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Dip, Tap, Swipe: 3 Ways to Use Your Debit or Credit Card

Have you ever inserted your debit card or credit card into the card reader at the store only to hear the aggressive series of beeps that indicate your card has not been accepted? The clerk probably followed it up with, “Try swiping it,” and you did. On a good day, the card gets accepted. On a bad one, you have to dig another form of payment out of your bag.

You probably didn’t think much of it, but inserting and swiping your card requires different processes — for you, your bank, and the store that you’re shopping at. In fact, there are three common ways that you can make an in-person purchase with your debit card or credit card these days: dipping, tapping, or swiping.

Dipping and tapping make use of an EMV chip — which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, the original three companies that standardized and automated payment by chip. EMV chip cards generate a unique, one-time code to accompany each individual transaction. With dipping, you insert the chip end of your card into the chip reader to complete a transaction. Tapping combines EMV with NFC (near-field communications) technology to pick up card information when you use contactless cards.

Swiping, on the other hand, is done using the magnetic stripe on the back of debit cards or credit cards. To conduct a transaction, you swipe your card through the canal on the payment terminal. Of the three, swiping is the oldest method of payment and probably the one that you are most familiar with.

Each comes with their own benefits and disadvantages. Some major factors that differ between the three include:

  • Speed
  • Convenience
  • Physical security
  • Transaction security
  • Cleanliness
  • Card longevity
  • Acceptability
Does it matter whether you dip, tap, or swipe your card?

What It Means to Dip Your Card

Around 2015, many major debit and credit card companies, as well as merchants, began making the move from the standard swipe technology to dip. The move cracked down on debit and credit card fraud, and has become one of the more convenient ways to conduct a transaction.

Speed

Dipping your debit card or credit card is quicker than counting out cash or writing out a check. However, the speed of the dipping process pales in comparison to tapping. When you dip your credit card, you must wait at the payment terminal until you receive a visual or audio cue to input a PIN or other piece of personal identification information and then remove the card.

Convenience

All cards — whether they are a chip card, contactless card, or a card with a magnetic stripe — have made it easier and more accessible to conduct debit and credit card transactions all around the world. Cards are compact, easily manageable, and let you pay for goods and services when and where you need to.

Physical security

Aside from the obvious risk that someone can steal your debit or credit card, chip cards do not come with the physical risks that contactless cards do. If you want to make a payment, you must insert the card chip into the machine and input any necessary personal information, such as a PIN. There is no spacial risk involved with chip cards that could lead to you unknowingly completing a transaction by simply placing your card too close to the card reader.

Transaction security

Chip cards operate using EMV chip technology. When you insert the computer chip into a payment machine, the chip generates a one-time code that signals to the card issuer that a transaction is occurring. This is different from swipe cards. The magnetic stripes on traditional debit cards and credit cards contain basic card and personal information that is relayed to the payment processor when you conduct a transaction.

Chip cards are built so that if someone attempts to steal your card and conduct a fraudulent transaction, they will not be able to effectively duplicate the one-time code of the original card. This makes it more difficult for people to fraudulently conduct in-person and online purchases with your card information.

Cleanliness

When you dip your card into the chip reader, you often have to input personal information, such as a PIN, to verify the transaction. This method of payment leads to spread of germs, especially compared with contactless payments.

Card longevity

Chip cards are inserted, removed, and swiped regularly, meaning they are subject to a good amount of wear and tear. If you keep your card stored securely, you can keep the card in good condition for longer, but it’s difficult to avoid the inevitable.

Acceptability

Chip cards have not been around as long as magnetic stripe cards; however, they are just about as widely accepted. Around 2015, many businesses and ATMs began making the move to dip payment to dissuade fraudulent debit and credit card purchases. Now, you can bet on finding a chip card reader at just about any business that accepts cards — both domestic and internationally.

A man pays with a debit card using a point-of-sale terminal on the counter of a flower store

What It Means to Tap Your Card

Contactless cards are often called “tap-to-pay” debit cards and credit cards, and they have increased in popularity in recent years, along with other forms of contactless payment, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Contactless credit cards and debit cards contain small internal chips that generate a unique, one-time code each time that you make a purchase. The process makes for quick and secure transactions, as well as increased longevity of the card itself.

Speed

When you’re standing at the payment terminal of your favorite store, tapping your card seems to go at lightning speed compared to dipping or swiping. When dipping, you have to leave your card in the terminal for an extended period of time, allow the machine to read your card, enter your security information, such as your PIN, and remove the card. With contactless payments, you can tap and go.

Convenience

Cards are compact. When you’re out and about, paying for goods and services, it’s handy to not have to carry around a wad of cash or checkbook and pen.

