Woman paying with credit card in cafe

How to Swipe Your Credit Card

Last Updated: September 25, 2023
2 min read

Key points about: how to use a credit card

  1. Position your credit card’s magnetic strip facing toward the card reader.

  2. Do not face the magnetic strip up in the card reader.

  3. When swiping a credit card at a gas pump, use the instructional image that’s next to the card reader.

Swiping a credit card may seem pretty obvious to many credit card users, but with new credit card payment options, like tapping your card or inserting your card, there may come a time when you have to rely on swiping the card but aren’t sure how. Let’s review the proper way to swipe your credit card when making purchases and buying gas at the pump.

How to swipe your credit card correctly

When making a purchase at a store, typically there’s a small payment terminal that faces the customer. This is a card reader and will allow you to complete your transaction without needing to give your card to the cashier. To swipe your credit card correctly:

  • Position the magnetic strip that’s on the back of the card into the card reader’s slot so the magnetic strip faces toward the card reader. If the card reader lies flat, keep the magnetic strip on the bottom so the front of the card faces up as you insert it into the card reader.

  • If the card reader has a slot on the side, move the magnetic strip through the card reader slot from top to bottom.

Wrong ways to swipe your credit card

There are wrong ways to swipe your credit card. If you swipe incorrectly, the card reader may make a beeping noise indicating the card couldn’t be read and to try again. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t face the magnetic strip away from the card reader when swiping.
  • Don’t face the magnetic strip up in the card reader.

How to swipe a credit card at a gas pump

For drivers, paying at the gas pump is a convenient way to fill up without the need to go into the gas station. Most gas pumps have a card reader, but they may look different than one you might find at a retail or grocery store.

Gas pumps include a card reader with a small picture next to it of how to swipe or insert your credit card. Position your magnetic strip as indicated by the picture then swipe or insert as shown.

Other ways to use your credit card

Most credit cards today have alternative ways to use them when making a purchase at a store. Along with the magnetic strip on the back of the card, credit cards may be chip-enabled and have an EMV® chip on the front of the credit card. You can also inquire about a contactless Discover® credit card, where you can simply tap the card at a card reader. These cards can add an extra layer of protection when used at chip-enabled card readers.

Did you know?

Discover credit cards offer benefits that may match your financial needs. For example, every Discover Card earns rewards on purchases, so that you can choose the card that earns the type of rewards most valuable to you.

Using a credit card can offer convenience when paying for items or going out to eat. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge for how to use a credit card correctly, you can go and enjoy the benefits your credit card has to offer.

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  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.