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It's a simple question with a big answer – how in the world does that little piece of plastic you carry in your wallet do what it does? After all, it needs to store your information and transfer that information in a second to any merchant's system where you make a purchase. The process is quite interesting, in fact, for anyone that is a geeky science lover.
2.1 Billion Credit Cards and Counting
One fact shows that it is estimated that 2.1 billion credit cards are in circulation toady in the US alone. Those cards, all added together, would equal about 2.7 million pounds since each piece of plastic weighs a fifth of an ounce.
The process of making a credit card starts in a design center where the actual look and color scheme are determined. As you can imagine, marketing goes into that process, but so does security. In fact, while learning about how credit cards are made, I found numerous instances in which the actual process is somewhat of a secret – there is too much at risk here for too many people to know the actual process of creating a card's magnetic strip.
Outside of that little secret, the nuts and bolts of how a credit card is made can be found in the step by step process below.
- After the design phase, the first step is the mixing of the plastic compound and molding. PVCA material is melted down to create a huge sheet of plastic. This process is called lamination. The center of the card contains a resin that's mixed with various dyes. It is also mixed with various types of plastics to give it that durable, but flexible feel.
- Various colors are added to the sheets to give them their characteristic look. As you can imagine, each card has the same detailing at this point, based on which company the card will eventually go to.
- The printing process allows for any text or graphics to be added to the card at this time. This is done using silk screening.
- The magnetic strip, one of the most important parts of the entire card, is then put into place. This is done using a hot stamping process. There is no way to remove the strip without damaging the card.
- Lamination is then done to add additional layers of protecting film to work as a shielding to the card. This process adds more strength, too.
- Finally, with a huge sheet of plastic cards (about 63 per sheet), the next process is the embossing and cutting. The embossing allows for your credit card number and other identifying information to be added to the card. Massive machines do all of the work in seconds, and, when complete, there is a stack of plastic cards that look a lot like a deck of cards.
The process of making credit cards is finalized after quality checks are performed. They are then shipped off to the appropriate companies or they are sent right to customers. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.