Physical security

When tapping your card, your transaction is incredibly secure. However, there is room for error with tapping that you might not have with dipping or swiping.

Contactless payments operate off of short radio waves that are transmitted when the embedded card chip is in close proximity to the payment terminals, usually about two inches away. That means that if your card is too close to the card reader, it could pick up on a transaction, even if you did not approve it. This can sometimes happen with other contactless cards that are in your bag and near the chip reader at the time of purchase.

Also, while contactless cards are safer from card skimmers than magnetic stripes are, transaction approval is highly dependent on who has the card in their possession. That means that if your card has been stolen and someone attempts to use it at another payment terminal, they will likely be successful since contactless cards do not require any additional personal information to complete a transaction.

Transaction security

Transactions made with a contactless card are secure — just as secure as purchases made by dipping your card, and more secure than purchases made swiping your card.

When you tap your card, the EMV chip triggers a one-time code to accompany each purchase. One of the most common threats of credit card fraud are card skimmers, which intercept the personal information stored on a card’s magnetic strip and use it to create a counterfeit card for fraudulent transactions. The one-time EMV code avoids the need for any personal information to be transferred, making your “tap-to-pay” transactions incredibly secure.

Cleanliness

They’re called contactless payments for a reason. Tap-and-go cards help you avoid the need to touch buttons and screens to input personal information like PINs and zip codes — which in turn reduces the transfer of germs.

Card longevity

One tap and you’re done. Cards that use tap-and-go technology last longer due to reduced wear and tear. There’s no need to insert a chip like when you dip a card or swipe your card with a magnetic stripe.

Acceptability

Contactless cards are a newer form of payment than chip cards and magnetic stripe cards, so they are not as universally accepted yet. However, more and more merchants are starting to incorporate contactless payments as a valid payment method.

In fact, contactless payments are a very common payment method internationally, including in Canada, Europe, and Australia. If you’re traveling internationally to one of these destinations, you likely won’t have trouble paying with a contactless credit card.

A person swipes their debit card at a cafe counter. Opted-in credit union accounts may overdraft and be charged a courtesy pay fee.

What It Means to Swipe Your Card

Banks and credit card companies began implementing magnetic stripe technology into their cards as early as the late 1900s. Given that the technology has been around for a significant amount of time, virtually all merchants that accept cards accept swipe cards. They are convenient and widely accepted, but these cards are outdated and so come with a few drawbacks.

Speed

Like chip cards, cards with magnetic stripes are far faster than more archaic methods of payment, such as cash and check. However, they are not as quick as contactless cards that only require a simple tap.

Convenience

Credit cards and some debit cards are small, easily transportable, and come with consumer protections to keep your money safe.

Physical security

As with all debit and credit cards, you should always make sure that you keep your magnetic stripe cards in a safe and secure location. But also like chip cards, you have to physically swipe the magnetic stripe through a card reader in order to complete a transaction, which is not the case for contactless payments.

Transaction security

Unfortunately, cards with magnetic stripes are one of the more unsecure forms of card payment. Since they have been around for so long, scammers have cracked the code to use these types of cards for fraudulent purchases.

One of the more common forms of debit and credit card fraud is card skimmers. When you swipe your credit card, your credit card information and personal identification information is sent to the payment processor to complete the transaction. If someone places a skimmer and fake keypad on unattended payment terminals or ATMs, the machines will pick up your personal and card information, allowing the scammer to steal credit card information, duplicate your card, and begin making purchases without you knowing.

Cleanliness

Cards with magnetic stripes, like chip cards, are not the most sanitary, given that you have to manually deal with buttons and screens in order to conduct transactions.

Card longevity

Debit and credit cards that you swipe are subject to a lot of wear and tear, which is to be expected. Some cards are more durable than others, but the fact of the matter is that when you are constantly swiping your card through a payment machine, it’s going to lose its stability and shine over time.

Acceptability

If a business accepts debit and credit cards, you can bet they accept them in the form of swipe payment. Many chip cards even include a magnetic stripe on the back of the card in the event that chip payment does not function properly.

Cushion helps you waste less money, save more, and live a financially healthier life. We monitor your bank and credit card accounts 24/7, find and alert you about pesky fees, let you know which fees are negotiable, which banks are cooperative, and can even automatically negotiate on your behalf.* To date, Cushion has secured customers more than $11 million in bank and credit card fee refunds—and we’re just getting started.

*Cushion only negotiates fees with high refund odds. We cannot guarantee any negotiations, a regular frequency of negotiations, or fee refunds—your bank makes the final call.

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