Have you ever noticed that all the credit cards in your wallet are exactly the same size?
That’s because every credit card issued in the U.S. — and around the world — must be 3.375 inches wide by 2.125 inches high, according to requirements established decades ago by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Credit card issuers can get a little creative with their logo and some other design features, but there are rules regarding credit card size, including how high, wide, and thick they can be. (And, by the way, those same rules apply to debit cards and government-issued IDs.)
Read on to learn why, when it comes to credit cards, size matters.
Why Are All Credit Cards the Same Size?
It makes sense that all credit cards should be a uniform size so they can fit conveniently in the slots of any type of wallet. But that’s just a happy byproduct of card standardization.
The dimensions were put in place so that payment-processing technology can accept any credit card, no matter where the card came from or where it’s used. This means the same cards you use to make purchases or withdraw cash in the U.S. can go with you when you take a vacation trip to Paris, France, or any of the ISO’s member nations.
All financial transaction cards must follow the ISO’s ID-1 format. It specifies the dimensions of a credit card in inches must be 3.375 wide by 2.125 high, with a thickness of 0.0299 inches, and the corners must be rounded. The sequence of the digits in your credit card number and other card features also must follow standards set by the ISO.
When Did the Size of a Credit Card Become Standardized?
Although credit cards have gone through several major changes over the past 60 or so years—especially when it comes to developing new ways to pay and protect against identity theft—they’ve actually looked pretty much the same since the late 1950s.
There were different versions of credit “cards” before that — made from clay tablets in ancient times, dog tag-style metal plates in the 1930s, and even paper and cardboard in the ‘40s and ‘50s. But when American Express and Bank of America began issuing cards in 1958, and other banks followed suit in the next few years after that, credit cards quickly evolved to the size and shape they are today. Even that magnetic “swipe” stripe on the back has been around for decades: It was invented in the 1960s by an IBM engineer and became the standard worldwide by the early ’70s.
What Are Credit Cards Made Of?
American Express is credited with creating the first plastic credit card, in 1959, and that’s still what most cards are made of. A card is typically created using a plastic resin known as polyvinyl chloride acetate (PVCA) that makes it bendable, durable, and water resistant.
Some credit card companies also issue metal credit cards, which are sturdier than plastic cards and usually heavier, too. (We’re only talking about a few grams here, however, so not nearly enough weight to put extra stress on a pants pocket or purse strap.)
What Is the Weight of a Credit Card?
While most plastic credit cards weigh about 5 grams, metal credit cards—which may be made from stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, or a mix of metals—may weigh in at anywhere from 10 to 18 grams.
These heavier cards are sometimes considered more prestigious, as many premium cards are made of metal. And feeling that distinctive heft in your hand can make a metal card stand out from plastic cards. But metal cards aren’t as rare as they used to be. And the way a credit card works is basically the same no matter what material it’s made from.
If you’re thinking about applying for a credit card, you may want to start by finding the card that’s the best fit for you based on its financial benefits rather than its appearance or physical weight. It can be helpful to compare the type of rewards a card offers, if it has low or no fees, the interest rate and credit limit you can qualify for, as well as other perks.
Are There Other Design Features that Can Vary?
Although all credit cards are the same size and share other important features, if you lay out your credit cards side by side in front of you, you’ll also likely spot a few differences.
Your credit card number may be on the front of some cards and on the back of others, for example, and those numbers might be flat or slightly raised (embossed). There may or may not be a space for your signature. And the security hologram and code verification value (CVV) — features that are there to protect you from fraudsters — also may vary a bit from card to card.
The magnetic stripe and chip used for making payments are located in the same spot on every card, though. Again, this is designed to make processing transactions as universal and convenient as possible. Mastercard plans to slowly get rid of the swipe stripe on its cards, however, starting in 2024.
Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card
Although there have been significant advancements over the years in how credit cards can be used, how payments are processed, and the technology that helps shield consumers from theft, the standard credit card size and shape hasn’t changed in decades. And thanks to the international standards that dictate credit card dimensions, all your cards should fit in any card reader used worldwide — and in the slots in your wallet.
This means you can focus on other factors when choosing which credit card or cards you want to own, including the card’s interest rate, the types of rewards offered, and other benefits and protections.
Looking for a new credit card? Consider a rewards card that makes your money work for you. With the SoFi Credit Card, you earn cash-back rewards on all eligible purchases. You can then use those rewards for travel or to invest, save, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. (It’s also a pretty good-looking card… if you’re into that sort of thing.)
What size is a credit card in centimeters?
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) specifies that credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards must be 8.56 cm by 5.398 cm (which is 85.6 mm by 53.98 mm, or 3.375 inches by 2.125 inches). The ISO standard for credit card thickness is .076 cm (that’s .76 mm, or about .03 inches).
What is the print size on a credit card?
Print size, font, and color may vary from one credit card to the next. Some credit card issuers even allow their customers to personalize a card with their own custom or semi-custom design.
How can visually impaired consumers tell a credit card from a debit card?
Credit card issuers are increasingly moving away from using raised letters and numbers as part of their card designs. Mastercard, for instance, plans to introduce the Touch Card, which uses a distinctive notch on the side (rounded for debit, squared for credit, triangular for prepaid) to aid those who may struggle to identify the card they’re using.
Photo credit: iStock/Sitthiphong
SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back rewards when redeemed to save, invest, a statement credit, or pay down eligible SoFi debt.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.