How to Fix a Credit Card That Doesn't Swipe

A merchant terminal may reject a dirty credit card.

The magnetic stripe on the back of your credit card contains information that merchant use to apply your charges to the correct account. If your credit card information does not appear in the merchant's terminal when a cashier swipes your credit card, you cannot use that particular card when making purchases since the merchant cannot trace your account. There are ways, however, to encourage a credit card that won't swipe to transmit information so that you may use it until you receive a replacement.

Step 1

Clean the back of your credit card with a damp cloth. Even if it appears clean, that doesn't mean that it is. Small particles of dust and dirt on the magnetic stripe can interfere with information transmission, causing a merchant terminal to reject the card.

Step 2

Ask the cashier for a plastic grocery bag. Place your card in the plastic bag, hold the bag tightly against it and swipe it through the terminal. The plastic creates a larger gap between the coding in the card's magnetic stripe and the terminal. The terminal still reads the card but, due to the gap, will ignore small variances in the stripe's magnetic particles that otherwise would have resulted in a rejected credit card.

Step 3

Place a piece of clear tape over the magnetic stripe. Like placing the credit card in a plastic bag, clear tape still allows merchant terminals to read the coding, but creates a gap significant enough that terminals ignore small coding errors.

Step 4

Hand the card to the cashier and ask her to key in the card number manually. While doing so is more time consuming than swiping the card through a terminal, it allows you to continue to use your credit card when the magnetic stripe cannot be read.


Cleaning your credit card periodically and keeping it in a wallet rather than in your pocket or the bottom of your purse extends its lifespan.


Keep your credit cards away from magnets. A magnet will interfere with the magnetic coding, located within the magnetic stripe, and disable it, according to the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility.

Things You'll Need

  • Damp cloth

  • Plastic bag

  • Clear tape