In this day and age, it's rare that consumers complete transactions using cash or checks. With so many different types of credit and debit cards, it's no surprise that paying with a card is the most popular way to make payments for everyday purchases. Modern cards can be used in several ways, including swiping and tapping.
Because these cards are so popular worldwide, sizing has been standardized to make things more convenient for both the consumer and for sellers. Standard card dimensions are 3.37 inches wide and 2.125 inches high. Where they can vary, however, is in the design and materials used.
With every card being the exact same size, you don't need to be concerned that you'll have any problems with your card fitting in your wallet or with your card fitting into an ATM or the store's card reader. While the sizing is the same across the board, there are some key differences that you may notice from card to card.
How Many Inches Is A Credit Card?
Every credit card you will come across is going to be 3.37 inches or 85.6 millimeters wide and 2.125 inches or 53.98 millimeters high. This makes things easier for both the merchants and the consumers. If credit and debit cards varied by size, stores and other markets would need many different card readers to ensure they can interact with any consumer's preferred payment method.
Common Credit Card Materials
Despite all cards being the same size across the board, there are some key differences in the way various cards look. One of the biggest factors in appearance is the materials they are made out of.
The most common credit card material, plastic, is a great choice because it is lightweight and affordable to be used in mass quantities. If you're unable to use a high-tier credit card, chances are the only option that will be available is plastic. Plastic cards tend to have the shortest lifespan, often seeing the signature field or magnetic stripe portions degrade over time, with consistent use.
Metal credit cards are stylish and elegant, perfect for anyone that wants to show off their style and wealth. These cards are heavier, so keep that in mind when choosing this option. While gold-plated cards may look the most elegant, the most exclusive credit card and the hardest to get often called simply "the Black Card," is a metal card.
For those that want the best of the best, a gold-plated credit card is the epitome of elegance. This type of card is rare and saved for exclusive luxury cardholders. Gold is a unique choice for a card material, and while it is relatively soft, it will never rust or crack like a plastic card.
Parts Of Credit & Debit Cards
Not only do the materials vary depending on which card you're applying for, but so do the designs. Creditors want their cards to stand out, so they make sure to provide their borrowers with the best-looking card possible. You may be able to choose from a couple of standard designs, while others allow their customers to customize their cards. No matter what your card looks like, they all include the same basic parts.
Card Network Logo
The four major credit networks are Visa, American Express (AmEx), Mastercard, and Discover. The credit card network that issued your card impacts where you can use it and what fees there are.
Issuing Bank Identification & Logo
Not all cards display the logo of the financial institution that distributes the card on the front, but many of them do. Some of the most popular options are Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America.
EMV, or Europay, Mastercard, Visa, is the global standard for the type of technology that allows these chips to work in most card readers and ATMs. There are two different types of chips: chip-and-signature, which requires consumers to provide their signature to complete a transaction; and the more common type, which is chip-and-PIN, which requires both the chip to be inserted and the customer to provide their PIN.
These are not included in all credit cards, but they are becoming more popular. The tap-to-pay chip allows contactless transactions by allowing you to tap your card against the card reader rather than inserting or swiping. You generally aren't able to see these chips, but there is a symbol located on either the back or front of the card indicating the chip's location.
This is a security feature that is not included on all cards. Holograms are small images that shift in appearance or color when viewed at different angles. They have multiple layers and make it quite difficult for a card to be copied, and are one of the most difficult to duplicate anti-counterfeiting measures that you can get on a physical card.
If you have a Cash Rewards, Platinum Card, or Premier Rewards, this name is often printed right on the actual card. This will often include the brand or sponsor of the card as well.
Each credit card that is issued will have the first and last name of the authorized user on it. It may be in raised letters on the front or flat printed letters on the back. Depending on the card and the issuer, this may be the cardholder's legal name, or it may be a name that they choose to be displayed.
Each credit card in existence has an identifying number associated with it. This number is issued by the American National Standards Institute and can be found on either the front or back of the card. Just like with the cardholder's name, it may be flat printed numbers, or it could be raised.
Credit cards are only good for a certain time frame, which is indicated on the back of the card. Every card displays this expiration date, and you can generally expect a replacement card to be issued automatically.
This comes in handy for online purchases and any other situation in which you aren't swiping your card. This can be either a three or four-digit number, depending on which company issues your card. These numbers help protect you from fraudulent activity on your account.
If you have a chip-and-signature card, you'll sign the back in the signature field. With this type of card, the merchant is supposed to have you sign your receipt and then compare the signature to that on the back of the card. Many consumers are uncomfortable with signing their card and choose to write "SEE ID" on the back instead. This added security measure prompts the merchant to compare the signature on the receipt to the one on their ID rather than on the card.
Containing millions of magnetic particles, the magnetic stripe holds most of the account information needed in order for your transaction to be completed. You may need to input a signature or PIN to completely fulfill the transaction. If the card reader is unable to detect this information, your transaction will not be able to be processed.
Common Types Of Cards
While all cards may look fairly similar, they don't all function in the exact same way. There are many variations of payment cards that you can choose from, including:
Most people are familiar with credit cards and how they operate. Each one is issued with a predetermined credit limit for the account holder and will allow purchases on credit up to that amount, after which subsequent purchases will be declined. Credit cards allow people to make a minimum payment each month while accruing an interest charge for the balance carried from one month to the next. Interest rates, late fees, and terms will vary greatly from card to card.
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Charge cards are similar to credit cards, though they are often considered "closed-loop" and can only be used at specific retailers or stores. While they allow the consumer to purchase goods and services on credit, they generally do not allow the consumer to carry a balance month to month and require the full amount to be paid in full each month.
Debit cards are nearly indistinguishable from credit cards, with the exception of the "debit" markings instead of "credit" on the front and in how they operate when used for a purchase. Whereas credit cards allow the consumer to purchase things on credit, debit cards will only approve purchases that are equal to or lesser than the amount in the account they are linked to and immediately debit the purchase amount from the account balance.
No matter what type of gift card you get, you pay for them upfront, and they are used by swiping, which lowers the balance as you make purchases. You can choose either a one-time fill card that is discarded once the balance has been depleted, or you can buy gift cards that are reloadable.
Keep reading: Can I Get a Credit Card With No Job? [GUIDE]
The Final Word
Whether you sign up for a top-tier Gold Card or a simple basic credit card, you know that they are going to be the same size due to international standards. There are variances in how they function, but any card you get will fit in your local ATM, and it will work in the card readers as you travel abroad.
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Shawn Manaher is a former financial advisor, has founded 5 online businesses, and is a coach, speaker, podcast host, and author. He's been featured on Forbes, The Consults Corner on TAE Radio, The Writing Biz, What's Your Story, and more.