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My Debit Card Chip Is Not Working — What To Do?

Last updated 03/14/2024 by

David Hodges
The chips on today’s credit and debit cards make them more secure than old cards with only magnetic strips. But a card’s chip can stop working for a number of reasons, such as becoming demagnetized. What then? There are several solutions you can try, such as cleaning the chip and swiping your card instead. If the chip is OK, there are some things you can do to make sure it stays that way.
In the modern era of shopping, it seems everything uses a debit or credit card chip. So having your debit card chip not working when you go to pay can make things difficult.
More and more retailers are upgrading to payment machines that read these chips. Chipped cards help make payments faster. They can make things contactless, something that’s become important to a lot of people. And they make transactions more secure.
In this article, you’ll discover what you can do if your debit card chip is not working.

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Why isn’t my debit card chip working?

If your debit or credit card chip stops working, this could be for a few reasons. Sometimes you can fix the problem fairly easily.

Wear and tear

The most common reason that your chip card stops working is simply your use of the card. As you pull your credit card out of your wallet, use it, and put it away, you risk scratching the chip card. Scratches to the plastic are no problem. But scratches to the chip are another story. The chip on a debit or credit card can get scratched or damaged just like anything else.

Extreme heat or water damage

Most of us have left our chip cards in our cars at one time or another. Or we’ve accidentally spilled something on a purse or wallet. When this happens, it sometimes damages the chip card, making its chip unreadable. When you go to use your debit or credit card at checkout, the card reader informs you that it can’t read the card.

Just a bit dirty

Just like your phone screen or your purse, your chip card can get dirty. Stop and think about how often people use their chip cards. It’s easy to imagine how grime can get stuck on the chip’s surfaces and make the chip unusable for a time. If too much grime builds up, the card reader won’t be able to read data from the chip. As a result, it won’t allow you to make your purchase.

Accidentally demagnetized

From time to time, we’re all guilty. We store our chip cards in wallets or purses that are close to some sort of magnetized item. If we do this for too long or too often, our cards’ magnetic strips can become demagnetized. This causes the magnetic strip to stop working. This can be a problem if your chip reader is also malfunctioning.
Sometimes it’s not even something that you have in your purse or wallet. Going through security at the airport could demagnetize your card. So could getting too close to the security sensor removal device in a retail store. Any magnetic exposure might alter the magnetic stripe on your card and render it useless. Even something that you might not think about could affect your card’s magnetic strip. Getting your card too close to an MRI machine is an example.

What to do if your card isn’t working

If you find yourself with your credit card chip not working, don’t panic. You have a few options that you can use to help you get your card working again. A chip error simply means that the credit card machine that you were trying to use didn’t read the chip on your card. Some point-of-sale payment systems are older. They might not read smart chip cards correctly on the first try.

Try to clean it

Sometimes all you need to do is remove any dirt that might be giving the card reader a problem. Using your shirt or an antibacterial wipe to gently clean your card’s chip should do the trick if it’s just dirty.

Use the magnetic stripe on the back of the card

The main reason that chips in debit cards and credit cards stop working is wear and tear. If you use your card repeatedly and frequently, then it can get worn down and the chip will stop working. If this happens, you can still use the magnetic stripe on the back at most retailers. This isn’t a forever fix, however. More and more retailers are shifting to chip cards only. This is because the magnetic strip on the back isn’t as safe from fraud. At some point, you will need to call your credit card issuer and request that they send you a new card.

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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The chip card is actually damaged

If your credit card chip is damaged, the best thing you can do is request a replacement card. Credit card issuers expect your card to go through standard wear and tear. For this reason, banks and credit card companies usually let you request a new credit card for free. This doesn’t affect your credit score. If you’re requesting a new debit card, it’s also normally free. And it doesn’t affect your standing with the bank (or other financial services provider).
All you need to do is call your credit card company and request a new credit card. You will most likely have to verify you are who you say you are to avoid any type of fraud risk or card fraud. Once you verify that you’re you, the bank will send you a new credit card with a new expiration date. Be warned, once you ask for the updated card, this will render your existing card unusable in most cases. To protect against fraud, card issuers may only allow one chip card to be active for an account at any time.

Store properly

So you’ve received your new credit card. Or you’ve got your existing card working again. Your priority now is to make sure you are storing the card properly to avoid any further issues. Make sure to keep your credit card safe by keeping it in your wallet. Clean your wallet first if needed. Don’t store your card loosely in your purse or phone case. Proper storage means your credit cards have less of a chance of being scratched or damaged. Do you ever carry sharp objects or other things that could damage card chips or magnetic stripes? Stuff you’re carrying can’t damage your cards if it can’t touch them.


Is losing my chip a security issue?

You don’t need to worry too much if a broken or damaged chip goes missing. It’s very rare that anyone allows any type of payment to go through with just the chip, even if it’s working. So if you lose a broken or damaged one, there isn’t much to worry about.

Why is using the computer chip better than using the magnetic stripe?

Put simply, it’s safer for you. Credit cards with chips are much more difficult to hack than those with magnetic stripes. Data stored on your chip is much safer during a chip transaction than when you swipe your card.

How long does it take to receive a new card?

This will depend on your bank or credit card company. If they have to mail you an updated card, it can take anywhere from two to 14 days. However, many banks allow you to go in and request a new credit or debit card in person and can print it for you that day. This can sometimes be a more practical option than having them mail it to you.

Key takeaways

  • Various things can cause a card’s chip to fail. Wear and tear, dust or dirt, and scratches are examples.
  • Before trying anything else, just retry inserting your chip card again. Chip reads that fail on the first attempt sometime succeed on the second.
  • Cleaning the chip may resolve some problems. You could use your shirt or an antibacterial wipe.
  • If cleaning doesn’t help, you may be able to swipe the card like in the old days. Most merchants still support this, for now.
  • If simple fixes fail, the card may be damaged. You’ll need to request a replacement from your bank.

Recap and additional reading

If you find yourself with a debit or credit chip card that isn’t working, there’s hope. There are a few things you can try before you request a new chip card from your bank. One of them might get the chip operational again. Credit cards and debit cards alike face this problem. Often, though, the problem can be resolved with solutions that are simple and easy. More often than not, cleaning your card with a cotton ball can solve the problem. In some cases, however, you may find yourself needing a new chip card altogether. In those cases, you can always give your bank a call and request one.
On the subject of cards, are you sure you’re carrying the best one for you? Why not learn how to find the best ones?
Want a debit card rather than a credit card? If so, are you sure you have the best checking account for this purpose?

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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David Hodges

David loves learning, doing research, analyzing data, and assessing arguments. Though he has two advanced degrees and some background in psychology, and though he's learned a great deal in his work with SuperMoney, he considers himself an interpreter of experts, not an expert himself. He enjoys using what he's learned, and what he's still learning, to help readers make better saving, spending, and investing decisions.

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