That strip along the back of your credit card – called a magnetic strip, magnetic stripe or magstripe – is not there for decoration. It holds three lines of data that connect your card to your account. If the magstripe doesn’t work when you swipe your card, it may have become demagnetized. Protect the magstripe on the back of your credit card to ensure that you can use your card.
Protecting Your Magstripe
Place each credit card into a credit card slot in your wallet or billfold. Store only one credit card in each slot, as placing two credit cards together with magstripes touching could result in demagnetization.
Avoid placing your credit card or your wallet with your credit card inside near magnets. A magnetic closure on a purse or a bag could demagnetize the magstripe if your credit card gets too close to the magnet while inside your purse.
Keep your credit card clean and free of dust and dirt. Wipe the magstripe with a damp soft cloth if the credit card will not swipe properly. Moisten a cloth with isopropyl alcohol and pass it along the magstripe to remove stubborn debris.
Things You'll Need:
- Soft cloth
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Credit card sleeve
If you swipe your credit card and it’s a no-go, ask the cashier to key your credit card manually to process the transaction. If you use your credit card often, eventually the magstripe may wear out. If that happens, call the card issuer and request a replacement.
Always keep your credit card in a sleeve if you store or carry it out of your wallet. Placing a loose credit card in a drawer or your pocket, purse or backpack could result in scratches on the magstripe.
Chip Cards May Solve the Problem
Fortunately, many modern credit and debit cards now include chip card technology, also called chip-and-PIN and EMV. These cards, called chip cards, look largely the same as older credit and debit cards, but they have a microchip that contains your card and account information. Instead of having to swipe your card, you'll insert it in a slot and put in your PIN.
Chip cards are safer than magnetic stripe cards because they offer protections that magnetic stripe cards don't have. Every chip-and-PIN transaction generates a unique code, so even if a hacker manages to steal your code, it will be useless for future transactions. The microchip embedded in your card makes it extremely difficult for criminals to duplicate your card and commit counterfeit fraud. Another plus that comes with using a chip card is that the card never needs to leave your hand, minimizing the risk of a devious employee copying your card information.
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