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A magnetic stripe card is a type of card capable of storing data by
modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on the band
of magnetic material on the card.
The magnetic stripe is sometimes called swipe card or magstripe.
This is read by swiping past a magnetic reading head.
This is made up of tiny-iron based magnetic particles in a plastic-like film.
Each particle is really a very tiny bar magnet about 20 millionths of an inch
The magnetic stripe can be written because the tiny bar magnets can be
This can be done either in a north or south pole direction.
The magnetic stripe on the back of a credit card is similar
to a piece of cassette tape fastened to the back of a card.
Instead of motors moving the tape so it can be read, our
hand provides the motion as we swipe a credit card
through a reader or insert at the gas station pump.
Track 1 is the only track that may contain alphabetic
text, and hence is the only track that contains the card
The minimum cardholder account information needed
to complete a transaction is present on both track 1
and track 2.
Track 2 format was developed by the banking industry (ABA).
This track is written with a 5-bit scheme (4 data bits + 1 parity), which allows for
sixteen possible characters, which are the numbers 0-9, plus the six characters : ; < =
The selection six punctuation may seem odd, but in fact the sixteen codes simply
map to the ASCII range 0x30 through 0x3f, which defines ten digit characters plus
those six symbols.
Point-of-scale card readers almost always read track 1, or track 2, and sometimes
both, in case one track is unreadable.
The minimum cardholder account information needed to complete a transaction is
present on both track 1 and track 2.
Track 3 is a read-write track, but its usage is not
standardized among banks.
This track includes an encrypted PIN, country code,
currency units, amount authorized.
Track 3 is virtually unused by major worldwide networks.
This is often isn’t even physically present on the card by
virtue of a narrower magnetic stripe.
How it works?
After we or the cashier swipes the credit card through a reader, the EDC software at the point
of sale (POS) terminal dials a stored telephone number via a modem to call an acquirer.
An acquirer is an organization that collects credit authentication requests from merchants and
provides a payment guarantee to the merchant.
When the acquirer company gets the credit card authentication request, it checks the
transaction for validity and the record on the magstripe for:
Valid card number
Credit card limit
Single dial-up transactions are processed 1200-2400
bps, while direct internet attachment uses much higher
speeds via this protocol.
In this system, the cardholder enters a Personal
Identification Number (PIN), using a keypad.
Problems why an ATM doesn’t
accept the card?
If the ATM isn’t accepting our card, the problem is probably either:
Dirty or scratched magstripe.
Erased magstripe (The most common causes for erased magstripes are exposures
to magnets, like the small ones used to hold notes and pictures on the
refrigirator, and a store’s electronic article surveillance (EAS) tag demagnetizer.