What Will Damage a Debit Card?

Debit card damage can occur regardless of the issuer.
Debit card damage can occur regardless of the issuer. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

When carrying a debit card, a card holder should be aware that certain household items could be potentially damaging. By understanding the dangers that such items pose to debit cards, a card holder can prevent unwanted damage, or use those items to help properly dispose of an old debit card.


A magnet can damage a debit card by erasing the encoding on the magnetic strip. Even if contact with the debt card is limited to a few seconds, when held in close proximity, a magnet can strip away important security information — for example, the card holder’s name and account number. Without such information, a debit card is unusable.


The least effective way to damage a debit card is to cut it in half. Card holders seeking to truly damage a credit card, and stop a thief from creating a clone of the original, must erase the security information encoded on the card. To demagnetize the magnetic strip on a debit card, a card holder may use a magnetic door latch on a refrigerator, swiping it across to demagnetize the card. Once demagnetized, the debit card is damaged for good.

Background Information

Oftentimes the demagnetizing of a debit card occurs while a debit card is in a purse, wallet or coat pocket. Such locations offer exposure to small novelty magnets, which, although weaker than larger magnets, can erase security information. If the novelty magnet is within 1 inch of the magnetic strip or passes across it — for example, in a back-and-forth action — the magnet can erase the magnetic strip. Card holders should remove all novelty magnets — especially those secured to a key chain — to prevent such an occurrence.


Once a debit card is damaged, a card holder should cut the card with a pair of scissors and dispose of it in a trash can. For good measure, notify the card issuer of all actions taken to damage the card.

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