Cure for the Failed Credit Card Swipe: Part Deux

Get to the bottom of the plastic bag shroud trick for balky credit cards

Remember the flurry of discussion generated by our original article about prodding a bashful credit card into making a good swipe? Well, those creative minds at SparkFun Electronics (SFE) have now entered the fray.

Their new magnetic stripe card reader (#SEN-08633) is the perfect tool for actually analyzing those failed card swipes by reliably reading the contents of that ubiquitous mag stripe that inhabits the backside of every credit card.

Although priced a little high for the average experimenter, this $60 card reader is a cinch for snooping inside all of your credit cards. Just plug the reader into an available RS-232C serial port (or use a USB-to-serial converter), turn on a serial terminal program, tune into the reader’s 9600 bps ASCII output, swipe the card, and read the mag stripe’s contents on your monitor. It’s as simple as that. In fact, according to SFE every credit card they tried could be read by this reader. Even scarier, all of the card stripe’s data was clear, readable unencrypted ASCII.

So here’s the test dear reader, following the rules of engagement from the original failed credit card swipe article, ensconce your credit card in a plastic bag, swipe it, and read it. Post your results in our comments section below. Oh, and you smoking gun conspiracy theorists, please be gentle.