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Manual Credit Card Imprinters are Becoming Obsolete

Depending on how long you’ve been using credit cards, you may or may not be familiar with manual card imprinters. Remember making etchings as a kid? You placed a coin or stencil beneath a piece of paper, then used a pencil or crayon to lightly shade the paper above the coin. Within seconds, an identical etching of the coin would appear on the paper.

Manual imprinters, nicknamed “knuckle-busters,” worked the same way. They use credit cards that have customer details embossed or raised off the surface. These details are generally the customer’s name, account number, card number, and expiry dates. After every credit card payment, the seller would use a manual imprint machine to slide over the card, producing an ‘etched’ receipt.

This receipt would be kept in their records, and sometimes taken to the bank, just like a check. It proved the transaction had taken place, and was a crucial step to prevent credit card fraud, because it proved (a) an actual credit card was presented, and (b) the card belonged to the person who was using it. They might even back up their payment with ID.

The no-card-present future

As time has passed, there have been lots more situations where customers need to pay ‘without their card’. These include online transactions and purchases made over the phone. In these scenarios, you can’t imprint the card manually. Instead, receipts are sent by email and recorded electronically, both by the bank and the merchant processor.

Nowadays, even when the card is present, transaction data is sent electronically. In these cases, the customer will swipe or dip their card into a portable credit card terminal. The cardholder’s information will be read off the card’s magnetic strip or its EMV chip. These POS (point of sale) terminals produce receipts using their built-in printers.

The receipt may be signed by the customer, providing further verification of the transaction. The customer gets one copy of the receipt, the merchant keeps another copy, and all the data is electronically sent to the bank, payment processor, and credit card network. These innovations have made manual imprinters more or less irrelevant.

Phasing out the imprint

Earlier this year, Visa announced they were no longer supplying or using manual imprinters. And because ‘card etching receipts’ are nearly obsolete, card information doesn’t need to be embossed. Instead, card-owner details are now printed flat on some newer credit cards.

In the past, you’d have to wait days or weeks for your embossed card. Now, you can walk into your nearest branch and have your bank or loyalty store print you a flat card in minutes. It’s not a security risk, because magnetic stripes and/or EMV chips encrypt all transactions, safeguarding your data, your identity, and your money from cybercriminals.

For more information on whether manual credit card imprinters are becoming obsolete, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to

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