What Kinds of Cards You Have It In Your Wallet?

A magnetic stripe card is a type of card capable of saving data by customizing the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic product on the card. The magnetic stripe, sometimes called swipe card or magstripe, reads by swiping past a magnetic reading head. Magnetic stripe cards are commonly used in credit cards, identity cards, and transportation tickets. They might also contain an RFID tag, a transponder gadget and/or a microchip mainly utilized for business premises gain access to control or electronic payment.


Magnetic recording on steel tape and wire was developed in Denmark around 1900 for recording audio. In the 1950s, magnetic recording of digital computer system data on plastic tape coated with iron oxide was invented. In 1960 IBM used the magnetic tape concept to develop a reliable method of protecting magnetic stripes to plastic cards, under an agreement with the US federal government for a security system. A number of International Company for Standardization requirements, ISO/IEC 7810, ISO/IEC 7811, ISO/IEC 7812, ISO/IEC 7813, ISO 8583, and ISO/IEC 4909, now define the physical homes of the card, consisting of size, flexibility, place of the magstripe, magnetic attributes, and information formats. They likewise supply the requirements for financial cards, including the allowance of card number varies to various card releasing organizations.




Magnetic storage was known from The second world war and computer system data storage in the 1950s.


The significant advancement of the magnetic striped plastic card started in 1969 at the IBM Details Records Department (IRD) headquartered in Dayton N.J. In 1970 the marketing organization was transferred by IBM DPD back to the Info Records Department in order to start sales and marketing methods for the magnetically striped and encoded cards being developed. It took almost 2 years for IBM IRD engineers to not only develop the procedure for reliably using the magnetic stripe to plastic cards by means of a hot stamping method, but also establish the procedure for encoding the magnetic stripe using the IBM Delta Distance C Optical Upc code format. This engineering effort led to IBM IRD producing the very first magnetic striped plastic credit and ID cards utilized by banks, insurance provider, health centers and lots of others. Another outcome of this project was that IBM IRD and IBM Data Processing Department revealed on February 24, 1971 the very first Magnetic Credit Card Service Center and the IBM 2730-1 Deal Validation Terminal. Arthur E. Hahn Jr. was hired by IBM IRD in Dayton, N.J. on Aug 12, 1969 to head up this engineering effort. Other members of the group were David Morgan (Manager), Billy House (Software application Designer), William Creeden (Programmer), and E. J. Gillen (Mechanical Engineering/Machining). They were given a recently announced IBM 360 Design 30 computer with 50k of RAM for control of the encoding/embossing of the Magnetic Stripe Cards. The IBM 360 computer was for scientific/business applications so the IRD engineers first had to transform the 360 into a “procedure control computer” then develop software and hardware around it. Due to the restricted RAM the software was developed in 360 Assembler Language. This conversion enabled the 360 computer system to keep an eye on and manage the whole production process the IRD engineers created and built. The engineering design/build effort was carried out in a raised floor protected area of IBM IRD in Dayton, N.J. which was built particularly for the project. This firmly secured location with limited gain access to was needed because of the level of sensitivity of the information that would ultimately be used to encode and emboss the credit and ID cards.


In 1969 Forrest Parry, an IBM engineer, had the idea of securing a piece of magnetic tape, the primary storage medium at the time, to a plastic card base. He ended up being disappointed because every adhesive he attempted produced unacceptable outcomes. The tape strip either distorted or its qualities were impacted by the adhesive, rendering the tape strip unusable. After an aggravating day in the lab, trying to get the right adhesive, he came home with numerous pieces of magnetic tape and several plastic cards As he walked in the door in the house, his wife Dorothea was ironing clothing. When he discussed the source of his frustration: failure to obtain the tape to “stick” to the plastic in a manner that would work, she recommended that he use the iron to melt the stripe on. He attempted it and it worked. The heat of the iron was just high enough to bond the tape to the card.


