Size matters when and how you use your credit card. It is very important that you as a consumer are able to use your credit card wherever you want or need it. It would be an absolute nightmare while shopping if you had to worry about whether your credit card would fit into the payment card reader. Thankfully, the financial institutions had the foresight to see that this could be an issue if they allowed the credit card issuers to set the specifications for debit cards, credit cards, etc. Let’s take a closer look at what is the size of a credit card.
Who sets the standards for the size, weight, and thickness of a credit card? Are there any exceptions to the rule? What material is used to make credit cards? Let’s also look at the parts of the credit card. Such as the credit card number, expiration date, and security. How should we be using credit cards? What is the best practice for maintaining a good credit score?
A Short Credit Card History
The first credit card was created in 1950 in New York City. This card was created with cardboard. In its first year, it grew to 10,000 users. It was mainly used in 28 restaurants and two hotels. It was not a traditional credit card because the balance had to be paid off at the end of the month. This is very similar to the future American Express credit card without the annual fee.
In 1951, Franklin National Bank in Long Island, NY, launched the first real credit card. It had a revolving balance feature. Therefore, consumers could pay for items over time via monthly payments. Also, the participating merchants had to pay a fee for each transaction. These fees still exist today. In 1952, there were about 28,000 consumers using this card. There were also 750 merchants accepting this card. Consequently, it was so successful that other banks began to license the charge card program from Franklin.
In 1958, Bank of America launched its BankAmericard credit card. To expand the use of their credit card they did mass mailings to all of their customers. They mailed out about 2 million cards into the hands of their customers and 20,000 merchants. In the 1960s, more and more Banks became interested in the credit card industry. There was a great deal of money to be made from interest charges and processing fees. However, who was going to regulate the card specifications for this new business?
For more information on the fascinating history of credit cards read The History of Credit Cards by U.S. News.
With many banking institutions wanting in on this very lucrative business, someone must regulate what these cards will look and feel like. They were not originally designed to fit into the wallets of consumers. However, the manufacturer of the processing machines would also create machines that could be used to process the transactions at the bank and retail levels. Most importantly, multiple machines at various locations were not going to make this easy for the merchants or credit card companies.
However, since the first credit card issued was by Bank of America in 1958, they actually set the standards before the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) got involved. They are the reason your current debit card fits your bank’s Automated Teller Machines or ATMs to access your bank account. The manufacturers of ATMs and Point of Service (POS) machines standardized their machines because the card size was standardized. Therefore, all credit cards had to be able to fit into the slots of the card readers at banks and credit unions and to make purchases at the retail level. It would be very frustrating if you had to worry every time you made a purchase if your cards were made up of all different sizes. Regardless of the types of credit cards available, all will process in the card readers no matter how they are being used.
Therefore, we are grateful that the banks standardized their size, and the international standards have maintained this size as the current credit card standard. However, the magnetic stripe also had a hand in determining the size of the credit card. Its size and position on the credit card enabled the card reader to process each transaction.
Standard Credit Card Size
Luckily, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set the standard size for all credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards. Per Investopedia, The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international nongovernmental organization made up of national standards bodies; it develops and publishes a wide range of proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards and is comprised of representatives from various national standards organizations.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specifies that credit cards must be 8.56 cm by 5.398 cm (which is 85.6 mm by 53.98 mm, or 3.375 inches by 2.125 inches). The corner roundness must be 0.3818 cm (which is 3.18mm or 0.125 inches).
These dimensions of a credit card also apply to ATM cards or debit cards used at the ATMs, gift cards, rewards cards, and charge cards used at the POS.
Credit Card Weight And Material
Weight does not matter. Hence, the weight of the card can vary depending on the material used to create the credit card.
American Express was the first card issuer to offer a plastic card in 1959. It is a mixture of polymer and vinyl. This was revolutionary and soon other financial institutions began to offer plastic cards. This was truly an upgrade that allowed the card to be very durable during everyday use. A credit card should last as long as the expiration date. This is the time period when a credit card company will re-issue new credit cards with new expiration dates.
However, over time financial institutions wanted to begin branding their cards as special or exclusive. They introduced cards based on the metals and colors, such as titanium, platinum, diamond, black, etc. In some cases, the thickness of a credit card was determined by this factor. The metal cards obviously were the thickest and the heaviest. The American Express Platinum card weighs 17.5 grams while a plastic credit card weighs about 5 grams.
Credit Card Thickness
The thickness of the card can potentially be an issue like the size of a card. The card must be able to fit into the credit card machines with no issue. If it is too thick it won’t insert or get stuck if you force it into the slot. However, if it is too thin it has the potential to become damaged over time.
The ISO has standardized the thickness of a credit card as 0.76 millimeters or 0.0299 inches.
All money-based credit cards must match the same thickness to fit into ATM and POS machines in order for transactions to be processed. This also includes gift cards, charge cards, and rewards cards. However, other cards like a company or government Identification Cards can be thinner or thicker depending on how they will be used.
Parts of the credit card
Now that we have reviewed the size, weight, and thickness of a credit card, let’s review the parts of the credit card. On this very tiny card, a lot of information must be presented on the card so that it can be used properly. A credit card consists of the following items to complete a transaction:
Credit Card Numbers
The credit card number or account number is used to identify the credit card network, financial institutions, and authorized card users. The first digit called Major Industry Identifier (MII) identifies the credit card network, i.e. American Express, Visa, or Mastercard. However, this first digit along with the next five or seven numbers makes up the Bank Identification Number (BIN). These six or eight digits are the INN/BIN and identify the card’s issuer, i.e., Bank of America, Chase, or Citibank. Hence, many banks can issue a Visa or Mastercard under their brand name. The last 7th to 14th or 15th numbers make up the Primary Account Number or PAN number for most cards. These last digits ensure that the correct person is being charged for the purchase. This information holds true for all credit cards.
