How to securely destroy your card

Better than scissors


When I got my checking account, I specifically requested a check card with “photo security protection” (i.e. it has a photo on it). A couple weeks later, it arrived — but then the next day, I got a second card without a photo.

Puzzled, I went down to my branch (excuse me: “banking center”) and asked about it. The associate there had no definitive explanation, but did say that I should just cut it up and not activate it (I activated the photo card, but did not activate the non-photo card since I did not plan to use it, and wondered whether I should activate it anyway).

The problem with cutting something up is that it's impossible for a human to achieve small enough pieces to prevent the object being reconstituted — especially with a material as difficult to cut as plastic. What would really work would be a way to turn the card into a small pile of powder…


So I got out my dad's Dremel “Moto-Tool” (model number 380-5). It didn't have any bits with it (bought used), which meant a trip down to OSH to get the Dremel General-Purpose Kit, which includes a sanding bit.

Properly equipped, I set to work.

(By the way, my apologies for the photo quality. My Zire 71 and Photoshop are a good team, but not that good. Thanks to my mom for operating the camera; she did a good job.)

The card before I started.
This is what the card looked like as I received it from the bank. Except for the Photoshopped-in censoring. That was an aftermarket modification.

Removing the numbers.
Grinding the numbers off. You'll know you're done in a spot when the card background is removed, and you're down to white plastic.

Numbers removed.
The numbers, including expiration date, are all gone now (see that white plastic?). Only the name remains.

Name removed.
The name is gone too now. I clobbered the hologram with Photoshop (Noise + Crystallize).

I also got out my dad's old grinding wheel (you can see it in the photos so far). This was my original plan for after I had removed the numbers and name.

Card + grinding wheel = No.
This was how I planned to do it after the numbers were taken off. It didn't work, though; I ended up with a huge burr.

I gave up on that and switched back to the Dremel.

Back on the Dremel.
Back on the Dremel.

Making progress with the Dremel.
Still making progress with the Dremel.
The Dremel went through it pretty quickly. I'd guess that it took between 10 and 20 minutes.

What's left.
Here's what's left of the card.

I made one mistake: I was holding the card by the stripe edge, where I should have been holding it by the lower-right corner (from the perspective looking at the front). It's hard to hold onto the card by so little plastic.

This job leaves white powder everywhere. It's hard to see on the concrete, but it's everywhere.

The cup that caught the powder.
Here's the powder that I caught in the cup. You can see the huge burr in it that the grinding wheel created.

The powder, consolidated in one area of the cup.
I tapped the cup repeatedly to get all of the powder (well, most of it) to one area of the cup. This is the result. I think it shows off the handiwork better. And you can see the huge burr here too.

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