Mastercard has announced that magnetic stripes on its credit and debit cards will no longer be required on new cards beginning in 2024. Although the financial services company will be the first payments network to transition towards a stripe-less future, it wouldn’t be shocking to see others in the industry follow suit. If anything, it would be shocking if they didn’t.
Developments like chip and biometric cards are more capable and secure, something that has influenced this pivot. Starting in 2024 magnetic stripes will begin phasing out in certain regions like Europe, where chip-and-pin and contactless cards have been standard for years. The process will take a bit longer in the U.S., where banks will no longer be required to issue cards with magnetic stripes starting in 2027. By 2029 no new Mastercard debit or credit cards with a stripe will be issued.
An ancient tech — The magnetic stripe changed the landscape of credit card payments with its arrival in the 1960s. An innovation that was largely credited to IBM, the magnetic stripe improved payment security across the board and spurred further advancements like electronic payment terminals. Compare that with the early age of credit cards where account information was recorded by hand and then verified against a list of faulty account numbers.
Magnetic stripes also offered improved security... but that’s no longer the case. Today, Europe, Australia, and much of Africa has moved away from magnetic stripes because they’re so easy to skim and duplicate and present a security risk compared to chip-and-pin or contactless cards.
Chips aren’t new — Chip cards were first introduced in France in the 1960s but took a while to catch on. It wasn’t until the introduction of the global EMV chip technology standard in the late ‘90s that this method of payment became popular. Like the imperial measuring system, the U.S. has had an infatuation with the magnetic stripe despite other regions of the world long since choosing to use a different (they would argue, superior) system.
So when will magnetic stripes officially be gone? The expectation is that by 2033 no Mastercard debit or credit cards will have stripes. So take a long look at the card in your wallet and pour one out for the stripe on the back.