It’s always stressful when one of your cards stops working. Maybe your card just can’t process a payment, or you can’t enter your office, and now your entire day is ruined.
One of the things that could be wrong with your cards is that their magnetic stripe has stopped working, and the biggest reason for magnetic stripe damage is demagnetization.
In this article, you will find out everything there is to know about demagnetization, including how you can prevent it, and whether magnetic wallets have anything to do with it.
Magnetic wallets don’t demagnetize your credit and debit cards. Manufacturers have considered the possibility of demagnetization, so in their manufacturing process, they use magnets that have the strength to hold your wallet together but are not strong enough to demagnetize your cards. Some wallets may contain some sort of magnet, but it will never be strong enough to demagnetize your cards, and it is always covered with a layer of fabric so it doesn’t come into direct contact with your cards.
Everything you need to know about demagnetization
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your card just won’t process payments even though the bank clerk told you everything is okay with it? A problem such as this could be caused by demagnetization. Now, you might be wondering what demagnetization is, what causes it, and maybe even how you can prevent it from happening. This article will explain and help you understand everything there is to know about card demagnetization.
What is card demagnetization?
Simply put, card demagnetization can make your debit or credit card stop working.
There is a magnetic stripe on the back of your card that is used to make transactions, and this stripe is what is affected by demagnetization. When a card is demagnetized, all the data which is encoded on the magnetic stripe is erased, so you can’t use it to make any sort of transactions.
Usually, card demagnetization happens when the specific card comes into contact with a powerful magnet. This doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the only way a card can get demagnetized. Demagnetization can even happen if an access card comes into close contact with a transaction card.
What is a magnetic stripe card?
Magnetic stripe cards use magnetic technology to store personal information that can later be used to make transactions or access a locked physical space.
You can use a magnetic stripe card by swiping it on a card reader so that it can quickly process the information stored on the card. When you swipe or insert the card into the card reader, it uses a magnetic head to detect the magnetic field which is made from the stripe.
These types of cards are made from plastic and paper and are usually no more than 3 inches wide.
You have probably already noticed the black stripe on the back of such cards. That is the magnetic stripe, and it is what is used to store the card’s code data. Obviously, these types of cards are now part of our everyday life, so it’s no wonder that many of us will probably be quite concerned if they stop working.
How demagnetization works
The magnetic stripe on magnetic stripe cards is made from iron-based magnetic particles. The individual magnetic particles are actually very small bar magnets.
Demagnetization happens when a magnetic object loses its magnetic field. This is done by randomizing the orientation of the magnetic dipole. This can be done by heating or hammering a magnet, applying an AC current, having two magnets affect each other’s magnetic field, or it can even occur naturally over time.
You can even measure how resistant a magnet is to change through its coercivity. Higher-coercivity magnets are harder to demagnetize than those with low-coercivity.
The connection between magnetic wallets and demagnetization
A lot of people choose to use a magnetic wallet to make the whole process of getting to your desired card easier. The most popular wallets of this type are magnetic wallets that you can attach to your phone case, wallets with magnetic closure, and wallets that have a magnetic card clip. But are such wallets actually safe for your cards?
What are magnetic wallets?
Magnetic wallets have some sort of magnet incorporated in their design. There are a couple of different ways that a wallet can be magnetic:
- the whole wallet can be made as a magnet so that it sticks to your phone case
- a wallet can have a magnetic clasp that is used to close the wallet case
- there can be a magnetic money clip which is a part of the wallet’s design
Can magnetic wallets cause card demagnetization?
In general, magnetic wallets will rarely, if ever, cause card demagnetization. For a credit or debit card to be demagnetized, a very strong magnet is required, which is never used in magnetic wallets.
The card also needs to be exposed to the magnet for a longer period of time.
Some people may mistakenly think that a magnetic wallet can surely demagnetize your cards. Even though both the magnetic stripe cards and the magnetic wallets have magnets, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Another important thing to note is that for a magnet to demagnetize your card, it has to come into direct contact with it. This does not happen with wallets and money clips since the magnet is covered by leather or some sort of fabric.
What should you do to use a magnetic wallet safely?
Even if card demagnetization doesn’t happen easily, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There are a couple of steps you can take if you want to stay extra safe with your credit and debit cards.
The first thing you can do is carry cash instead of a credit or debit card in a wallet that has a magnet. You can use a money clip for this purpose which is a very practical way to carry cash without it taking up too much space.
Separate the cards that have a higher chance to get demagnetized than those that don’t. For example, hotel cards have a bigger chance to get demagnetized by your wallet, they even get demagnetized on purpose in order to change room numbers. Credit and debit cards that have a magnetic stripe are also at risk of getting demagnetized.
If you really want to carry cards in your magnetic wallet, you can place them between some items that might isolate them, like cash bills, or receipts. This way your cards won’t be in contact with the magnet.
