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Cut-up credit card Sat, Jan 28, 2006
What do you do with old credit cards?  You cut them up into little pieces and throw them out.  But is that good enough? 

I performed a little experiment to try to figure it out.  I took an American Express gift card (picture 1) and cut it up into a bunch (41 to be exact) of little pieces (picture 2) and tried to put it back together again (picture 3).  Actually, I did more than just try; I succeeded.  What I found was pretty interesting: 

1.  The whole process took about 30 minutes.  It was started and completed during my lunch break. 
2.  Random sizes and shapes of pieces didn't make it any harder.  Actually, it might've made it easier because certain pieces could only fit in certain spots. 
3.  The design on the credit card made it easier.  I tried this one time in the past with an Old Navy credit card, which is full of colors and designs.  The patterns of the lines and shapes made it easier to match up with similar pieces. 

Conclusion:  If a person can complete a puzzle, they can reassemble a cut-up credit card.  I'm not sure if this is useful in any way.  I'm assuming it would be possible to just read the name and numbers off the card and use it to buy things online.  It obviously couldn't be taped back together and used at a store. 

I'm not sure what the solution would be to prevent this problem.  I would say to cut it up into smaller pieces, but I think that would just turn it into a slightly more complicated, though completely possible, puzzle.  Another way to fool a would-be cut-up credit card thief would be to put the cut-up pieces in several different trash cans or several different trash collecting cycles.  This would complicate the process of collecting all the little pieces, though it would still be possible to do.  The only really fool-proof solution is to burn the old credit card, turning it into a pile of melted plastic. 


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