I don't keep track, but if I had to guess, I'd say I swipe cards through point-of-sale terminals around 50-100 times at Walmart store locations every month. That doesn't make me an expert, by any means, but it does give me a lot of individual datapoints to work with. And last week, I found that my swipes were being rejected more or less consistently.
At the same time, I noticed that the point-of-sale software on the customer-facing terminal had been slightly updated, with a different arrangement of the icons and slightly different background color.
I have no idea if the two were connected, but I figured out the solution my problem, so if any readers are running into the same roadblock, I hope this helps.
My old swipe: slow and deliberate
When you deal with a lot of different point-of-sale systems, you develop a certain habit of swiping cards. Mine was not too fast, not too slow, but just the right speed while making sure the card was flush against the swiping surface.
But last week, my old swipe started failing over and over again, with a customer-facing message of "card read error."
My new swipe: greased lighting
After running into this problem at multiple store locations running the new point-of-sale software, I tried something completely different: I tried swiping a card through as fast as I could. Uncomfortably fast. Dangerously fast.
And it worked. The same machines that were rejected my careful, deliberate swipes started eating up my lightning-fast swipes.
If you haven't run into this "card read error" problem, then you're in luck: you don't have to change anything. But if you have been experiencing this problem and been frustrated, or even scared that you got a batch of bad cards or ran into a sudden change in policy, hopefully this will set your mind at ease and get you up and running again.