How To Swipe A Credit Card Correctly

Many of us have experienced awkward situations with bank cards. Among them is swiping a credit or debit card at, say, a gas station or a store.

However small, this experience has left many people stranded and frustrated. 

Swiping a credit card is greatly influenced by several factors, such as the location where it took place (e.g. at the store), the type of credit card used, and how the swiping was done (horizontally, vertically, and so forth)

However, before we dive into the full details, you should know a few things to swipe credit cards more effectively.

One of them is understanding how a credit card reader works. Understanding how a card reader works is key to swiping a credit card correctly. 

Here, I will discuss how card readers work, how credit card processing operates, and how to swipe bank cards, including credit cards. Let’s dive right in.

How Do Card Readers Work?

First, what’s a card reader?

A card reader, in this context, is simply a device which acts as an intermediary between the seller’s bank and the customer’s bank. It’s the medium through which both parties (the seller and customer) exchange information.

As for how the card readers work, here’s a quick overview:

  1. As soon as you attempt payment, the card reader first extracts information from your credit card or debit card issuer. The information is extracted from the card via chip, magnetic stripe, contactless payment on a card reader, and so forth.
  2. Following this, the merchant’s bank contacts your card issuer to verify if the card is valid and contains enough money to fund the transaction.
  3. You can expect your card issuer to approve transactions once sufficient funds are in your account. But in the case of insufficient funds, they will decline the transaction.
  4. Last, your bank will transfer the funds from your account to the vendor’s account.

The whole process outlined above usually takes a few seconds. 

This step-by-step process is limited to typical card readers, called Point Of Sale (POS) systems. Other card readers, such as contactless readers, Chip and PIN readers, for example, operate differently.

Here are ways you can share your financial information (card details), depending on your card type and your vendor’s payment system setup (type of card reader):

  1. By inserting your credit card’s chip (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) into the card reader.
  2. By typing in your card number.
  3. By swiping your card across the magnetic strip of the card reader. (I will provide more information on this below) 
  4. By running a contactless payment.

Learn more on how a card reader works here

How Do Credit Card Processing Work

How credit card processing functions is similar to how a card reader works.

Credit card processing takes place in an instant. However, if you’re curious, here’s what happens during that process:

  1. To begin the payment process, the customer presents their credit card information. Credit card information is presented in a variety of ways: by tapping contactless cards, swiping magnetic stripe cards, using EMV chip cards, or by using Apple or Google Pay on mobile devices.
  2. Upon receiving the card information, the merchant’s bank seeks authorization from the customer’s bank. 
  3. The customer’s bank then verifies the amount of money in the account, the credit limit, and the validity of the card information (card number, CVV number, and so forth).
  4. Once the above requirements are met, they will mark the transaction as “pending.” 

This shows that the transaction is currently ongoing.  

  1. Finally, the credit card company transfers the funds to the merchant’s bank account once both parties agree.

To better comprehend how credit card processing works, here are the key players behind credit card processing:

  1. Cardholder
  2. Merchant
  3. Payment gateway
  4. Payment processor
  5. Acquiring bank
  6. Issuing bank
  7. Card schemes or networks

Learn more about credit card processing here

How To Swipe A Credit Card Correctly

Imagine yourself in a situation where you could only pay with a card swipe. However, you do not know how to go about it. 

Such a situation isn’t pleasant at all. As a result, we have provided a detailed step-by-step guide to swiping a card correctly.

Before diving into the guidelines, here are some things you should know before swiping your credit card:

  1. Ensure the card reader is on.
  2. Ensure the card reader terminal scans your credit card. 
  3. Ensure you place the card’s mag stripe towards the card reader’s sensor.
  4. Don’t be in a hurry to leave. The card reader machine might ask you to swipe the card again.

Now you know what to watch out for, below are the different ways you can swipe your credit cards.

How To Swipe A Credit Card Across A Magnetic Stripe Card Reader

Magnetic Stripe Card Readers are mostly found at gas stations and retail stores. But then, regardless of where you use the Magnetic Stripe Card Readers, here are some things to keep in mind:

Let’s say, you were about to scan your card across the gas station’s magnetic stripe card reader. And a set of instructions appeared on the screen. 

Ensure you follow the directions displayed on the screen closely. By doing so, your transaction should turn out successful.

On the other hand, you might be asked to type in your postcode (zip code). Ensure you do so, too.

Nevertheless, if no instruction is displayed on the screen, follow these steps:

  1. Slide your card into the card reader’s slot 
  2. Ensure the magnetic stripe, typically found at the back of the card, is well positioned in the card reader.
  3. Ensure the magnetic stripe faces the card reader’s sensor. Voilà! You are good to go. 
  4. Then, swipe the card across the magnetic stripe card reader swiftly.

