Meet the Inventor of the Credit Card Strip

Meet the Inventor of the Credit Card Strip

July 11, 2013         Written By Bill Hardekopf

Ever wonder who had the bright idea to put that small magnetic strip on the back of your credit card? The one that tells a machine what card you have, which ultimately lets you pay for your transaction without any cash.

That man was Ron Klein. He is now a 77-year-old Korean War veteran who had no idea his invention was going to take off the way it did.

Klein invented the strip in 1966 because he was frustrated with how complicated charge purchases were at the time. Merchants had to painstakingly look through a book containing thousands of account numbers to see if the potential buyer had bad credit. Klein utilized the same technology used in reel-to-reel tape communications to come up with a magnetic strip that could be placed on the back of a plastic card.

In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Klein said that he did not make much money off the patent for his magnetic strip. Considering the millions of people that utilize the technology today, it seems that Klein got the short end of the stick in this ordeal.

He was able to make enough money to from other inventions, but the fact is that his most well-known product didn’t lead to great financial benefits for him.

In the interview, Klein said “I think the statistics today talk about 609 million credit cards that are in existence, just here in the U.S. When I hear those kinds of numbers, I almost have to be apologetic.”

Those numbers may dwindle with both mobile payments and chip and Pin technology on the rise, but Klein’s magnetic strip certainly had a good run. You probably have a handful of strips in your wallet right now, and Ron Klein is the man you can thank for it.

If only he made a little more money from it.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of July 11, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.
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