The last thing you could do is get a wallet without a magnet, specifically for your cards that might get demagnetized.
Magnetic wallets pros
Using magnetic wallets has a couple of advantages.
Fast card access
Usually, a magnetic wallet is placed directly on your phone, so you can easily get to it and grab the card you want. Magnetic wallets can’t carry a lot of cards, so you will always know which 2 or 3 cards are placed inside them, and won’t have to waste time looking for them.
Magnetic cash clips
Magnetic cash clips are another big advantage. Some even have the capacity to handle a bigger amount of cash bills. With magnetic cash clips, you won’t have to sacrifice any of the internal storage capacity of your wallet, and you will still be able to carry the cash bills you need with you.
One of the best things about using a magnetic wallet is that you don’t have to carry your wallet inside your pockets. This is especially good for people who carry bulky wallets in their back pockets and sit on them. Owning a magnetic wallet will be much more comfortable in this instance.
Magnetic wallet cons
Magnetic wallets also come with some disadvantages.
Low storage capacity
As I previously mentioned, most of the magnetic wallets currently available don’t offer that much storage space. You can put 2 or 3 cards at most inside them. Typically, people carry more than this inside their wallets.
No place for cash bills or other items
You should also keep in mind, that with a wallet like this one, you typically won’t be able to carry any cash bills inside it.
This type of wallet is specifically designed to carry just a couple of cards and nothing else. So if you are looking for a good roomy wallet to use on a daily basis, I wouldn’t really recommend getting a magnetic wallet. This type of wallet would make a good choice for a secondary wallet tough.
If you want to maintain a minimalist lifestyle but still need to carry a significant amount of cards or cash, check out my guides on the best minimalist wallets for many cards and the best minimalist wallets for lots of cash.
What are good alternatives to a magnetic wallet?
When talking about a good alternative for a magnetic wallet, the most important thing to consider is what you want to get out of it.
If you are looking for a wallet that has a strong build like a magnetic one and doesn’t take up way too much space, I would suggest going for a good aluminum wallet, or a carbon fiber wallet. There are a lot of great ones that offer more features than magnetic wallets, as well as more storage space. Some even have a place where you can carry many cash bills.
Another good alternative would be an attachable leather wallet. I would recommend this one to someone who wants to get a wallet they can attach to something like they would do with a magnetic wallet.
And if you really want to keep your phone and cards together, you can get a big wallet where you can place your phone inside it, instead of a magnetic wallet that is placed on the phone. In my opinion, a good phone case that doubles as a wallet would do the job just as well.
Cards and demagnetization
In order for a card to get demagnetized, it has to have a magnetic stripe. There are different cards that use magnetic stripes to make a transaction or even to access a physical space. The most regularly used cards of this type are credit and debit cards, as well as ID cards.
When a card is demagnetized you can’t use it on any scanning machine and it won’t perform the function it was made to do.
Magnets vs credit cards
After reading about card demagnetization you are probably wondering what type of magnets can actually affect your credit cards.
Credit cards can get demagnetized in a couple of different ways.
Items found in your home can cause demagnetization
When magnetic cards come into contact with other magnets, theoretically they can be damaged.
Such items can even be found in your home. For example, there are refrigerator magnets, magnets in a microwave oven, or even a simple electric fan that can contain a magnet. As we already established, your magnetic card will have to come into close contact with another magnet and be exposed for a decent amount of time, so that it can get demagnetized.
Magnets that can be found in your home generally don’t have that much power to cause your cards to demagnetize, but if you want to keep your cards extra safe, you can always just keep them further away from these items.
Demagnetization can be caused by security systems
Imagine you are getting a new item and the cashier has to deactivate its security system, and the next thing you know your card won’t make a transaction. If a magnetic card comes into close contact with anything magnetic it might lose all its information.
Strong electromagnetic fields can ruin cards
Be careful not to keep your credit and debit cards near an item that has a strong electromagnetic field such as a camera.
Damage to the magnetic stripe can cause demagnetization
If the magnetic stripe on the back of your card gets scratched a lot, it can also come to demagnetization of the card.
What does demagnetization do to your cards?
Basically, demagnetization wipes the information which is stored on the magnetic stripe that is located on the back of a credit, debit, or ID card. Without the information which is needed to identify the user, you cant make a transaction. If an ID card gets demagnetized, the card reader won’t be able to process your personal information and you won’t be able to get into a secured physical space.
Card demagnetization is nothing out of the ordinary and can happen to anyone and at any time. In case it happens to you, it is best to take the appropriate steps to replace your current demagnetized card with a new one, since the old one will often be beyond saving.
How to know that your card is demagnetized?
Obviously, the first sign that your card might have gotten demagnetized is that it won’t work.
