I know in the days of paper credit card slips that the card details were raised so that the card could be used in an "embossing machine" to print the details using a carbon copy layer.

But does any country in the world now use this manual method ?

The downside of the raised characters is that once the shiny layer wears off them, it's difficult to read the numbers as they are the same colour as the background plastic.

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    In the USA, although very rarely. Even many modern POS operated restaurants still keep carbon copy scanners as a backup. – Austin French Sep 20 '16 at 15:51
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    I personally have a card that doesn't have raised characters (Capital One if you're interested) and as nice as it looks, its extremely frustrating. Because it's not formatted the same as all other cards, I miss out on conveniences everyone else has all the time. All the information is printed on the back of the card, so I cant use card scanning apps, and once a card processor was down and I couldn't use my card at all because they needed to make an imprint of it. – Elle_Underscore Sep 20 '16 at 18:16
  • I think 'yes taking an imprint still happens' is the answer if someone would like to put this and I will give it the tick. – PhillipW Sep 20 '16 at 18:26

Although the carbon slips are rarely used, even in the United States there is a market and need for them. Some older shops may still use them, and even the most modern stores may keep a set for outages of network, or credit card processors.

Also, I am not sure the card's raised letters would be suitable for a braille equivelent due to their small size:

Why not just use raised letters? Raised letters would have to be much larger than a fingertip. In addition, embossed dots are easier to recognize than the lines and curves of roman characters.



Not knowing the inner workings of ATMs the only thing I can think of is that they offer a great way for blind or partially sighted people to identify their bank cards separate to their loyalty cards and to figure out the correct orientation of the card when presenting them to the various machines.

As this answer is being marked down for a couple of things it does not say, I though I should clarify a couple of things:

  • The original question was about whether or not there was still value in the raised text on cards.
  • I am not suggesting that partially sighted people can actually read the numbers on the card - merely that the raised numbers provide a handy device for understanding the orientation of the card.
  • There may well be designs out there that also help visually impaired people to understand the orientation of the card but these require changes to the production of the cards which incurs costs to the card providers where the current card design does not.
  • Interesting point, particularly on orientation. – PhillipW Sep 20 '16 at 18:21
  • Ooh! I like this answer. This is probably not the original purpose of the raised numbers, but I can see them being used like this. – Ken Mohnkern Sep 20 '16 at 18:55
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    A bit of googling found this design for a card with a notch in to identify by touch which end of the card goes in the machine: rbs.com/news/2015/february/… – PhillipW Sep 20 '16 at 19:00

Yes, there's a point, and you kinda mentioned it:

The downside of the raised characters is that once the shiny layer wears off them, it's difficult to read the numbers as they are the same colour as the background plastic.

As you mention, it's difficult. Now, think of the same case, but this time without raised letters: ink has gone, you have no numbers or characters anymore, time to get a new card.

Additionally, the embossing method requires a specific kind of material that most people can recognize by touch alone. So when poking in your wallet looking for that damn card, it's way easier to recognize an embossed card than a flat card (try it and you'll see). For starters.... it will have a small space between each other card, something flat cards won't

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    I have a non embossed "loyalty" card which has black type embedded in the card which doesn't wear off and is much easier to read. If my bank offered this as an option I'd probably choose this over the embossed kind. I mainly use one card for internet shopping (I haven't seen a manual embossing machine in use here in the UK in 20 years). – PhillipW Sep 20 '16 at 19:50
  • well, but this is just one user case and a personal preference. Most cards wear off, embossed or not, but when ink is gone, a flat card simply loses it all, while an embossed card is still usable (with more or less complexity) – Devin Sep 20 '16 at 20:46
  • As a restaurant owner, I can tell you the raised letters mean nothing to me as I swipe the card and get a "processed OK" message from the processor. It's the magnetic stripe or chip that does the work, nothing else. – Rob Sep 21 '16 at 2:38
  • @Rob, I never said otherwise, as a matter of fact didn't even address that part of the process at all. But let's play the game: Last year I went to Mexico for vacations. Went to an outdoors place selling mayan pottery and stuff like that. Being a place for tourists, they accepted all payment methods, including credit cards. As you may figure, they didn't have a POS or any kind of electronic device. They pulled out that clunky artefact and used the credit cards the old fashioned way. Happily, my CC was embossed and I was able to use it. As you can see, real life cases are.... just real – Devin Sep 21 '16 at 3:36
  • It's a question which doesn't need a very large sample size as there is no direct design cost in having the embossing: so a small sample of feedback on here suggests that if embossing machines are still used in parts of the world then the embossing needs to stay. – PhillipW Sep 21 '16 at 8:34

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