Very first magnetic striped credit card and badge access cards.


Bar code encoding developments


The IRD engineers initially had to establish a reliable process of hot marking the magnetic stripe to the plastic cards. This was needed in order to fulfill the close tolerances needed to dependably encode and check out the information on the Magnetic Stripe Cards by magnetic write/read heads. The magnetic stripe was encoded with a single track of information making use of the IBM Delta Range C Optical Upc code format. The Delta Range C Optical Upc code was developed by the IBM Systems Advancement Department working at Research Triangle Park in Raleigh North Carolina directed by George J. Laurer. Other members of the group were N. Joseph Woodland, Paul McEnroe, Dr. Robert Evans, Bernard Silver, Art Hamburgen, Heard Baumeister and Costs Crouse. The IBM group in Raleigh was competing with RCA, Litton-Zellweger and other business who were working with the National Retail Merchants Association NRMA to develop a standard optical bar code to be used in the retail market. NRMA wanted an optically readable code that could be printed on items allowing purchasers to rapidly “check out” at the brand-new electronic money register/checkout counters being established. The code would likewise be utilized for production and inventory control of items. Of the lots of optical bar codes submitted to NRMA by IBM and other companies, NRMA lastly picked the later variation of the IBM upc code known as the Delta Distance D Optical Upc code format. The Delta Distance C Code was an earlier variation of the UPC Universal Item Code. The UPC code was chosen in 1973 by NRMA as their standard and has ended up being the World Wide Requirement that all of us understand today as the UPC Uniform Item Code.




In 1971, after the IBM IRD engineers completed the advancement and structure phase of the task they started in 1969, they released the devices to the IRD manufacturing group in Dayton N.J. to begin producing the plastic magnetic striped credit and ID cards. Because of the level of sensitivity of the client information and the security requirements of banks, insurance provider and others, the manufacturing group chose to leave the whole line in the protected location where it was established.


Banks, insurance companies, healthcare facilities etc., provided IBM IRD with “raw plastic cards” preprinted with their logo designs, contact information etc. They likewise supplied the data information which was to be encoded and embossed on the cards. This data was supplied to IRD on big 0.5 inch wide, 10.5 inch diameter IBM Magnetic Tape Reels which was the requirement for computers at that time. The production procedure begun by very first applying the magnetic stripe to the preprinted plastic cards through the hot stamping process developed by the IBM IRD engineers. This operation of applying the magnetic stripe to the plastic cards was done off line in another location of IBM IRD and not in the protected location. The cards were then brought into the secured location and positioned in “hoppers” at the start of the production line. The tape reels including the data were then set up on the customized IBM 360 computer prior to starting the encoding, embossing and confirmation of the cards. After the 360 performed a check to verify that systems and stations were filled and ready to go, the computer began feeding the Magnetic Striped Plastic Cards from the hoppers at the front end of the production line down a motorized track. The whole operation was totally automated and controlled by the modified IBM 360 business computer. The line consisted of the following stations and operations:


The first United States Patents for the ATM were given in 1972 and 1973.

Other groups within IBM and other business continued with expanding the work done by this little group of engineers at IBM IRD, however, the contributions that these IBM IRD engineers made to the development of the magnetic stripe card is comparable to the Wright Brothers’ contribution to the airline company industry of today.


Nether IBM nor anyone else requested or received any patents relating to the magnetic stripe card, the delta-distance barcodes or perhaps the Uniform Product Code (UPC). IBM felt that with an open architecture it would improve the development of the media therefore resulting in more IBM computers and associated hardware being offered. As with all new innovations, the magnetic stripe card developed and produced by IBM IRD with one track of encoded information using the Delta Range C Bar Code format was rapidly outdated. Due to the fact that of the electronic ATM/reservation/check out/and access systems that were quickly establishing, the banks, airlines and other industries needed more encoded information. A broader magnetic stripe enabling numerous tracks of encoding along with brand-new encoding requirements was needed.


