Bank card: Inconvenient and insecure, the magnetic strip will soon disappear

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MasterCard announced in August that it wanted to withdraw the magnetic stripe bank card from circulation in 2033. At the same time, the magnetic stripe present on bank cards is no longer used today, at least in Europe, where it should even have completely disappeared. by 2024.

Created at the end of the 1960s by the computer giant IBM, the magnetic stripe card very quickly established itself as the new standard in America in the 1970s. “Their big advantage is that they could be used in terminals, especially for cash withdrawals, explains Henri Dewaerheijd of MasterCard Belgium. Little by little, we were able to develop technologies which made it possible to read these cards in stores. And that’s how the modern card was born. “

As its name suggests, the magnetic card is based on writing and reading a magnetic track using a small magnet that transforms an electrical signal emitted by an electronic system, when the card is swiped. in a card reader. The famous swipe.

A brief history of the bank card

However, the magnetic card has three drawbacks. The magnetic stripe is damaged in use, the user must sign their transactions manually, and it is relatively easy to hack.

In the 1990s, the smart card thus landed on the market. Much more secure, it works in conjunction with a PIN code chosen by the user. Some information that was previously on the back of the card is now integrated into the chip. Everything is protected by a fairly sophisticated encryption system. To validate a transaction, the user just has to swipe his card into a payment terminal and enter a PIN code. No more need for a handwritten signature. “This is what enabled us to eliminate fraud for good,” explains Henri Dewaerheijd. Because magnetic cards had the annoying tendency to be copied regularly. Unlike a smart card, data is not invulnerable. They are readable and can easily be copied. A technique called “skimming”. “

Very quickly, the smart card became the dominant model. “Today, in Europe, there is more than that. In the United States, the transition was only made ten years ago, he continued. You always had to put this information on the cards for people traveling to the United States. This explains why the magnetic stripe is still present on smart cards with us too.

It is estimated today that 86% of payments are made with a smart card. In Europe, Mastercard will no longer offer magnetic cards from 2024. The transition should therefore ultimately be very rapid.

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