able to use the card to make purchases in person or online.
Cleaning your credit card can help reduce the impact of minor damage to your card. At home, use a soft cloth, water and a small amount of liquid soap to gently remove smudges and accumulated dirt from your card. Allow to air dry, or use another soft cloth to gently dry the card. Away from home, you can use your clothing, a baby wipe or an eye glass cloth to wipe away imperfections, especially along the magnetic strip.
Ask the cashier to manually input your card information for processing if you are unable to get a damaged card to work through a swipe terminal. The clerk may attempt to use another swipe terminal on her cash register, or may enter your card number and expiration date digit by digit. Unless the data on the front of the card has been obscured, this manual method should allow your transaction to be processed.
Call your credit card company and request a new card to replace your damaged card. Make sure you mention you still have your original card in your possession, as this information determines the replacement process. Your new card will not change your terms or impact your account, but it will invalidate your old, damaged card. Ask for a time frame for your new card’s arrival so you can monitor your mail delivery accordingly.
Use a shredder with a credit card slot, or use scissors to cut up your damaged card into small pieces. Ensure no identifiable pieces of information remain after your card has been destroyed, including the signature line, magnetic strip and any chips. Consider dividing the pieces of the card into different garbage bags to minimize the chance of someone being able to piece the card together. Careful destruction of your old card can minimize your chances for identity theft.