Today I filled up at the petrol station, went to pay and my debit card would not work in the payment device, this is the third time this year it has happened.

I've had several cards, and tried several places, I just don't seem to have much luck.

I have a regular leather wallet, nothing fancy, and usually keep it in my sports bag.

Should I change banks to get a different set of cards? Luckily I was close to home, but if I were the other side of the country this could have ended bad!

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    Is the payment scanner a magnetic swipe, chip reader or RFID scanner? – Zephyr May 10 '10 at 3:11
  • Cards can be damaged or wear out. Start by asking for a new card. – keshlam Mar 11 '16 at 11:57

First try to investigate the cause. Two reasons this could happen: (1) The magnetic stripe on the card is corrupt if this fails at all retailers. (2) The swipe is successful, but the bank is rejecting the transaction (your bank will know if this happens, call your bank).

If this is happening with all your cards, maybe you placed your wallet next to a strong magnetic source. Your best bet in this case is to get replacement cards.


Don't blame the cards entirely, some of those ATMs have been sitting out there for quite a while. So the problem could be coming from there as well, and remember the ATMs are computers which are not 100% reliable 100% of the time.


If its a swipe with the magnetic stripe, I saw this problem happen in supermarkets to other people on several occasions, and the cashiers where then wrapping the card in a plastic bag and retrying the swipe - with some success. And here is explanation why this works: http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2009/11/16/how-can-a-plastic-bag-enhance-the-magnetic-stripe-on-the-back-of-a-credit-card/


A friend of mine was experiencing a similar problem and when he changed his crocodile skin wallet, such problems disappeared. Others might know the mangentic/conductive properties of crocodile skin wallet, but I thought I'd share just in case.

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    Mythbusters did a segment on this with various animal carcass wallets and debunked it pretty thoroughly. I think those wallets are just scapegoats. – JohnFx May 11 '10 at 3:36
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    Re: Mythbusters. Here's a quote, and a link. "No matter how much they tried or how long they left the cards in the wallet, they could not erase it. In fact, it took over 1,000 gauss to erase a credit card - a gauss measurement that high could not be found in any household magnets, money clips, or wallets. So don't worry everyone, your credit cards are safe. Busted." tv.com/mythbusters/… – Chris W. Rea May 11 '10 at 13:22
  • I dont know about wallets, but mythbusters is missing something -- the security device at my local pharmacy would wipe cards pretty reliably if the cashier left it there. – duffbeer703 Nov 15 '11 at 22:15

"Several cards in several places" failing is simply not normal. Unless you have industrial-grade magnets lying on your beside table where you set your wallet down, or something, this shouldn't happen. Your bank must be giving you crappy cards, or have screwed something up with your accounts. My advice is to switch banks. But not before giving each card a good wipe to make sure it's not some sort of residue from your wallet or anything, I've had that screw up my VISA temporarily before.


Based on my personal experience, the most likely cause for a read error with the magnetic stripe is actually due to the reader.

The stripe on my aging debit card is well worn; to the point that there are some visibly lighter areas on it. It works fine in my bank's ATMs, but I've had issues at some retailers. Wrapping the card in a plastic bag, and then swiping it, usually works.

According to the Wikipedia article on magnetic stripe cards there can up to 3 tracks on the magnetic stripe, though track 3 is virtually unused. (Scroll down to the section titled "Financial Cards.") Some point-of-sale (POS) card readers read both tracks 1 & 2. I assume that this is the reason that my bank's ATMs read my card without issue.


I have a visa debit card and lately it stopped working In any machine even though it was just 12 months old (card was) I concluded that my phone wallet magnetic clasp has interfered with my visa card chip.

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