Chip won’t work on your credit card? Try this.

If you’re standing at a checkout and the chip won’t work on your credit card, don’t give up right away. Here’s what to do when you swipe but can’t complete your purchase because of a debit or credit card chip not working.

Chips are a new security feature, but it’s hard to appreciate them when a broken chip keeps you from completing your purchase. It happened to a longtime friend, and another friend of his provided a solution. I had to share it, because I know it will happen to others.

The workaround for a credit card chip not working

chip won't work on your credit card
When the chip won’t work on your card, try the chip three times. Then the machine will let you swipe.

To work around a credit card chip not working, do this: Go ahead and swipe like you normally would. Then when the machine prompts you, insert the chip. Wait and let it fail. Pull the card and reinsert the chip. Wait and let it fail. Reinsert a third time. Let it fail again. Usually after three failures with the chip, the machine lets you swipe.

This workaround isn’t ideal, but it can get you out of a bind. Remember this trick for the next time you get stuck. It can save the embarrassment becoming a deadbeat and having to leave without your purchase.

And if you happen to be in line behind someone and the chip won’t work on their card, make the world a better place. Mention this trick to the person in line and to the cashier. You’ll save both of them a lot of needless embarrassment and hassle, and you’ll save everyone in line some time. Everyone wins.

This is a temporary workaround, of course.

A quick fix with a dollar bill for a credit card chip not working

Here’s a quick fix for a dirty chip that you can try in the store. A U.S. dollar bill is abrasive enough to remove dirt and oxidation from copper contacts, but won’t harm the copper. If the chip doesn’t work, try rubbing down the chip with a dollar bill for a few seconds.

After you’re done, expect to still see some visible wear on the chip contacts, but the metal should look clean. The pads develop a groove from coming into contact with the reader repeated times. Get the contamination out of that groove and the chip starts working again.

I routinely use this trick to clean copper contacts on computer parts and electric train parts. People will look at you like you’re crazy, and expect to hear some jokes about how that won’t load more money into your account, or does it go faster if you use a higher-denomination bill. Trust me, I’ve heard them all. But you won’t believe how many computer parts this trick has brought back to life over the years.

How to clean the chip on a credit card and keep it clean

You can extend your chip’s life by keeping it in a wallet as much as possible. Protect it from getting scraped, or coming into prolonged contact with liquids. Keeping it in your wallet’s plastic photo holder will keep it cleaner than keeping it in a wallet pocket, even if it makes it a bit harder to remove the card for use.

If the contacts appear dirty, you can fix it. Here’s how to clean the chip on a credit card: Just gently wipe the contacts with a bit of alcohol and a cotton swab. Use 99% or 91% alcohol if possible. 70% rubbing alcohol may work in a pinch but purer is better. Wear marks on the contacts are unavoidable, but you don’t want to see any dirt when you’re finished.

This doesn’t guarantee chip immortality, but it can help.

What if you clean the chip on your credit card and it still doesn’t work?

If you have a credit card chip not working, and cleaning the chip doesn’t help, contact your credit card issuer just as soon as you can. They’ll send you a new, properly working card. After all, they lose if you can’t use your card too.

One thought on “Chip won’t work on your credit card? Try this.

  • September 4, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    The only problem with the first suggestion is that not all businesses allow you to swipe your card after the chip fails. That feature is something that is decided on by the individual business, and it also defeats the whole point of the chip. Most businesses will take the chance and allow you to swipe, but some aren’t willing to risk an instance of card fraud (it’s a common tactic by thieves to reprogram the magnetic stripe on another card, even a gift card), and then be liable for reimbursing the defrauded person.


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