Have you spilled a drink, fallen in a pool, gotten stuck in a rainstorm, or accidentally washed your wallet? You may be worried about potential damage to your debit and credit cards. Can these credit and debit cards get wet?
Most credit and debit cards are water resistant and ok if they take a quick dip. The concern isn’t usually with the magnetic stripe, but the EMV chip for inserting your card and your ability to make a contactless payment. Excessive water or exposure to extreme temperatures when drying your card may cause physical damage.
A wet credit card should be immediately dried through a low heat method. Then test your card by making a transaction. The worst-case scenario is that you have to contact the debit or credit card issuer for a new card.
Luckily, I’ll show you the exact steps you should take if your card is exposed to water.
- Small amounts of water and heat are typically ok. There is a higher chance of possible damage if your card through the washer or dryer or if submerged for an extended period of time.
- Dry your card immediately with a microfiber cloth or towel. You can also use a paper towel, bag of rice, or a cotton ball. Avoid using a hair dryer as the high heat may cause damage, such as if the plastic warps.
- Make a debit or credit card transaction to validate the card works.
- Contact the card issuer (e.g., your bank or credit union) for a replacement card. You can use your mobile banking app, visit in-person, or call to request a new card. Requesting a new card typically takes 7-10 business days, but your bank may be able to print a card in-person for immediate support.
- Shred and properly dispose of your old cards.
- Your card details (e.g., debit card number, CVV, expiration date) will still work for online purchases or if your card is linked to a mobile app or wallet.
- Prevention methods include using a dry bag, waterproof case or wallet. Check your pockets before doing laundry, take your wallet out and set aside before water activities, and keeping the cards in dryer areas.
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Can Debit Cards Get Wet?
While debit and credit cards are made of durable plastic and water-resistant material, they are not entirely waterproof. The electronic components of the card could be damaged when the card isn’t dried properly before use or when it’s soaked for an extensive period.
Your card probably has a magnetic strip, an insertable chip, and a contactless chip that is scanned for payment. Most electronic chips are also sealed in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for extra protection, but wet cards could short-circuit anyway when used before they’re properly dried.
The clear coating on your card may also begin to peel, making it difficult or impossible to insert the card into an ATM or card reader.
So, can your debit card get wet and recuperate? Sure. Can it get drenched and survive? Only sometimes.
Will a Credit Card Work After Being Washed?
If you made the mistake of putting your wallet in the washing machine with a load of clothes, your credit card has likely suffered a longer dip in the water. Cards that appear warped, bent, or scratched from the washer’s movement are also more likely to have card issues.
Nevertheless, it’s important to dry your card immediately after washing it, which we discuss in detail below. Once it’s dry, you can test it out during your next purchase to verify everything’s in order.
Will a credit card work after being dried in a dryer?
If you didn’t see your card in the wash and accidentally put it into the dryer cycle afterward, there’s a more significant possibility that your card will malfunction or break. Dryers use high heat settings that can melt or warp plastic cards, rendering them unreadable to most card machines.
For cards like this, you may still be able to use them online, but you should order a replacement as soon as possible.
Steps to Take After Discovering Your Wet Debit Card
Yikes! Your credit card has been wet or soaked accidentally. What now?
Take the following steps if your card accidentally got wet:
- Dry your card
- See if the card works
- Contact the card issuer for a replacement
Let’s take a look at each step in more detail.
Dry Your Card
Don’t let your card sit in liquid for a minute longer. First, remove the excess liquid with a firm shake of your hand.
Next, read through the following drying methods to see which one works best for you.
Dry cloth or towel
Using a dry cloth or towel to dry off your card is one of the best and most efficient ways to dry your card. I like microfiber because the material has a smooth surface that won’t scratch your card’s magnetic strip in the drying process.
For those who don’t have cloth available, a paper towel may do the trick. Avoid rubbing it too hard on the card since some paper towels have a rough texture.
