Do Credit Cards Work After Getting Wet?

August 1, 2013, Written By Justin Hefner
Do Credit Cards Work After Getting Wet?

Ever drop your cell phone in the toilet or in a sink full of water? Did it work afterwards? Once the phone went into the water, chances are the technology in it shut down and you were left without a working phone. This happens with most electronics.

Even though credit cards aren’t electronic per se, they do utilize technology similar to smart phones. This begs the question: do credit cards work after getting wet?

What Happens When Credit Cards Get Wet?

When a credit card gets wet, nothing happens to the function of the magnetic strip. Magnets are not affected by water like electronics are. If you dropped a credit card machine in the water, then you’d have a problem. A credit card itself is going to be able to withstand the water without any issues. If the water has any kind of corrosive chemicals in it, you may see the clear coating on the card start to peel off.

What to Do with a Wet Credit Card

Dry it off. Use it. It’s that simple. You may even be able to use it wet, but you run the risk of hurting the credit card processor at that point. Just wipe it off with a towel, and you should be good to go.

Situations That Ruin Credit Cards

There are some things that can ruin a credit card and cause them not to work. Common issues include:

  • Washing and drying: This will ruin the card because of the heat and bending, not the water in the washing machine. When the plastic gets heated in the dryer, your card may warp. Sometimes your card will still be useable after this, but don’t be surprised if it stops working.
  • Folding: If you ever manage to fold your credit card in half, it probably will not work. That is because the fold interrupts the magnetic strip, taking away your card’s identity.
  • Excessive use: If you use the same card for years, eventually the magnetic strip will not be able to be read by the processing machine. It’s easy to get a new card, but hopefully you notice the wear before you need the card.

What to Do If Your Credit Card Stops Working

If your credit card somehow gets destroyed, the first thing you need to do is call the credit card company and order another one. Most companies will send this out free of charge, but some may charge a small fee for the new card. This is especially true with prepaid debit cards, since those users make a good portion of their money from replacement fees alone. Once you have your new card in the mail, you may not be able to use your existing credit card. You will have to check with the issuer to verify that.

If you do have some money remaining on a prepaid card that has stopped working, ask the cashier if he or she can manually type your credit card number into the system. They should be able to do this, even if the magnetic strip is messed up. This gives you an opportunity to still use the money on the card, even if you can’t use it conveniently.

Since credit cards do sometimes stop working for various reasons, it is always a good idea to have a secondary card on hand to use in emergencies. You will need this to be a low interest credit card with no annual fees so that it won’t cost you any money to maintain.

The next time you get your credit card wet, don’t stress about it. People do this all the time without any issues at all. Don’t make a point to go swimming with your cards, but don’t freak out if you happen to drop them in water. As long as you dry them off, you can use them again.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of August 1, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.

About Justin Hefner

Justin Hefner is in the education field and has written about a number of financial issues. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Tech University and a Masters in Education from Texas State University.
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