What Causes A Credit Card Chip To Stop Working?

By Bruce Boswell •  Updated: 12/14/21 •  5 min read
Filed under: Credit Cards

There are few things more stressful than making a purchase in a busy store or restaurant only to find that your card isn’t working anymore. 

Whether you’re trying to impress someone on a first date, or you’re desperate to make a contribution at a family dinner, having your credit or debit card malfunction is enough to fill anyone with a fair amount of anxiety. 

What Causes A Credit Card Chip To Stop Workings

While credit card technology has taken some impressive steps forward in recent years, these new features still can’t guarantee that your card won’t fail you at the most inconvenient time. 

With this in mind, our guide will take an in-depth look at some of the main reasons why your credit card might stop working unexpectedly, and what to avoid for example when cleaning a chip. What’s more, we’ll also look to answer a few of the frequently asked questions related to the problem. 

Reasons For A Card Malfunction 

The vast majority of credit cards now come equipped with multiple mechanisms to complete your transaction. For example, you have the classic magnetic strips, the more recent computer chips, as well as the ability to carry out contactless payments. 

What this means is that if one option isn’t working, you should be able to try another method with greater success. If, however, you’d rather not risk it either way, listed below are four of the main reasons why your card may malfunction. 

1) Dirt On The Card

If a substantial amount of dirt or debris gets stuck between your card’s chip or strip, there’s every chance that the card reader will be unable to process the transaction.

Fortunately, this problem is relatively easy to rectify as all you need to do is wipe the card down with a clean cloth. 

While giving your card a wash with soap and water won’t necessarily ruin the card, it’s probably best to keep your card soap-free and dry. 

2) Scratched Magnetic Strip 

A scratched and roughed-up magnetic strip that’s become unreadable over time is the most common reason for a credit card not working. With this in mind, it’s important to be as gentle as you can with your card and keep it safely protected in either a wallet or a money clip. 

3) Damaged Card

Any kind of cutting, bending, or crushing will severely damage your credit card. While the vast majority of modern credit cards can withstand a considerable amount of wear and tear, everything has a limit.

Furthermore, any kind of exposure to water (especially salt water) will cause your card to stop working. 

4) Faulty Reader 

There are times when it might not even be your card’s fault. If there’s an issue with the card reader at the store, you’ll experience some difficulty having your payment authorized and processed.

However, more often than not, a card failure in this sense can be resolved by simply re-inserting the card or swiping instead. 

Reasons For An Account Malfunction 

In addition to a credit card malfunction, some of your transactions may fail because of a problem with your account. While the condition of your card might be pristine, there’s no way of completing payments if your account itself is faulty. 

With this in mind, listed below are some of the most common reasons why your card may not be working (when it isn’t the card’s fault). 

1) Card Needs To Be Replaced 

All creditors and banks will send you a new card when your existing one expires. This is similarly the case if your card is either lost or compromised.

Therefore, if you’re trying to use a credit card that’s gone past its expiry date, or one that’s already been replaced by a new card, you won’t be able to make any payments on it. 

Furthermore, a new card won’t be fit for use until you properly activate it, so this might be another reason for it failing to work. 

2) Maxed Out Balance 

Most credit and debit accounts provide very limited wiggle room when it comes to going beyond your available balance, therefore if you don’t have enough funds or available credit to sufficiently cover a transaction, it won’t go through. 

3) Suspicion Of Fraud

In the case of “suspicious” activity on your account such as an overseas payment or an unusual amount of transactions, your creditor will often freeze your account in order to further investigate.

In other words, if your bank has reason to suspect that it’s not you using the card, they may freeze your account until they find out whether or not the transactions are legit. 

4) Incorrect Billing Information 

With more and more transactions moving online, you’ll need to know more than just your card number. For example, most sites will ask for details such as your card’s expiry date and the full name on the card. 

Therefore, if the information you enter when making an online purchase doesn’t match the information on your card, there’s little chance of the transaction going through. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can A Credit Card Survive Going Through The Washing Machine?

Yes, most modern credit cards will still work after going through the washing machine because they’re designed to withstand chemicals and are also waterproof.

If, however, the temperature is above 135℉ like in a hot water cycle, there’s every chance that the card will become severely scratched and damaged. 

Why Do Credit Cards Get Dirty In A Wallet? 

When you keep a credit card with your other cards in a wallet, the extruded text on the cards can cause a significant amount of scratches on one another. What’s more, this can also damage the magnetic strip on your credit card, leading to further problems. 

Bruce BoswellBruce Boswell

Bruce Boswell

Bruce Boswell enjoys researching and writing about all things related to investing and saving money. Whenever he has a chance, Bruce loves travelling all around the world with his wife and trying new foods.