The magnetic strip of magstripe swipe card was invented by IBM engineer Forrest Parry with invaluable help from his wife back in 1969. It has been the basis of bank cards for decades and there is hardly a point of sale machine that doesn’t support them. They are cheap and simple to make but the problem is that this is not 1969 anymore. Magstripe cards are so easy to clone which is why Zimbabwean banks have been getting rid of them. Now it seems MasterCard has joined them too.
Card cloning is rife so MasterCard will be phasing out Magistripe cards
Cloning a magnetic stripe card is a very trivial business. All you need is a compromised machine. It takes just one swipe to create a clone of the original card. Thieves in Zimbabwe and other countries typically use social engineering tricks to get ahold of the victim’s card and then clone it. They then create cloned versions of the cards and go on shopping sprees. We have heard and written about so many of these stories.
In order to fight this security and fintech experts have introduced various new and more secure technologies including the use of EMV chips. Some banks including Steward and FBC have been phasing out magstripe cards on their own. If you try to swipe an FBC card for example you will be told to insert it so the POS machine can read the EMV chip instead as the magstripe part is now just a prop.
Now MasterCard, the global payment giant is joining the fight. The company has announced that they will be phasing out magstripe cards starting from 2024 and hopes that by 2033 these cards would have been completely phased out. To be honest, while this is a newsworthy announcement the timeline is rather disappointing. 2033 is about 12 years away. It’s possible that MasterCard just wants to make sure that their cards are supported on as much hardware as is possible.
In meantime, a lot of banks and Fintechs have been issuing hybrid cards, including MasterCards, in order to ease with the transition. The problem with these cards is that they are no more secure than magstripe cards. Research has shown how it is easy to clone the magstripe part of the card and use this to create an EMV version of the card.