Resurrect That Worn-Out Credit Card Strip

Use your credit card enough and you’ll render the magnetic strip unreadable. You can call the company and have a replacement sent over, but in the meantime there’s a quick fix to which you can resort.

Last month, Wired suggested covering the strip with Scotch tape, which ever-so-slightly spreads the distance between the card and the reader, allowing for a cleaner scan more likely to result in success.

Click the source link for loads of other off-the-wall advice, including the most efficient way to eat spaghetti, keep earbuds untangled and swat flies.

Wired’s Lab-Tested, Muppet-Vetted Formulas for Smartifying Your Life [Wired via Ben Popken Writes]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Costner says:

    So the original source was Wired, but you use this as a way to plug Ben’s website?

    Well played sir. Well played.

  2. final_atom says:

    been using this method for years. also you can wrap a plastic bag around the strip to achieve the same results.

    • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

      Yup, yup, that is what the Korean lady did at the liquor store I went to the other day, when my card would not read through the machine.

  3. catskyfire says:

    One of the article’s suggestion is on navigating through crowds. One thing I learned, is if you move your hand like a fish swimming, people often let you through. This is especially true if you’re moving through lines. It tells them that you aren’t cutting in line, just going through.

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      Works great when you have razor sharp claws, too.

    • shinazzle23 says:

      I prefer yelling at the top of my lungs “HOT WATER! HOT WATER!”

    • 3fingerbrown says:

      Extend your arm straight in front of you and people subconsciously veer off. If you are holding hands with your significant other just move the joined hands forward and you easily move through crowds. It is amazing!

    • SilentAgenger says:

      …or run forward with eyes bulging while holding your hand to your mouth as if you’re about to puke. Crowds will part like the Red Sea.

  4. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    Their solutions for eating spaghetti are nothing short of brilliant.

    If you’re a two-year-old.

  5. racermd says:

    I’ve covered both the mag-strip and the signature box with clear tape since I wore out my first card many years ago. Works great.

  6. JPeek says:

    We used to wrap the plastic bag at the checkout around the card.

  7. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    anyone who has worked retail for more than a few months has probably learned this on the job. it was a daily occurrence at every retail job i ever had.
    but it definitely works

  8. XTREME TOW says:

    If you have to clean the card, use vertical movements (up/down) over the magnetic stripe. Back and forth (left/right) will spread the magnetic field over the stripe to the adjoining numbers, causing errors.

  9. swarrior216 says:

    Thank you for posting this. I had an incident last night with my card reading error. Cashier had to manually enter in my card info.

  10. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    As an ex-cashier, I can also suggest breathing hard on it to get it slightly moist, or rubbing it against a plastic bag. When I was an active cashier, I kept a hand made “sleeve” made out of a plastic bag to slide onto a card that didn’t scan easy in my apron. You can also try running it through the scanner in reverse.

  11. cara says:

    …That tape can carry the information over on the strip. I’m surprised no one has brought that up yet, it is a way to get the information off the card.

    In the mean time, use a bag, or rub it vigorously again your shirt sleeve/ pants. I swear it works, I’ve worked at a grocery store for 5 years. I very rarely get a card that I can’t get the computer to read.

  12. wootbot says:

    Also a great idea: putting some scotch tape over the CCV# (security code on the back of the card), which tends to rub off rather quickly otherwise.

  13. ironflange says:

    Just what I need, a way to charge even more stuff. Anyway, when I was a cashier, it often worked to rub the card in one’s hair; maybe the static woke it up or something. Plastic shopping bag was the next step.

  14. Fafaflunkie Plays His World's Smallest Violin For You says:

    Then again, here in Canada anyway, all debit cards, and I’m now guessing all bank-issued credit cards, are chip-and-pin (most credit cards also have RFIDs to “tap and pay” for smallish transactions.) Thereby rendering that magstripe obsolete. That magstripe is only there for we Canadians who want to make a trip to your country to buy things and wonder why we still have to swipe our cards to pay for them. Though, for the record, I do recall these days of worn-out magstripes, and the plastic bag cover, or the “lick finger, moisten magstripe” technique to get a card that wouldn’t want to read to read.

  15. kw6238b says:

    I use a company card to buy diesel fuel every day, at self service, outdoor fuel pumps. When the card won’t read I run a piece of folded up paper or a matchbook cover through the reader slot. If you look at the cardboard or paper you can see that it has picked up a dark gray substance off the reader surface. I don’t know if this is residue from the many cards that have been swiped or air pollution or accumulated condensed bad truck driver breath from thousands of swipes before me or what, but this practice usually lets the card be read. It seems to help, too, to rub my card on the front of my shirt before swiping it, as if it’s cleaning off the strip surface. I see attendants in truck stops use the plastic bag method sometimes on their readers at the counter. That is apparently just something that has been passed around in the industry and no one I have asked knows why they do it, just that it works, but I have to wonder if that simply cleans off the reader surface instead of what is suggested here about increasing the distance.

  16. maxhobbs says:

    Or just stop shopping?

  17. menace690 says:

    I used to work at Home Depot. I was taught a quick trip I have been using at retailers ever since. If your card won’t swipe, take a plastic bag and put the card in it. Then swipe. The one layer of plastic gives it the same type of separation as the tape does in this recommendation. Great trick to know, especially the first time this happens to you.

  18. DrPizza says:

    I frequently have to tell retailers to “I’m sorry, you’ll have to enter the number manually. I’m waiting for my new card to come in.” It’s amazing how brilliant cashiers think they are at solving my problem – bag, putting some tape on the card, etc. 5 minutes later, they take my advice and enter the number manually (which takes about the same amount of time as wrapping the card in a bag.

    I teach physics. One of these years, I’ll remember not to automatically stick powerful magnets into my pockets after a demonstration, erasing all the data on the magnetic strip. :>)

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      It works for most problems with cards not reading and the card machines at some places are pickier when you type the numbers in instead of swiping the card.

  19. HomerSimpson says:

    Just be careful in putting Scotch tape over anything on the back as you might have one of the retail brain-surgeons (like one I ran into at Walmart eons ago) ‘inform’ you that the card was now invalid because of the tape.