How can I make my credit cards thinner?
May 31, 2011 1:35 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my credit cards thinner?

I'd like to make my credit cards thinner so that my wallet is as thin as possible. Is there any way to do this? My credit cards include Visa, Amex, CostCo card, Starbucks card. Most have magnetic strips on them.
posted by vacannondale to Work & Money (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There is no way to do this without damaging the cards.
posted by valkyryn at 1:36 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Besides the obvious snark of "why do you need so many credit cards", I don't see how there would be a way to do this.

The front sides have raised writing and numerals that are a fixed hight. I suppose you could file those down by a fraction of a centimeter, but at some point you will lose the detail of the writing. The back side can't be touched because your magnetic strip will always be there.
posted by Think_Long at 1:43 PM on May 31, 2011

I don't think there is a way to do this.. credit cards are pretty slim as it is.

You could do what I do and have two wallets. I have one "every day" wallet with my id, bank card, etc in it. I have another that holds the stuff I don't use all the time.

I mean, you don't need your costco card until you go to costco - right? No reason to carry it around everyday.
posted by royalsong at 1:43 PM on May 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

You can take fine grit sandpaper and buff them down (on the front side). My mom's got some credit card-type membership card that she's carried around in her walled for at least a decade: the raised numbers and letters are all worn down from getting pulled out of/shoved in a wallet so many times. The card is much thinner than newer cards, just as a matter of course.

However, you won't be able to read anything on the front of the card, and if you ever have to hand it to a store clerk, they might think you stole it.

I think it's a bad idea, but to each his own.
posted by phunniemee at 1:43 PM on May 31, 2011

Some card issuers make mini cards meant to go on keyrings. With the right wallet you could fit two of those in the space normally occupied by one card.
posted by jedicus at 1:44 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can alternate their orientation. The embossed numbers stick out from the card.

A card:


Four cards, stacked in the same direction.

| | | |

Four cards, alternating their orientation.


Whether this is worth your time is another question.
posted by zamboni at 1:45 PM on May 31, 2011 [13 favorites]

Maybe you need a skinnier wallet.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2011

Seconding the slimmer wallet suggestion. I got a wallet from and It's been awesome.

This wallet full of everything is about the same thickness as my old leather wallet while it's empty.
posted by utsutsu at 1:57 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make a secondary wallet for the cards you don't need every day, like the Costco one. Install the Starbucks app on your phone, it has a scannable barcode so you won't need to carry that card anymore. Maybe consider a Slimmy wallet.
posted by bcwinters at 2:06 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

The all-ett wallet won't make your cards skinnier, but it carries them side by side rather than stacked on top of each other, so the same amount of cards won't bulge out as much.
posted by zombiedance at 2:08 PM on May 31, 2011

By far the best way to do this is to carry fewer cards. You don't, for example, need to carry around your CostCo or Starbucks card all the time. What I did was get one of those aluminum card cases and put all my situational cards in it, and I keep the card case in my car. If I'm at CostCo, I take out the CostCo card. And so on.

Don't leave credit cards in there, obviously. Only cards which can't be used to steal your money. CostCo, Starbucks, grocery store loyalty cards, RiteAid or whatever card, and so on. You don't need those things in your wallet 99% of the time.
posted by Justinian at 2:14 PM on May 31, 2011

There's an app for that. Probably several.
posted by Trurl at 2:29 PM on May 31, 2011

This might not be an issue at some point in the near future: check out Google Wallet.
posted by halogen at 2:38 PM on May 31, 2011

The Costco and AmEx cards can be combined into one card . That will save a little space.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:50 PM on May 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your Sbux card is registered and you have a smartphone, there's a barcode app you can download that will scan at Sbux registers as well as keep track of your balance for you. That will eliminate the need to carry one of those around

If those are the only 4 cards you want to carry, I'd recommend getting one of those cloth/paper card sheaths from your bank (they feel like money) and keeping your cards in that. It'll be really tight at first, but the material stretches a bit to accommodate. I carry my debit card, library card, sbux card, grocery card, driver license, and insurance card in one, and it's hardly thicker than all those cards stacked up. I get 'em about 3 at a time, but they last for at least a year. Double bonus: they're meant to help protect cards with magnetic strips. I've never had an issue with one of my cards' stripes going bad.

As for cash/receipts, I carry my billfold in a paper clip (but even that's barely necessary) and just keep receipts loose in my pocket until I get home.
posted by carsonb at 3:24 PM on May 31, 2011

If you file down the element with the magnetic stripe (even from the other side) your card might not get read in swipe scanners. One trick they use in stores when cards aren't getting read is to put them into a thin plastic bag and try to swipe them - that's to increase apparent thickness.
posted by jedrek at 5:05 PM on May 31, 2011

Building on what jedicus said: you could also start carrying your cards (some of them, at least) on your keyring instead of in your wallet.

Whether this is a net gain is in the eyes of the beholder.
posted by box at 7:05 PM on May 31, 2011

Nthing all the skinny wallet recs. I have used all-ett for many years. Combine that with culling cards, 2nd wallet in the car for less-used, etc.
posted by LonnieK at 9:01 AM on June 1, 2011

Thanks for all the replies. Unfortunately, I have tried many of the suggestions, but I still want a thinner wallet achievable by thinner credit cards. So in summary:

I use the thinnest wallet they make
I have a second wallet for cards I dont use frequently
I live next to a costco and I walk there often so I keep the costco card in my wallet
The starbucks app doesnt work at all starbucks yet so I cant go that route (yet)
I cant combine the costco card with the amex card as I have no desire to have yet another credit card nor would I want to cancel any existing cards to replace it with the costco amex
The CardStar app is only for membership cards and not credit cards and is not applicable to any of my cards (I have just one membership card-- Costco-- and Costco does not support CardStar

Thanks for the suggestions that addressed the specific question-- how to have thinner cards.
posted by vacannondale at 2:17 PM on June 1, 2011

Get some magnetic strip material, adhere it to the opposite side/face of half your cards. I seem to remember 8-track tape being used for this purpose, but a little experimentation might be in order.

Buy a magnetic stripe encoder, read the data off the single sided cards and then write the data from the other half of the cards onto the new strips.
posted by Orb2069 at 7:21 AM on June 4, 2011

Thinner cards are coming anyway, just be patient. My current bank ATM card does not have raised/embossed characters (which are a holdover anyway, from the days when manual impressions of the card had to be made on carbon paper). I've heard this is going to be commonplace for all cards in the future.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:04 AM on June 24, 2011

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