How do I Erase Magnetic Information on a Credit Card?

by Barb Nefer ; Updated July 27, 2017
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The magnetic strip on your credit card contains a summary of the account information printed on the card, including the number, expiration date and security code. A thief could swipe it at registers and make fraudulent purchases if you don't destroy it before you throw away your card. You cannot literally erase it, but you can scramble it. Then creditcards.com, a credit search website, recommends cutting the card into small pieces or running it through a shredder to render the strip completely unreadable.

Step 1

Run a powerful magnet over the credit card's magnetic strip several times. This will not actually erase the data, but it will be scrambled and unusable by identity thieves if they try to use the card in a swipe reader to pay for a purchase.

Step 2

Gouge the magnetic strip with the pointed tip of a pair of scissors. Run it back and forth, then up and down, until the strip is visibly marked with scratches. This adds a layer of protection to the magnet strategy.

Step 3

Cut the credit card lengthwise along the magnetic strip, then cut each of the long pieces into several smaller ones.This damage further ensures the data on the strip is destroyed.

Step 4

Dispose of the pieces in several different trash bags discarded at various times or in different trash receptacles. Creditcards.com explains this makes it nearly impossible for a criminal to get enough of the card to put it back together.

Step 5

Burn the trash rather than putting it in receptacles if you want to be sure the magnetic strip is erased and destroyed along with the rest of the card. This is the only completely foolproof method, because the strip is reduced to ashes.

Step 6

Some credit cards have radio frequency identification chips in addition to magnetic strips. They emit short range signals with your account information to make transactions faster. Creditcards.com recommends that you disable this chip, as well as destroying the magnetic strip, for safe credit card disposal. Smash it several times with a hammer.

Tips

  • Never let anyone take your card out of your sight when you're doing a transaction.

About the Author

Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."

Photo Credits

  • bank statement and cut credit card image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com