It was once the height of payments technology, allowing till workers to take shoppers’ credit card numbers with a sleek swipe of plastic instead of manually stamping them on imprinting machines.
But the magnetic strip on the back of credit cards will now go the way of handwritten cheques after Mastercard announced it would start phasing out the technology in three years.
From 2024, banks in the UK and Europe will no longer be able to issue Mastercard credit and debit cards featuring the thin strip of magnetic material, which has been made largely obsolete by chip and pin, contactless payments and smartphones.
The company said yesterday that the technology will have been phased out completely by 2033, despite still being widely used in some parts of the world.
The magnetic strip, which dates back to the 1960s, has been largely redundant in Britain since 2006, when chip and pin was made mandatory on all newly-issued cards and signatures were no longer accepted for cards that had the more secure technology.
How the cards without strips might look
But the cards are currently still been issued with a magnetic strip containing data such as the card number, name and expiry date, and owners travelling abroad have occasionally had to use them in countries such as the US.
Mastercard said the move reflects changing habits, such as the growth in contactless and mobile payments, which became more popular during the pandemic as shoppers attempted to limit contact.
In the US – where many card providers only started adding chips in 2015 – the change will not be enforced until 2029, with the last cards leaving circulation in 2033. Other card issuers such as Visa and American Express are yet to outline plans to ditch the technology.
The rise of chip and pin technology is credited with dramatically decreasing fraud by making it more difficult for criminals to “skim” card details using scanning devices.
Last year, contactless payments accounted for a quarter of all spending in the UK. Mastercard has been testing cards with fingerprint readers to verify owners’ identities.