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Life Hack: How To Clean Plastic Cards in 4 Easy Steps

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Have you ever tried to use a gift card or credit card and it wouldn’t scan? It can be frustrating and embarrassing. Plastic cards are durable little items. But sturdy as they may be, they can still be damaged by neglect or overuse.

Most gift cards and credit cards have magnetic stripes. Once these stripes are destroyed or de-magnetized there is no way to re-magnetize them. There are, however, several quick and easy ways to extend the life of your plastic cards.

Extend the Life of Your Plastic Cards

  1. Keep plastic cards in a clean, secure space. Avoid storing them loose in a drawer or purse
  2. Clean your gift cards and credit cards regularly (or when they‘re dirty)
    • Gently wipe the card and magnetic stripe with a soft, damp towel
    • Remove build-up from the stripe with a pencil eraser
  3. Protect the magnetic stripe area—dirt and hard particles can scratch and damage the stripe
  4. If cleaning the card doesn’t help try placing a piece of clear tape over the magnetic stripe before swiping

These tips can help save your card, but your best option is to keep the card clean. If you attempt all these tricks and you still end up with a card that won’t scan, try putting it in a plastic grocery bag. Swipe the card while it is in the bag. This trick will sometimes help the card scan if it's scratched or dirty.

If all else fails, you’ll need to look into replacing the cards. Contact the company that provided the gift or credit card to request a replacement. If you or your organization ordered gift cards from CARDSource, give us a call and we'll start your order and get you new cards in as soon as 5-7 business days! If you have artwork ready to go, you can use our new online store to get instant proofs and submit your order immediately!

Tom Murphy
gift card guide for business owners by cardsource


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