How to Use a Credit Card When It Won't Scan

How to Use a Credit Card When It Won't Scan
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When you swipe your credit card at a credit card terminal, the strip on the credit card sends your account information electronically between banks to verify that you have the credit available to make the purchase. If something prevents or interrupts this transmission, you’ll get an error message because your card won’t scan. Scanning problems can happen if the magnetic strip on a credit card becomes demagnetized, dirty or worn. You can still use a credit card even when it won’t scan, but the payment process is different.

Suggest that the store personnel check the terminal to make sure it’s working. Sometimes credit card terminals fail. If this terminal isn’t operating correctly, transfer your transaction to a different register with a different terminal.

Ask the cashier to enter your credit card number, expiration date and security code manually into the system to process your payment. After you hand the cashier your card, watch closely to keep your card in sight at all times for security.

Request an old-fashioned imprint of your credit card using an imprint machine. In this situation, cashiers must call the credit card company for authorization before processing the payment. After getting authorization, the cashier will place your credit card into the device, fit a paper voucher showing the dollar amount over the credit card and then move the bar of the machine back and forth over the voucher and the credit card. When finished, the voucher will have an imprint of your card. Sign the voucher to finish the transaction.

Call your credit card company as soon as possible to request a replacement credit card. Destroy your old credit card.


  • Try rubbing the magnetic strip on a tissue or your clothing to make it scan. Sometimes grit or dust from your wallet could coat your credit card and prevent it from scanning.

    Prevent future issues by protecting the magnetic strip of your credit card. Never allow your credit cards to come into contact with magnets because this can de-magnetize the strips of credit cards and make them useless.