Magnetic Stripe Reader


A magnetic stripe reader, also known as a magstripe reader, is a device used to scan and interpret data stored on the magnetic stripe found on credit cards, debit cards, and other identification cards. These readers work by converting the encoded data on the magnetic stripe into a format that can be understood by computer systems and payment terminals. They are commonly used in retail, hospitality, and other industries for processing electronic transactions and verifying cardholder details.

Key Takeaways

  1. Magnetic Stripe Readers are devices that read information encoded in magnetic stripes, commonly found on credit cards, debit cards, ID cards, and transportation passes.
  2. These readers can be integrated into a range of systems including retail point-of-sale terminals, access controls, and hotel door locks for quick and efficient data processing.
  3. While widely used, magnetic stripe technology is less secure compared to more modern technologies such as EMV chip cards and NFC contactless payments due to the ease of skimming and replicating the information.


The technology term “Magnetic Stripe Reader” is important because it plays a vital role in various industries, particularly in financial transactions and security systems.

These electronic devices read the information stored on the magnetic stripe of cards, such as credit cards, debit cards, and identification cards, enabling efficient and secure data transmission.

By facilitating quick and accurate processing of crucial information, magnetic stripe readers help prevent fraud, expedite payment processing, and ensure the accuracy of personal identification, all of which are essential components of modern commerce and security infrastructure.


Magnetic Stripe Readers play a crucial role in our daily interactions with numerous electronic devices, as they facilitate secure transactions and access control in various contexts. One of the primary purposes of a Magnetic Stripe Reader is to read the magnetically encoded data found on cards such as credit or debit cards, gift cards, or access control cards.

The reader retrieves essential information stored within the card’s magnetic stripe, enabling businesses to process financial transactions, grant access to secure locations, or utilize loyalty programs. This technology not only simplifies payment and identification procedures but also helps ensure the safety of both personal data and assets, as the magnetic stripe holds sensitive information that cannot be easily manipulated or duplicated.

While Magnetic Stripe Readers serve an indispensable function in many industries, the technology also evolves to accommodate the demands of changing security and data management landscapes. For instance, in the financial sector, modern Point-of-Sale (POS) systems have integrated Magnetic Stripe Readers to offer swift and convenient payment processing in retail stores.

Moreover, organizations across diverse sectors use Magnetic Stripe Readers to control access to their premises by incorporating them with security systems. Consequently, the versatility and reliability of this technology make it an essential tool for guaranteeing safe and efficient daily transactions across various industries.

Examples of Magnetic Stripe Reader

Point-of-Sale (POS) Terminals in Retail Stores: Magnetic stripe readers are widely used in POS terminals at retail stores, supermarkets, and gas stations. When a customer swipes their credit or debit card through the reader, it reads the data encoded on the card’s magnetic stripe, such as their name, account information, and other pertinent details. This data is then transmitted to the bank or the card issuer for processing and authorizing the transaction.

ATM Machines: Another real-world example of a magnetic stripe reader is the Automated Teller Machines (ATM), which allow people to access their bank accounts, withdraw cash, deposit checks, and perform other banking tasks. When a user inserts their card into the ATM, the magnetic stripe reader reads the data from the card to identify and verify the account information, before allowing access to the user’s account.

Access Control Systems in Offices and Buildings: Magnetic stripe readers are used in access control systems for secure access to office buildings, restricted rooms, or other areas that require authorized entry. Employees are often given magnetic stripe access cards encoded with their unique identification data. When the card is swiped through the reader, the system verifies the individual’s authority to enter the area and grants or denies access accordingly.

FAQ: Magnetic Stripe Reader

What is a magnetic stripe reader?

A magnetic stripe reader, also known as a magstripe reader, is a device used to read and interpret data stored on the magnetic stripe of cards like credit, debit, and identification cards. It captures and converts the card’s information into a usable format for various applications like financial transactions and security access.

How does a magnetic stripe reader work?

Magnetic stripe readers work by using an electromagnetic sensor to detect the magnetic flux changes on the card’s stripe when it’s swiped across the reader’s head. The reader decodes the magnetic data and converts it into digital signals, which can then be used for processing the transaction or performing other operations requiring the card’s information.

What are some common uses of magnetic stripe readers?

Some common uses of magnetic stripe readers include processing payments at retail stores, verifying identity at access control systems (e.g., hotel room doors, office buildings), and reading loyalty, membership, or gift cards, among others.

What types of information can be stored on a magnetic stripe?

A magnetic stripe can store various types of information, depending on the card and its intended use. Typically, the information includes the cardholder’s name, card number, expiration date, and country code. In addition, other data like a CVV (Card Verification Value) and a service code can also be stored, depending on the card issuer and the type of card in question.

What is the difference between a magnetic stripe reader and an RFID reader?

A magnetic stripe reader reads data from a magnetic stripe on a card by physically swiping the card through the device, whereas an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) reader uses radio frequency technology to read information stored on RFID chips embedded within the card. RFID readers do not require physical contact with the card, allowing for faster and more convenient transactions and access control.

Related Technology Terms

  • Track Data
  • Card Swiping
  • Point of Sale (POS)
  • ISO/IEC 7811 Standard
  • Payment Card Security

Sources for More Information

  • Investopedia – A well-known resource for understanding financial and business terms, Investopedia also covers technological concepts such as magnetic stripe readers.
  • HowStuffWorks – A reliable source for explaining the inner workings of various technologies and systems, including magnetic stripe readers.
  • Techopedia – Techopedia is a comprehensive source for technology-related information. It offers detailed definitions and explanations of technology terms, including magnetic stripe readers.
  • Computerworld – Computerworld is a well-established source for news and information about technology. They regularly cover topics related to magnetic stripe readers.

About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.

These experts include:


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

More Technology Terms

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents