The One Time My Non-Metal Credit Card Saved Me…

The vast majority of credit cards are made of plastic, to the point that some people refer to paying with credit cards as “paying with plastic”. However, nowadays a good number of higher end credit cards are made out of other materials. For example, Chase’s Sapphire Reserve and Preferred, as well as the United Club card, are made of metal. But little did I register, with the “fancy” feel to the card comes some unforeseen consequences.

This brings me to an interesting story from over the weekend. I was at a restaurant (a Cracker Barrel, if you must know…I just really wanted a Pecan Streusel Apple Pie) waiting to check-out. When the cashier got to me, the credit card machine broke down. It wasn’t taking any cards—magnetic strips or chips or contactless, debit or credit. The manager got on the phone with the payment processor’s representative, and the line was building. Armed with just credit cards and no cash, with no ATMs nearby, I was kind of stuck. (I told you, I really wanted the pie).

And then, an employee took out a device from the back; one that I haven’t seen since my childhood.

A credit card imprinter that can only "process" cards with embossed numbers.

A credit card imprinter that can only “process” cards with embossed numbers.

Whoa. A credit card imprinter. At a Cracker Barrel. In suburban Philadelphia.

It took about 3 staff members to figure out how to properly use this ancient device. Meanwhile, I looked down at the shiny Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and had a mental “oops” moment. There were no embossed numbers on the card. The device wouldn’t be able to imprint the card.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve metal card does not have embossed numbers

The Chase Sapphire Reserve metal card does not have embossed numbers

But…but…but…I wanted the 3x points! I kid of course (ahem only partially…it’s a whopping 10 points after all), and went searching in my wallet. How about the Citi Prestige? Nope, it’s plastic, but there’s no embossed numbers there either. Fortunately, I had my Chase Hyatt credit card, which did have embossed numbers, and would earn me 2x points on dining.

The funny thing is, I was about to clean out my wallet earlier in the day, and was going to put away my Hyatt card, since I’d actually earn more points using the Chase Sapphire Reserve on any category that is bonus-ed on the Hyatt. But it turns out, the card saved me from holding up the line.

Click. Clack. The casher took an imprint, manually wrote down the balance, and had me sign on the invoice.

I had a feeling that they weren’t actually going to process the payment the old fashion way. Rather, they probably just needed a card number, and wanted a semi-official way to do so. They very likely just punched the numbers into the payment processing software once the system came back on line. But still, it was a pretty comical experience to say the least. And now have I some somewhat of a souvenir…

Invoice from the credit card imprinter

Invoice from the credit card imprinter

Sure, this “problem” isn’t unique to metal credit cards; many of Citi’s new plastic cards only bear printed numbers with nothing embossed. And this probably wouldn’t happen too often, but I know I’ll definitely make sure that I always carry a credit card that has embossed numbers! Or maybe it’s time I call Chase up and ask for a non-metal version of the Sapphire Reserve…

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Comments

  1. Sometimes the metal cards like my Marriott Premier Visa don’t like to play nice with old, well used swiping points. I tried to use it at a gas station once and the pump had a card reader that was so worn it couldn’t make good contact with my card when I swiped it. I just used a different card and it worked but it did happen. I do get compliments on my metal cards from merchants from time to time about how the card has heft and feels nice.

  2. So try renting a car in Costa Rica. Budget takes an imprint of your card on the paperwork to help prove the card was present. They use the electric version of the imprinter.

  3. I had that happen before while I was in line at Ikea waiting to make a multi-thousand dollar kitchen purchase with a brand new card that I needed to make minimum spend on. Clerk suggested that people go to the ATM and get cash. Ha. I stayed there until someone unearthed the old machine. No way was I losing out on the points and minimum spend bonus.

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