A bag of rice
For those whose phone fell in water in the past, you might have heard of the rice trick. Rice absorbs water fairly quickly, which means that a wet item touching the rice will have the water quickly pulled out of it. Cards that have been soaked or wet for longer should be placed in a plastic bag or container with rice. Be sure to seal the container. Let it sit for at least 24 hours, then remove the card.
Generally speaking, avoiding hair dryers when drying electronic items is best. The hot air from the hair dryer could warp your debit or credit card much like a clothes dryer would. While some hair dryers have low-heat settings, opt for one of the previous drying options instead.
Cotton balls have been used to soak up liquids before, but they could leave behind wisps of cotton on the ridged or raised areas of your card. They work fine for those with no alternative, but they aren’t very practical.
See If the Card Works
Once the card is completely dry, it’s time to see if it works. The best way to do this is to take it to your local store and use it to make a purchase. However, remember to bring a backup payment method in case the payment terminal can’t read the card.
If your card has a contactless tap option, you can try that one out first, followed by the insert option during the same purchase or the following transaction. Nowadays, most people pay using contactless or insertable chips, as swiping cards are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
You can also test out your card at an ATM. We recommend doing a test at an ATM and a store to ensure the card is readable by both types of machines. After all, you’ll need both options for any debit card.
Contact Your Bank for a Replacement
If your dried debit card doesn’t work, the water may have affected the digital components and left you with a useless card. In this case, it’s time to contact your bank and get your replacement. You can usually do this on the phone, in person, or through online banking in a few minutes.
Replacement cards usually take about a week to arrive, and your old card will be canceled. Be sure to dispose of it properly.
The quickest option for a card replacement is to visit your local branch in person. Most banks or credit unions can print a debit card for you on the spot.
How to Prevent Your Debit Card from Getting Wet Again
There are plenty of situations where your debit card can get wet accidentally. Here are the most common ones and how to avoid them.
Use a Waterproof case or dry bag
Swimming, splash parks: If you plan to spend the day by a body of water, be it a swimming pool, river, lake, or sea, be sure your card is in a waterproof case or dry bag. Plenty of waterproof phone cases exist that could easily fit a card, so you have it close by for purchases. Cases and dry bags have limits, so be sure not to take them into deep waters if you can avoid it.
Maintain distance from water
Boating: Keep your card in a dry case or bag in a cabinet or closed area on boats.
Kitchens/bathrooms: Sinks and toilets are danger zones for any electronic item, credit and debit cards included. Avoid bringing your wallet and cards into these areas if possible. Also, remove your wallet from your pocket before using the restroom
Spilled drinks: If you tend to have your coffee or water bottle near your workspace or desk, be sure your wallet is far from it in case of a spill.
Check your pockets before laundry
Laundry: It’s too easy to accidentally wash your card with your favorite pair of jeans. Remember to empty all pockets before throwing in your load of clothes.
Use your body to shield your wallet
Rainstorms: Getting caught in the rain may be unavoidable, so seek refuge and move your card or wallet to the driest part of your body – usually around your waistband or where you can cover it, like under your armpit. Avoid leaving your cards outside, even if the forecast doesn’t predict rain.
Use a Waterproof Wallet
Consider a waterproof wallet for those who are often on or near the water or living in a rainy area. Waterproof wallets come in all styles, colors, and sizes and protect your cards and cash from accidents and water damage.
Summary: My debit or credit card got wet
As you can see, smart chip and contactless cards are the most susceptible to water damage. Just like you wouldn’t want a wet cellphone, avoid getting your card wet. Do your best to avoid running your card through a hot wash cycle or accidentally jumping into a pool.
Check the back and front of the card for signs of damage. Try to dry your card with a microfiber towel before trying to make a purchase in-store.
Contact your card issuer if the card is damaged or no longer works for in-store purchases or ATM transactions. You can request a card by calling the number on the back of the card, in-person, or through online banking.
Your card should still work for online purchases.