Exactly what this little engineering group at IBM IRD and the IBM Bar Code advancement group in Raleigh achieved in developing the very first magnetic stripe credit and ID cards can not be overemphasized. They laid the structure for the whole magnetic stripe card market that we understand and utilize today through our usage of charge card, BANK CARD, ID cards, hotel room and gain access to cards, transport tickets, and all the terminals and card readers that read the cards and go into the information into computer systems. Their developments resulted in every person having the capability to quickly bring a card that links them directly to computers with all the implications thereof.


Plastic card feeder station: The cards were fed down a track in single file from card hoppers.

Magnetic write/read encoding station: The IBM 360 computer system sent over the information which was encoded on the magnetic stripe utilizing the IBM Delta Distance C Optical Upc code format. The card passed under the read head and the encoded information was sent back to the 360 for verification.


An embossing station: The IRD engineers purchased and modified an Information Card Corp embossing device and interfaced it with the IBM 360 computer system to emboss the cards.  The initial style concept called for an Addressograph-Multigraph embossing device, however, the IRD engineers quickly changed to a Data Card Corp embossing device. Information Card Corp, a Minneapolis/St. Paul company had actually simply established the first electronically controlled embossing device for plastic cards and successfully obsoleted all other mechanical run embossers.


-A topping station: To highlight the embossing.

-An imprinter station: To inscribe the embossing on an immediately fed paper roll.

-An optical reader station: To read the embossed information off the paper roll and feed it back to the 360 computer system for confirmation.

-A one card rejection station: If either the encoding or embossing data on the card was not confirmed by the 360 computer, that one card was rejected. If both the encoded and embossed information was confirmed by the 360 computer, the card proceeded down the line.

-A mailer station: A mailer was printed with the name and address of the card holder together with the date and other pertinent card information. These mailers were likewise preprinted and die cut by IRD inning accordance with the customers specifications and logo design requirements and were fed into the line from boxes in a continuous fan feed approach.

-A card insertion station: Here the card was automatically placed onto the mailer.

-A bursting and folding station: Here the mailers were burst apart then folded into a 3 fold package that would fit into a company size envelope.

-An envelope printer/insertion station: Here an envelope was printed with the name and address of the customer and the mailer including the card was automatically placed into the envelope and sealed.

-This finished the manufacturing line for the magnetic striped encoded and embossed credit card and badge gain access to cards. The envelopes were then required published and mailed straight to the customers of the business who had actually purchased the cards from IRD.


Further developments and encoding requirements


There were a variety of steps needed to convert the magnetic striped media into an industry appropriate device. These actions consisted of:


  1. Creating the worldwide standards for stripe record material, including which details, in what format, and utilizing which defining codes.
  2. Field screening the proposed gadget and standards for market acceptance.
  3. Establishing the production steps had to mass-produce the a great deal of cards needed.
  4. Including stripe concern and approval abilities to available equipment.

These steps were initially handled by Jerome Svigals of the Advanced Systems Division of IBM, Los Gatos, California from 1966 to 1975.


Counterexamples of cards which deliberately ignore ISO standards consist of hotel crucial cards, most subway and bus cards, and some national prepaid calling cards (such as for the nation of Cyprus) where the balance is kept and preserved straight on the stripe and not retrieved from a remote database.


Magnetic stripe cloning can be spotted by the implementation of magnetic card reader heads and firmware that can read a signature of magnetic sound permanently ingrained in all magnetic stripes during the card production process. This signature can be utilized in conjunction with typical 2 aspect authentication plans utilized in ATM, debit/retail point-of-sale and prepaid card applications.