In order to make sure that the problem doesn’t lie elsewhere, you should do the following steps:
- check if your card has expired
- call your bank to make sure that there isn’t something else wrong with your card
- check if there is any visible damage to the black (magnetic) stripe on the back of your card
After you are sure that none of the above-mentioned things have happened, you can go to your bank to check if your card has been demagnetized and order a new one.
How does the credit card’s magnetic strip work?
Credit cards have a black magnetic stripe on the back which contains all the personal information of its user. On the tape, there are three magnetic tracks that contain the code data of the card. In order for a magnetic stripe card to work, you need to insert it into a magnetic stripe reader. After that, the reader can read the stripe information by sensing changes in the magnetic field which are made from the magnetic stripe. Magnetic stripe cards can be encoded all thanks to the tiny iron-based particles that can be magnetized in a different direction by a device with a strong magnetic field.
Is there a way to fix a demagnetized card?
Some people have suggested putting tape over the magnetic stripe in order to fix it, but this is definitely not a permanent solution. In my opinion, it would be best to go to the bank and order a new card as soon as you can.
Are some cards more susceptible to demagnetization than others?
The first thing we should discuss here is that there are some cards that use magnetic stripes and some which don’t. It is estimated that most stripe cards will cease to exist in the near future, as most banks turn to chip cards. Even so, a lot of magnetic stripe cards are still being used today. Any card that uses a magnetic stripe in its design could potentially get demagnetized by a powerful enough magnet.
Some cards are more susceptible to demagnetization mainly because you use them more than others. A debit card that you use on a daily basis will have a higher chance of getting demagnetized than a hotel room card.
The ID card you use to get into your work building is also very susceptible to damage, especially if you keep it tied to a neck strap or something similar. While you move around your card could bump into things and the magnetic stripe on it could suffer physical damage, which is one of the ways a card can get demagnetized.
Can smartphones cause demagnetization?
Your phone does produce a magnetic field, but it isn’t strong enough to demagnetize your cards. There is only one place where your phone has a magnet, and that is the small magnet in the speaker which is not powerful enough to demagnetize your cards. So if you were thinking about getting a phone case that doubles as a wallet, go for it – your cards will be safe from demagnetization.
Can magnetic cards demagnetize each other?
There is a potential risk that one of two credit cards could get demagnetized if you place them next to each other with the magnetic stripes touching. If this happens, one of the cards will stop working and become useless. There are a couple of things you can do to avoid this.
- place your magnetic stripe cards facing away from each other with their stripes
- don’t keep your credit cards in the same slot
- place a couple of other cards between the two magnetic stripe cards
- place cash bills between the two credit cards
Which types of wallets have magnets and which don’t?
Some wallets are a magnet themselves and some may contain a small feature that has a magnet as part of the design. In this section, I will cover all the different types of wallets and their magnets.
A magnetic wallet is a magnet itself, so it has the highest risk of causing demagnetization to your cards in theory. However, a lot of users seem to enjoy this type of wallet and don’t have problems with card demagnetization. This is the type of wallet that you stick to your phone case, and it can only carry 2-3 cards at most. If you are truly worried that a magnetic wallet could make your cards demagnetized, you can always use it only for cards that don’t have a magnetic stripe.
Now, in my opinion, this isn’t the best decision, mainly because such a wallet is designed to carry a couple of cards that you use the most. Naturally, these cards would be credit/debit cards that you use to make purchases on a daily basis, or maybe an ID card that you use to get into your office. Cards such as these ones have magnetic stripes and could be at risk of demagnetization.
You shouldn’t come across problems with demagnetization with an aluminum wallet unless we are talking about a magnetic aluminum wallet. Aluminum as a material is not magnetic so it won’t cause any harm to your magnetic stripe cards.
Most of the best aluminum wallets don’t even use a magnetic cash clip or magnetic closure, so there is absolutely nothing that could make a magnetic field and cause harm to your swipe cards.
You might initially think that there can’t be any type of magnet in a leather wallet. Well, this isn’t exactly true. Some leather wallets, especially bifold ones, have a magnetic closure mechanism. This means that the wallet uses a small magnet in its design which is used to open and close the wallet itself. On that note, some leather wallets can also have a magnetic cash clip as part of their design.
This isn’t something that should get you worried. Even if some leather wallets contain magnets, they won’t affect your cards. This is because the magnet is covered with a layer of fabric and it won’t come into direct contact with your cards. These types of magnets are pretty weak as well, so they won’t be powerful enough to damage your cards.
Carbon fiber wallets
Some carbon fiber wallets can have magnets as part of their design. For example, there are designs out there that have a magnet to hold the whole wallet together. The magnet used for this purpose is stronger than most of the magnets we have mentioned till now. This is something you should consider if you are afraid of card demagnetization.
The titanium plates used to make titanium wallets can be magnetic. However, these magnets shouldn’t be able to cause any problems for your cards. There are many titanium wallet users that haven’t come across a single issue connected to demagnetization.