The expiration date is the date on the card that determines the time that you are able to use the card before the banking institution sends a new card. The typical expiration date is three to five years from the issue date.
When you make an online purchase, you will be required to provide the security code found on the back or front of your card. It is typically three to four digits. It is called a Card Identification Number (CID) or a Card Verification Value (CVV). Diners Club, Visa, Mastercard, or Discover cards use a three-digit CID found on the back of the card. American Express uses the four-digit CVV found on the front of the card. Read What Do CID and CVV Mean On A Credit Card? for more information on CIDs and CVVs.
The magnetic stripe is used when you need to swipe your credit card, debit card, gift card, rewards card, or charge card. The need for the magnetic stripe is slowly being phased out. In recent years, the EMV chip with a dip-and-tap feature has quickly become a more secure way of processing credit card transactions.
The signature box is fast becoming obsolete as well. Most vendors no longer request to see your card for signature verification. However, your signature confirms your contract with your bank or credit union that you will follow all the requirements for using the card.
In addition to the CVV and CID codes, financial institutions are working diligently to protect consumers from fraud. They are actively working on a new system called Dynamic CVV protection. This is a number that would be emailed or texted to the consumer before the purchase is processed. Another option in the works is a small electronic screen embedded in the credit card that would generate a new code every 30-60 minutes. This is one of the security features currently in development.
Consumers can take added measures by having alerts put on their cards when any purchases are made. These alerts can be sent via email or text to advise you of card-not-presence purchases. Consumers can also freeze their credit cards when they are not being used.
Another safety measure to exercise is not to click on any phishing links before verifying it is your financial institution. Financial institutions will never ask for any financial information such as account numbers or pins via email, text, or phone. Finally, review your statement regarding any potential suspicious activity.
Credit Card Regulations
The entire credit card industry is regulated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This is an independent bureau that operates within the Federal Reserve System. The CFPB ensures that financial institutions provide products and services that are fair, transparent, and competitive for consumers. They also provide financial educational materials. The CFPB also accepts consumer complaints regarding financial institution’s products, practices, and services.
Best Practices For Credit
The best practices for using credit cards start with living within your means. Credit cards should be used in place of cash when making a large purchase that you already have the funds to pay for. Credit is not to be used to extend your lifestyle, as an emergency fund, or to make impulsive purchases.
You should strive to pay your credit card balance in full each month to avoid paying a late fee due to late payments. On-time payments are crucial to establishing good credit. However, if you find that you cannot pay your credit card off each month try to at least pay more than the minimum payment.
Most credit card statements calculate how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you only pay the minimum payment. Based on your balance you could shave off two to three years by paying $50 over the minimum payment. Make paying off your credit card balances part of your budget.
It is always a good idea to have a budget in place to enable you to have a plan for all future needs. Think of a budget as simply a plan for how to spend your money. This will help you avoid exceeding the limit of your credit cards and help you build up your credit score. A good credit score will help you obtain lower interest rates so that you will be able to afford a better car, home, etc.
About The Credit Score
What makes up your credit score:
- Payment History (35% of your credit score)
- Utilization (30% of your credit score)
- Length of Credit History (15% of your credit score)
- New Credit (10% of your credit score)
- Credit Mix (10% of your credit score)
Since how you make payments accounts for 35% of your credit and how you use your credit balance accounts for 30% of your credit, you should make every effort to pay your credit cards on time and not max out the balance. You should review your credit report yearly for discrepancies. Try to always keep track of your payment history, utilization, length of credit history, new credit, credit mix, and unauthorized credit inquiries. Read How To Raise Your Credit Score to 700 in 90 days to learn more about credit scores.
Types of credit
You should review your credit history for the types of credit being reported. You should also review your current credit mix. A good credit report will have a mix of different types of credit. You are not required to have all types, but you should have a mix of revolving and installment loans.
Here is a list of various types of credit.
- Standard Credit Cards (Revolving Credit)
- Secured Credit Card (Revolving Credit)
- Line of Credit (Revolving Credit)
- Car Loan (Installment Loan)
- Mortgage (Installment Loan)
- Personal Loans (Installment Loan)
The size and thickness of the credit card are important to be standardized because of the various ways in which the card will be used. Whether using an ATM or making a purchase you want the process to be hassle-free. It was very helpful that a global standard was set very early and during the birth of this new industry. It is probably one of the main reasons that this industry was able to grow so rapidly because it did not have infrastructure issues to impede its progress.
The purchase volume on general purpose credit and debit cards in the United States in 2022 was $10.4 trillion, per the Nilson Report. That’s up 11% from 2021. Credit cards accounted for $5.6 trillion while debit and prepaid cards accounted for $4.9 trillion.
Standard Credit Card Size
- Credit cards must be 8.56 cm by 5.398 cm (which is 85.6 mm by 53.98 mm, or 3.375 inches by 2.125 inches).
- The corner roundness must be 0.3818 cm (which is 3.18mm or 0.125 inches).
- The Standardized thickness of a credit card is 0.76 millimeters or 0.0299 inches.
- The weight of a credit does not matter.
This content is for information purposes only. Consult a financial advisor for individual financial advice.