Here, learn more about swiping a credit card across a magnetic stripe card reader

How To Swipe A Credit Card At A Store

At the store, here are the modes of payment you are likely to encounter:

  1. EMV Card Readers
  2. Contactless payments 
  3. Magnetic Stripe Card Reader

Irrespective of which mode of payment you come across, follow the suitable steps. 

However, if you encounter a Magnetic Stripe Card Reader, follow the guidelines I outlined above.

A gift card is more likely to be used than any other card at the store. Hence, it’s essential you know how it works. Gift cards possess swiping capabilities. 

Also, you may have to enter your card details yourself or use contactless at the store. You can do so by following the on-screen instructions OR asking the store’s attendants for help.

How To “Swipe” Credit Or Debit Cards On A Phone

Contactless transactions allow you to “swipe” credit cards on your phone. By “swiping,” I mean you use your credit card information for a transaction.

Depending on the platform you are on, there are several ways you can do so. The best Contactless Payment Platforms are Google Pay and Apple Pay. 

To set up your Google Pay or Apple Pay Wallet, follow these steps:

  1. Hop on Apple Store or Google Play Store
  2. Add your debit/credit card information
  3. Save the card information

Once you do so, you can use the card from time to time for any transaction through your mobile device.

How To Swipe A Credit Card With A Chip

To swipe or use a Credit Card using a chip, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Insert the chip end of the credit card into the card reader terminal. 
  2. Enter your PIN or sign your name to complete the transaction.

Depending on your EMV chip type (chip-and-signature or chip-and-PIN), you can either sign your name or enter your PIN.

How To Swipe Credit Card For Cash

“Swiping” your credit card for cash means withdrawing cash from an ATM using your credit card.  Withdrawing with a credit card differs from withdrawing with a debit card. 

And to make a withdrawal with a Credit Card, here are the steps you must take:

  1. Walk to the nearest ATM centre and insert your credit card into the ATM.
  2. Then, Input your credit card PIN.
  3. Select the “Cash Advance” option. For this to work, you must have set up a cash advance PIN on your credit card. 
  4. Select one option: “Credit” or “Debit.” Here, select “Credit.”
  5. Enter how much you wish to withdraw. Voila! You are good to go. 

How To Swipe or Use A Debit Card Correctly

Swiping a debit card is not so different from swiping a credit card.

As for swiping your debit card, here is what you should do or must know:

  1. First, you must know your Identification Number (PIN).
  2. You must be sure the card reader is on.
  3. Then, insert your card’s mag stripe into the swipe machine’s terminal. 
  4. Swipe the card all the way through until it exits the terminal at a swift speed.
  5. Wait to make sure the machine reads your card properly. If you don’t swipe correctly, it will ask you to try again. 
  6. Ensure the card’s mag stripe is firmly pinned against the magnetic reader.

Most often, the card reader will ask for your debit card PIN. Fill in the PIN on your debit card when asked. You are good to go as long as you have enough funds in your account!

Also, as a debit card user, here are other things to keep in mind: 

  1. A debit card withdrawal removes money from the checking or savings account associated with the debit card.
  2. But then, using a credit card is the opposite; you withdraw money from the company that issues the card. Safe to say, it’s not your money.

How To Swipe A Credit Card On A Square Reader

Square Reader is a type of Credit Card Reader.

And swiping cards on a square reader differs from typical card readers. And as for the steps you must take, click here for more information.

How To Swipe A Gift Card

Swiping a gift card requires the attachment of a checking or savings account to complete the transaction process.

Disclaimer: different retailers accept gift cards differently. Sometimes, swiping the gift card might be unnecessary. In other situations, you might have to type in the card information, use the card’s chip or do something different.

How To Swipe A Credit Card Horizontally

There are card readers, machines or POS, which call for horizontal card swiping. This is mainly because of the layout of the card reader machine.

There is no large difference between swiping vertically or horizontally. On this note, to swipe a credit card horizontally on a card reader, ensure that the front part of your card faces up and the magnetic stripe on the other side of your card faces the bottom. 

How To Swipe A Credit Card Vertically

Swiping a credit card across a card reader vertically is almost the same as swiping a credit card horizontally.

To swipe a credit card vertically, slide the card into the card reader machine, and ensure the card stripe at the back of the card faces the bottom.

Final Takeaways

In the end, swiping a credit card can take different forms, depending on the type of credit card used, how the card swiping was done, where the credit card swiping took place and many more.

As a result, it’s important you follow the right instructions, depending on your situation. 

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