In most magnetic stripe cards, the magnetic stripe is included in a plastic-like movie. The magnetic stripe lies 0.223 inches (5.66 mm) from the edge of the card, and is 0.375 inches (9.52 mm) large. The magnetic stripe includes three tracks, each 0.110 inches (2.79 mm) broad. Tracks one and 3 are normally tape-recorded at 210 bits per inch (8.27 bits per mm), while track 2 usually has a recording density of 75 bits per inch (2.95 bits per mm). Each track can either consist of 7-bit alphanumeric characters, or 5-bit numeric characters. Track 1 requirements were produced by the airlines industry (IATA). Track 2 standards were developed by the banking industry (ABA). Track 3 standards were produced by the Thrift-Savings industry.


Magstripes following these specs can usually read by the majority of point-of-sale hardware, which are just general-purpose computers that can be programmed to perform particular jobs. Examples of cards sticking to these requirements consist of ATM cards, bank cards (credit and debit cards including Visa and MasterCard), present cards, commitment cards, driver’s licenses, telephone cards, membership cards, electronic advantage transfer cards (e.g. food stamps), and nearly any application in which value or secure info is not kept on the card itself. Many computer game and amusement centers now utilize debit card systems based upon magnetic stripe cards.


Magnetic stripe coercivity


There are up to 3 tracks on magnetic cards called tracks 1, 2, and 3. Track 3 is virtually unused by the major around the world networks, and often isn’t even physically present on the card by virtue of a narrower magnetic stripe. Point-of-sale card readers generally read track 1, or track 2, and in some cases both, in case one track is unreadable. The minimum cardholder account info had to finish a deal exists on both tracks. Track 1 has a greater bit density (210 bits per inch vs. 75), is the only track that might contain alphabetic text, and thus is the only track which contains the cardholder’s name.


In practical terms, normally low coercivity magnetic stripes are a light brown color, and high coercivity stripes are almost black; exceptions consist of an exclusive silver-colored solution on transparent American Express cards. High coercivity stripes are resistant to damage from the majority of magnets likely to be owned by customers. Low coercivity stripes are quickly damaged by even a quick contact with a magnetic handbag strap or fastener. Because of this, virtually all bank cards today are encoded on high coercivity stripes in spite of a slightly higher per-unit cost.


Magstripes can be found in 2 main ranges: high-coercivity (HiCo) at 4000 Oe and low-coercivity (LoCo) at 300 Oe, however it is not irregular to have intermediate worths at 2750 Oe. High-coercivity magstripes require greater amount of magnetic energy to encode, and therefore are harder to eliminate. HiCo stripes are proper for cards that are regularly utilized, such as a credit card. Other card uses consist of time and attendance tracking, access control, library cards, staff member ID cards and gift cards Low-coercivity magstripes require a lower quantity of magnetic energy to record, and for this reason the card authors are more affordable than machines which are capable of recording high-coercivity magstripes. However, LoCo cards are much easier to erase and have a much shorter life-span. Typical LoCo applications include hotel space keys, time and attendance tracking, bus/transit tickets and season passes for amusement park. A card reader can read either kind of magstripe, and a high-coercivity card author might compose both high and low-coercivity cards (most have 2 settings, but composing a LoCo card in HiCo may in some cases work), while a low-coercivity card writer might compose only low-coercivity cards.


Monetary cards.


Magnetic stripe cards are used in very high volumes in the mass transit sector, replacing paper based tickets with either a directly used magnetic slurry or hot foil stripe. Slurry applied stripes are usually less expensive to produce and are less resistant but are suitable for cards meant to be disposed after a few usages.


Track 1 is written with code known as DEC SIXBIT plus odd parity. The information on track 1 on financial cards is contained in several formats: A, which is reserved for proprietary use of the card issuer, B, which is described below, C-M, which are reserved for use by ANSI Subcommittee X3B10 and N-Z, which are available for use by individual card issuers:


Track 1, Format B:


Start sentinel — one character (generally ‘%’)

Format code=”B” — one character (alpha only)

Primary account number (PAN) — up to 19 characters. Usually, but not always, matches the credit card number printed on the front of the card.

