The real meaning of the dots and notches on your debit and credit cards

These and other features are becoming more common and they have all been developed to help the UK’s 2.2 million people with vision loss use their debit and credit cards more easily

Someone holding a NatWest credit card and showing braille dots
Dots, notches and other features can help blind and partially sighted people to use them

In the case of a new debit or Credit card You may have noticed some design changes over the last few years.

Cards increasingly have new features such as notches cut from an edge, raised dots on the main face, and the owner’s name imprinted, not embossed.

These changes are being made for the same reason – to help blind and partially sighted people use them.

Around 2.2 million people in the UK have some type of vision loss, according to the National Health Service, and 340,000 are blind or partially sighted.

Turn the clocks back ten years and most debit and credit cards were pretty much alike in shape, size, and functionality.

That meant many blind and partially sighted people had trouble finding them in their wallets, as it could be difficult to tell them apart from similarly sized loyalty and loyalty cards.

Map providers are changing their approach and designing maps for blind and partially sighted people


Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Choosing a debit card from a credit card could be as difficult as knowing which end of the card to put in a card reader.

So banks, encouraged by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) charity, began rolling out features designed to help blind people use their cards more effectively.

For example in 2015 NatWest and sister Ban RBS launched debit cards with notches on the side of the card.

This allows a blind person to know which end of a debit or credit card to put into a card reader.

It also lets them know that the card they hold is for payments.

RNIB chief operating officer David Clarke said some providers like Mastercard have different notch shapes for debit or credit cards.

Another useful feature is raised braille dots that let users know if they have a debit or credit card.

NatWest and RBS credit cards have four dots arranged in a line and debit cards have six dots in a rectangular shape.

Statewide debit and credit cards have the same dot pattern.

The four dots show users that they have a credit card



The NatWest cards also have other features to help those who are blind or partially sighted.

Phone numbers, for example, are printed in larger font to make them easier to read, and the card has a large contactless symbol to make it clear that PIN-free payments are possible.

Debit and credit cards may have all or some of the features listed above.

That’s because there’s no consensus on the perfect map design for blind and partially sighted people.

Because what works for one may not be ideal for the next.

A good example of this is that some blind people prefer the numbers on their card to be embossed and others prefer those numbers to be printed on it.

In the past, all bank cards were embossed, as previously the numbers for many transactions had to be physically read.

Now with more digital banking that isn’t needed, and so minting is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Card providers are moving towards printed numbers because they say these cards last longer.

But some blind people prefer the old style embossing.

An RNIB spokesman said: “When we have taken part in polls you usually get a 50/50 view.

“Many blind people like the embossing because it makes it clear that it is a bank card and not a customer card.

“However, there are many people who can see and they may prefer to print rather than emboss.”

Many banks offer blind people the option of using printed or embossed numbers.

RNIB’s Clarke said the charity has also encouraged banks to use color contrast on their cards.

For example, printing information in a color that contrasts with the background can help people with visual impairments read it.

Clarke added: “One thing I would like to say is that the financial institutions that we have worked with have taken the opportunity very positively to look at this and make sure there is a mechanism in place for people to understand know what card is in their pocket.

“It’s about financial independence and control.”

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Fry Electronics Team

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