A swipe card is a plastic card with the owner's information embedded on a magnetic stripe. This card is swiped across a compatible card reader for easy identification or money transfer. Magnetic stripe cards typically include credit cards like Visa and MasterCard, debit and ATM cards, student and employee ID cards, drivers' licenses and train or bus pass cards. Its ubiquity, convenience, security and added benefits make swipe cards indispensable.
Magnetic stripe cards are used across the globe and in many professional sectors. Many retail outlets in Northern America, along with organisations--educational, private and governmental--have swipe card readers. They are of great utility in universities, airports, train stations and shopping malls.
According to Visa USA, banks accept swipe cards for cash transfer, withdrawal or currency exchange. According to World MasterCard, international credit and debit cards are used in any country with swipe readers, while transacting through the owner's bank back home. The driver's license, another swipe card, is standard for all American and Canadian citizens and serves as proof of identification.
A swipe card is convenient as it enables a person to carry large sums of money without actually carrying cash in hand. Purdue's School of Industrial Engineering notes that a greater amount of owner data is stored on a magnetic stripe than a bar code. Swipe cards also have the advantage of having no moving parts, are physically robust and immune from dust, oil and water.
These cards usually have a definable upper limit on expenditure per day or hour, which helps in money management. Many credit card companies also offer value-added services, special discounts, rebates and other incentives for frequent credit card use.
Magnetic cards are small and inconspicuous. Swipe cards offer the owner privacy, as the magnetic stripe doesn't contain data in human-readable form. The information stored within the magnetic stripe is highly secure and uses the latest data encryption standards. The contemporary standard in use for credit and debit cards is ISO 7813 and ISO 4909.
According to ComputerWorld.com, a swipe card authentication technology that uses magstripe information to create a unique digital fingerprint for enhanced security is being worked on as of 2010. This will detect and stop the use of stolen cards, putting an end to counterfeiting at the payment gateway.