Field Separator — one character (generally ‘^’)

Name — 2 to 26 characters

Field Separator — one character (generally ‘^’)

Expiration date — four characters in the form YYMM.

Service code — three characters

Discretionary data — may include Pin Verification Key Indicator (PVKI, 1 character), PIN Verification Value (PVV, 4 characters), Card Verification Value or Card Verification Code (CVV or CVC, 3 characters)

End sentinel — one character (generally ‘?’)

Longitudinal redundancy check (LRC) — it is one character and a validity character calculated from other data on the track.


Track 2: This format was developed by the banking industry (ABA). This track is written with a 5-bit scheme (4 data bits + 1 parity), which allows for sixteen possible characters, which are the numbers 0-9, plus the six characters  : ; < = > ? . The selection of six punctuation symbols may seem odd, but in fact the sixteen codes simply map to the ASCII range 0x30 through 0x3f, which defines ten digit characters plus those six symbols. The data format is as follows:


Start sentinel — one character (generally ‘;’)

Primary account number (PAN) — up to 19 characters. Usually, but not always, matches the credit card number printed on the front of the card.

Separator — one char (generally ‘=’)

Expiration date — four characters in the form YYMM.

Service code — three digits. The first digit specifies the interchange rules, the second specifies authorisation processing and the third specifies the range of services

Discretionary data — as in track one

End sentinel — one character (generally ‘?’)

Longitudinal redundancy check (LRC) — it is one character and a validity character calculated from other data on the track. Most reader devices do not return this value when the card is swiped to the presentation layer, and use it only to verify the input internally to the reader.



Service code values common in financial cards:


First digit


1: International interchange OK

2: International interchange, use IC (chip) where feasible

5: National interchange only except under bilateral agreement

6: National interchange only except under bilateral agreement, use IC (chip) where feasible

7: No interchange except under bilateral agreement (closed loop)

9: Test

Second digit


0: Normal

2: Contact issuer via online means

4: Contact issuer via online means except under bilateral agreement

Third digit


0: No restrictions, PIN required

1: No restrictions

2: Goods and services only (no cash)

3: ATM only, PIN required

4: Cash only

5: Goods and services only (no cash), PIN required

6: No restrictions, use PIN where feasible

7: Goods and services only (no cash), use PIN where feasible



AAMVA United States and Canada driver’s licenses


The data stored on magnetic stripes on American and Canadian driver’s licenses is specified by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. Not all states and provinces use a magnetic stripe on their driver’s licenses. For a list of those that do, see the AAMVA list. Lintech Relate product link at: AAMVA magnetic card reader


The following data is stored on track 1:


Start Sentinel – one character (generally ‘%’)

State or Province – two characters

City – variable length (seems to max out at 13 characters)

Field Separator – one character (generally ‘^’) (absent if city reaches max length)

Last Name – variable length

Field Separator – one character (generally ‘$’)

First Name – variable length

Field Separator – one character (generally ‘$’)

Middle Name – variable length

Field Separator – one character (generally ‘^’)

Home Address (house number and street) – variable length

Field Separator – one character (generally ‘^’)

Unknown – variable length

End Sentinel – one character (generally ‘?’)

The following data is stored on track 2:


ISO Issuer Identifier Number (IIN) – 6 digits

Drivers License / Identification Number – 13 digits

Field Separator — generally ‘=’

Expiration Date (YYMM) – 4 digits

Birth date (YYYYMMDD) – 8 digits

DL/ID# overflow- 5 digits (If no information is used then a field separator is used in this field.)

End Sentinel – one character (‘?’)

The following data is stored on track 3:


Template V#

Security V#

Postal Code







Hair Color

Eye Color


Reserved Space

Error Correction


Note: Each state has a different selection of information they encode, not all states are the same. Note: Some states, such as Texas, have laws restricting the access and use of electronically readable information encoded on driver’s licenses or identification cards under certain circumstances.

Data source: