Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to fix your credit card’s broken/cracked magnetic strip

As a shopaholic, I mainly use my credit card to buy new stuff. It’s one of the must-have items in your life once you reach young adulthood, especially when you want to purchase items online. Be careful of your spending, though, or you’ll end up having huge debt that you can’t easily pay back. In any case, using your card long enough may cause the thin, transparent plastic film protecting it to peel off. The exposure will then cause the magnetic strip to shed as well.

BDO American Express credit card with peeled off plasticBDO American Express credit card with peeled off magnetic strip (back)

As you can see in the photos above, my BDO American Express card needs repair. Continue reading to find out how I fixed it.

What is the magnetic strip for?

It’s important to know that the magnetic strip is essential to the credit card. It being absent means you can’t swipe the card to make transactions. The strip contains iron-based magnetic material that can be interpreted by a magnetic reading head so as to identify your account number, bank number, and other necessary information.

Reasons why the magnetic strip detaches from the card

I can think of a number of causes why that oh-so-important strip of the credit card separates from the plastic, but it can all be put under one main thing: wear and tear. Unless you use it for peculiar reasons, the damage is simply because of repeated use over a period of time. It can’t also be helped if you chance upon that one cashier who hates his job couldn’t care less about how he swipes your card.

If your credit card is housed in a wallet that’s chock-full of money and other cards, the resulting pressure can be strong enough to damage said wallet items over time. The problem gets even worse when you store your wallet inside your pant’s back pocket. It should be already obvious: sitting on the wallet forces the items to bend to the curve of your butt. Those with big behinds may be blessed with comfort wherever they sit, but it’s a curse for the wallet items. :)

Cyanide & Happiness – The Man Who Could Sit Anywhere

How to repair the magnetic strip

A simple solution to get your credit card working again is by using an adhesive tape, particularly the one with a transparent plastic.

Carefully and slowly place the tape to the damaged area of your card, with proper alignment to the edge of the card if possible. Try to do this successfully on your first attempt, because removing a wrongly placed tape could also remove more of the magnetic strip. You certainly don’t want that to happen.

Note that this easy fix should be applicable to all other kinds of cards with a magnetic strip (e.g., debit card, driver’s license, etc. ). Just remember to apply the adhesive (you can use glue and other liquid-based adhesive if needed) thin enough that the swipe reader can still recognize the card. The adhesive material used must also not cause noise or magnetic interference.

Here are photos of my card after the fix. I didn’t do a good job repairing it, but it can be now swiped and recognized by the reader.

BDO American Express credit card - repaired (front)BDO American Express credit card - repaired (back)

Other ways to get a card

If it’s already beyond repair, some credit card issuers offer free replacement as long as you surrender your existing card. (On the other hand, a request for replacing a lost/stolen card usually costs money, given that your bank will go through the trouble of making a new account number and transferring your credit. In many cases, you will also need to acquire an affidavit of loss. Translation: more costs.) In my experience, I didn’t have to give my dilapidated card away when my issuing bank’s courier personally delivered a new one. Note that for security reasons, the courier must hand the new card to you personally (or someone you’ve given authorization).

A new card can also be had when your existing one goes past its expiration date. Once made invalid, you’ve no choice but to go to your issuing bank and request for renewal. As far as I know, this is one of many reasons why an expiry date is set—to get a card in mint condition. Some people are suggesting banks do this so they can occasionally send out complimentary (but still shitty) incentives, promotions and whatnot, lol. Hopefully, I don’t receive such unnecessary treatment when I surrender my Unionbank EON debit card next month.