Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Blog Articles for

Archive for the ‘Credit Cards’ Category

Custom Printing: How Are Credit Cards Printed?

Sunday, July 30th, 2023

Photo purchased from …

The Printing Industry Exchange Blog is #12 of the best 40 digital printing blogs, as selected by FEEDSPOT.

We live by credit. I’m surprised computer chips have not been embedded in our bodies yet. “Chaarrrrrrrgggge It!” That’s what Fred Flintstone’s wife used to say back in the early 1960s cartoons.

But how are credit cards printed or, rather, manufactured (since custom printing is only one element of these tools of commerce)?

First of all, credit cards fit into the category of commercial printing called “functional printing.” The other two categories I would identify are promotional printing (with the goal of convincing someone to buy something) and educational printing (with the goal of teaching readers something). As an aggregate, these categories would cover everything from a traffic sign to an annual report to a textbook.

Functional printing is printing that is part of a product (with the goal of improving its usability). This includes the traffic sign, the letters on your computer keyboard, the temperature markings on your stove and toaster oven, and the notations on your car dashboard. (Try using any of these products without these notations.)

Any lettering and decoration on credit cards fit into this category of functional commercial printing.

How Are Credit Cards Produced?

I went to school on this subject, and I found that most credit cards are produced at CPI Card Group near Denver, Colorado. All credit cards (and all pieces of plastic used to make them, as well as the data itself) are tracked by computer throughout the manufacturing process to ensure the protection of all credit information.

The cards CPI produces include credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, transit cards, and so forth. These range in complexity from simple cards to cards with EMV smart chips, from plastic cards to metal and even wood cards.

The first step in the process is aesthetic, making the “look” of the card visually consistent with the bank’s or retailer’s brand image. This design step may include simple graphics or even more complex imagery such as holograms.

Using magnetic ink printing or custom screen printing (with various colored inks and dyes made specifically to adhere to non-porous plastic substrates), the commercial printing vendor takes thick sheets of plastic (which have been composed of various chemical compounds heated to a liquid consistency, molded, and then flatted into sheets using rollers) and prints multiple cards at once. One sheet is used to print the front of all cards, and another sheet is used to print the back of these same cards. This allows the manufacturer to encase the magnetic strips and other electronics between the two sheets (and have room in the plastic to cut holes for inserting the EMV chips). Then the commercial printing vendor can laminate the cards.

The addition of the magnetic data strip (in some cases using hot stamping) must follow lamination, so the magnetic particles (metal oxides) in the ink and data strips will not be obscured.

Once everything has been printed and the electronic components have been inserted/assembled, heat is used to bake the two plastic sheet layers together.

As noted before, multiple cards are produced at once. One article I read noted upwards of 60 cards produced at the same time, laid out to be printed in multiple sections on the plastic custom printing sheets.

Once the cards have been printed and laminated and then cut down into individual cards, these can be personalized. This would include adding the cardholder’s identifying information (such as embossing the credit card numbers) and printing the expiration date and security code. Also, the computer chips that have been inserted into cutouts in the cards can be programmed to record individual credit transaction information.

All of this personal and credit information must be both accurate and secure. Moreover, the cards themselves (the plastic) and the printed decoration (branding), as well as the computer chips and magnetic strips, must all be both functional and durable (because the cards need to last a long time and tolerate abuse).

Even the plastic of the cards has to be appropriately mixed and of sufficient strength to not break or chip during use or storage. And the colored pigments used in the inks must be color faithful and durable. Finally, all of the digital information programmed into the magnetic strips and computer chips must be accurate, secure, and incorruptible.

Incorporating Special Qualities and Characteristics Into the Cards

Some of these cards can be treated (in terms of design and composition) to stand out and reflect a premium image. For instance, you can get cards that are made of metal or wood. Some can incorporate transparency or holographic imagery. One article even mentioned scratch-and-sniff cards that incorporate liquid in beads that can be scratched to release odors.

For regular cards, due to the ganging up of individual jobs, the cost can be as little as 10 cents per card, or, when adding electronic components or premium base materials such as metal cards, the unit costs can rise to $1.00 to $2.00 (“How a Credit Card Is Made,” written by Some of these cards can even be read without being touched, just by waving them over a card reader.

What Does the Future Hold for Credit Cards?

According to “How a Credit Card Is Made,” your cell phone can already operate as a credit card by using capabilities of its SIM card. Cell phones operate with NFC technology (near field communications), and this technology can be used to transfer credit information for contactless payment. According to the article, the first step will be to transition credit card information to the cell phone, but after that, the information will be uploaded to the internet for credit payments.

But will this mean the end of physical credit cards? Apparently, the answer is no, because cell phone batteries run out of power, and cellphones lose their signal connections or just plain break from time to time. There needs to be a back-up plan, so the tried-and-true credit card will always be needed. Moreover, so much goes into making the credit card graphically appealing that people will always want a physical credit card.

The Takeaway: What Does This Mean to You?

Most of you probably do not design credit cards. I, for one, do not. However, it is eye opening to realize that the greater portion of commercial printing (or at least a huge portion of it) is for functional printing uses rather than educational or promotional printing uses.

Functional printing often (but not always) relies on screen printing technology. After all, you’re often not printing on a flat surface or even on paper.

But the common theme of all functional custom printing is that it has a utilitarian purpose: It tells you how to use the piece of equipment on which the words have been printed.

Beyond that, as product designers will tell you (such as OXO Good Grips’ product designers, who envision and then produce home-oriented tools, such as kitchen implements), appearance and feel are integral to the overall appeal of a product. Functionality (and the overall experience of using the item) is a major part of this, one inseparable from, and intertwined with, its visual and tactile appeal.

With this in mind, all of the aesthetic characteristics of today’s credit cards will keep people wanting them for a long, long time.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved