How to Use a Credit Card Writer

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A credit card writer processes your credit account information immediately.
A credit card writer processes your credit account information immediately. (Image: credit card terminal image by Igor Zhorov from Fotolia.com)

Your credit cards come equipped with a magnetic strip on the back that enables you to make purchases at various point of service terminals, also known as credit card “writers” and “readers.” According to CreditCards.com, the magnetic strip on your card gives off a low frequency magnetic field which the credit card writer picks up on, allowing it to charge the correct account for your purchases. In the past, customers had to hand their credit or debit cards over to the cashier for processing. Modern credit card writers, however, allow you to swipe your credit card and complete the transaction all on your own.

Place your credit card into the flat, open space on the top or side of the terminal. Most credit card writers require the magnetic strip on your card to face toward you, but some do not. Check the illustration on the front of the terminal to determine which direction your card’s magnetic strip should face.

Swipe the card quickly across the terminal in either direction. The credit card writer picks up pieces of code contained at the beginning and end of your credit card’s magnetic strip. The pace of your card determines how well the credit card writer can process this code. If you swipe your card too slowly, the credit card writer may have difficulty processing your information.

Select the correct button on the credit card writer keypad when it asks you if the amount is correct. If the correct amount appears on the screen, push “yes.” If the amount is incorrect, select “no” and ask the cashier to re-ring your purchase.

Sign the charge slip that prints out of the cashier’s terminal when the credit card writer processes your information. Some credit card writers allow you to provide an electronic signature directly onto the terminal screen. Either way, your signature serves as proof of the transaction.

Tips & Warnings

  • Your credit card's magnetic strip can become dirty when shoved into your purse or wallet. Wiping your card off before using it reduces the chance that the credit card reader wont' be able to process your card information.
  • Placing a credit card into a plastic bag before swiping it blurs the data signal your card sends to the point of service terminal. This can cause a severely scratched card to process within the bag when it won't process otherwise.

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