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Icons of Progress

Magnetic Stripe Technology


The magnetic stripe card carries data stored within a thin strip of magnetic media. The strip is adhered to a wallet-sized paper or plastic card, which is swiped through a magnetic reader. Initially conceived as an identification device for the CIA, the magnetic stripe soon met the needs of the mass transportation, banking and retail industries. Decades later it remains a reliable, convenient tool in our daily lives. It provides identification, enables transit and allows for safe and swift financial transaction. Today, the ubiquitous magnetic stripe card and its successor, the smart card, are found in the wallets and purses of individuals throughout the world.

The year 2003 marked a milestone for machine-readable cards. By that year, more consumers relied on magnetic stripe credit and debit cards than on cash for their in-store purchases. Smart cards with built-in chips have also been steadily evolving and gaining acceptance since their invention in 1968. However, demand for the conventional magnetic stripe card remains strong, due partly to inexpensive production costs, ease of use and the reliability of card readers.