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What Is a Credit Card Imprinter? editorial staff editorial staff

Here's what you need to know about credit card imprinters

Here's what you need to know about credit card imprinters.

The credit card imprinter has become somewhat a dinosaur in the digital age. Although it wasn't always that way. To figure out exactly what credit card imprinters are, and where they came from however, let's take a brief walk through history. 

Credit card imprinting — a quick history lesson

Credit card processing has been around, in one shape or form, since the early 1900s. The first major credit card, as we know them today, was the Diners Club Card, introduced in 1950.

Since then, as you have more than likely noticed, the business of credit cards has charged steadily ahead. By the late 1960s, credit cards were spreading across America like a hoard of locusts.

Along with all these credit cards, came the need for some type of credit card processing system needed to be put into place. Not just by the banks and subsequent credit card companies that have sprung up in relatively recent times, but also at the store or merchant level.

Even though there were a number of methods, machines, and modes used to process credit cards in the early years, the credit card imprinter was one that quickly rose to prominence.

What is a credit card imprinter?

For starters, if you are less than 20 years old, chances are pretty good that you have never even seen a credit card imprinting machine, and chances are also pretty good that you probably never will (except for maybe at the random antique shop or local flea market).

Credit card imprinters have earned the somewhat dubious distinction of being counted among the ever-expanding ranks of the technologically obsolete or nearly obsolete items, such as cassettes and DVDs, landline telephones and film cameras.

A credit card imprinter is a non-electronic, manually operated machine that makes an imprint (hence the name) of the face of your credit card and transfers it onto a double receipt. Once an imprint of your credit card is successfully accomplished, you sign it, and the proprietor or shopkeeper rips the perforated edge, keeps the original (top) copy and gives you the imprinted (bottom) copy.

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The majority of these devices were about the same size and shape of a standard hand-held adding machine (if you remember those). Most retailers and other businesses in the 21st century use electronic barcode readers of some type; however, some businesses still need to use an imprinter, especially if they are processing credit cards without a printer.

A number of companies today utilize manual credit card machines like these imprinters for several purposes, such as when they are taking a customer's order face to face and want or need to key in the card information later at a virtual terminal. Some companies use them as a backup option when their electronic credit card scanners break down or there's a power outage.

In addition to being an essential backup, manual credit card imprinters can still be relevant in today's high-tech and computerized business world. You can find manual credit card imprinters in myriad retail stores, restaurants and financial institutions.


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