New Staples Visa gift cards got you down? Try these two weird old tricks

I like buying Visa gift cards from Staples. I buy a lot of Visa gift cards from Staples. But the new Staples Visa gift card design has been causing me enough frustration that it's started to disrupt my mellow manufactured spend lifestyle.

I was tossing and turning the other night, dreading liquidating the $600 in Visa gift cards I had in my sock drawer, when I had a vision, a vision of restoring my manufactured spend equilibrium.

Background: the new Visa gift card design

Via Miles to Memories, here's a handy picture of the "old" Visa gift card design (on the left) and the "new" Visa gift cards (on the right) that have been costing me so much tranquility:

Problem 1: glue used on new peels is sticky and gross

The previous generation of Visa gift cards could be liquidated right out of the package, once you'd removed any obstructing glue dots. The new card design still has the last four digits of the card number set as the default PIN, but the card number is itself covered by a peel that uses the stickiest, most inconvenient glue I've ever seen on a prepaid debit card. While removing the peel, and while being transported in your pocket or wallet, this glue gets everywhere, and can seriously affect the ability of the card to be swiped smoothly through magnetic readers.

Solution 1: don't remove the peel

Remember, you only need the last four digits of the card number in order to use the card as a PIN-enabled prepaid debit card. So instead of removing the peel completely, just peel back the right corner and jot down the last four digits somewhere — for example, on the card itself:

Once you've noted the last four digits, return the peel to its original position: no muss, no fuss.

Problem 2: stray scraps of terms and conditions coming off on cards

This has happened on one third of the cards I've purchased in the last few weeks: a random glue splotch causes a strip of the paper that the card's terms and conditions are printed on to come off on the card, directly opposite the magnetic strip. This catastrophe causes the card to catch every time it's swiped, making it frustrating or even impossible to liquidate using a magnetic card reader. Here's an offending example:

Solution 2: wrap it in receipt paper

This is a trick I learned years ago, but haven't had occasion to use in a long time. But while tossing and turning last night, I remembered: by wrapping a card in receipt paper, you can prevent irregularities in the card's surface from preventing the card's magnetic strip from being recognized. Just hold the receipt paper folded tight around the magnetic strip, position it at the top of the magnetic reader, and give it a smooth stroke:

Result: success on my first swipe, and no awkward insistence that my Walmart cashiers let me swipe my cards over, and over, and over again.