What is 'Jitter'

Jitter is an anti-skimming technique that distorts the readout of the magnetic strip by altering the speed or motion of the card as it is swiped or pulled into a card reader or ATM. Jitter is designed to make any information copied by a card skimmer unreadable, and thus unusable.

BREAKING DOWN 'Jitter'

Jitter helps combat card skimming, which is one of a variety of methods that criminals can obtain a credit or debit card number. In order to copy or “skim” the number, an individual may install a device that copies the information that is passed through the credit or debit card reader or ATM. These numbers are then used to make fraudulent purchases.

Jitter technology is designed to make it more difficult for illegal card readers to copy credit and debit card numbers. It is most likely to be found in ATMs and other machines that “draw-in” a credit or debit card for scanning, and is less likely to be a feature of machines that allow an individual to swipe his or her own card.

The jitter itself is a stutter in the timing of the card draw. This means that when an ATM accepts the card you insert, the machine does not take in the card at a steady pace, and may instead stop-and-start the scan. Many skimming devices require a smooth swipe in order to properly skim the numbers. Jitter technology does not work well in machines that allow an individual to dip in a credit or debit card manually. This type of swipe feature is typically found in older ATMs, but can also be found in more modern machines.

Jitter is not a full-proof method of fooling a credit card skimmer, but can help reduce the percentage of cards that can be read if a credit card skimmer has been installed.

Jitter technology is one reason that a credit card may fail to read when swiped, as the technology can cause problems with both legitimate card readers as well as card skimmers.

Jitter's Efficacy in a Fast-Changing Security Landscape

Jitter has been in use for more than a decade, but its ability to protect financial data is not what it once was. For instance, even more than five years ago, BankInfoSecurity, in 2012 a post titled "3 Reasons Skimmers Are Winning," took issue with the technology's prowess.

"The anti-skimming feature known as jitter, which uses a stop-start or jitter motion at the card reader to prevent card details from being copied, is a standard feature, but one that has been defeated," according to the site.

"Introduced more than seven years ago to the U.S. market by ATM manufacturers such as NCR Corp., Diebold, Fujitsu and Wincor Nixdorf AG, jitter remains the leading technology financial institutions use to prevent skimming. But jitter is only effective on ATMs with motorized card readers – readers that pull the card in, read the mag-stripe data and then push the card out. The technology is ineffective on machines with dip readers, in which the user manually inserts and withdraws the card."

RELATED TERMS
  1. Debit Card

    A debit is a payment card that deducts money directly from a ...
  2. Carding Forum

    A website dedicated to the sharing of stolen credit card numbers. ...
  3. Credit Card Funding

    Credit card funding is the use of a credit card account to provide ...
  4. Charge Card

    A charge card is a type of electronic payment card that charges ...
  5. Expired Card

    An expired card is a credit card no longer usable because its ...
  6. Universal Default

    Universal default allows a credit card company to raise a card’s ...
Related Articles
  1. Insights

    What Is The New Credit Card Chip Good For?

    Under current U.S. credit card requirements, credit card issuers are required to issue chip cards as of October 1, 2015. Instead of swiping your card as you do now, you will slide the card into ...
  2. IPF - Banking

    Credit, Debit and Charge: Sizing Up The Cards in Your Wallet

    Not all plastic is equal! Learn the difference between the three kinds, and how each can affect your finances.
  3. Insights

    How to Avoid the Hijacking of Your Credit Cards

    Arm yourself with these strategies on how to safely use your credit and debit cards, and protect yourself from fraud and identity theft with every swipe.
  4. Personal Finance

    3 New Types Of Credit Cards To Look For

    These three types of credit cards are becoming popular with customers looking to pay less fees and build up their credit scores.
  5. Personal Finance

    Debit Cards: Why They're Not As Safe As You Think

    Ditching your credit card can be a smart move, but debit isn't yet an equal alternative.
  6. IPF - Banking

    8 Ways To Avoid Getting Burned By Prepaid Debit Cards

    These cards have many differences from traditional debit and credit cards that can cost you money if you don't know what to watch out for.
  7. Personal Finance

    Purchases You Should Always Make With A Credit Card

    Credit cards aren't always bad possessions to have. There are certain perks associated with using credit cards as we make routine or irregular purchases.
  8. Personal Finance

    How To Get Your First Credit Card

    Here's a rundown of how you can go about getting your first credit card.
  9. Small Business

    How to Use Small Business Credit Cards

    A small business credit card can be a convenient way to increase your company's purchasing power, but must be carefully managed.
  10. Personal Finance

    10 Reasons To Use Your Credit Card

    There's a surprising credit card strategy you should employ as a consumer ... use your card for everything (or almost).
RELATED FAQS
  1. Debit card versus credit card

    Can't figure out which card to use when making a purchase decision? Here is everything you need to know about the differences ... Read Answer >>
  2. Am I Responsible for Fraudulent Charges on My Credit Card?

    If your credit card is stolen in the US, federal law limits the liability of card holders to $50, regardless of the amount ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center