Finding yourself locked out of your home or car can be incredibly frustrating. You frantically pat your pockets and search your bag, only to realize you don’t have your keys. Before you panic or call a locksmith, try using an ordinary credit card or gift card to unlock the door yourself. With some simple techniques, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to unlock a door with a credit card.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through step-by-step instructions on how to unlock various types of doors using a credit card or gift card. We’ll also provide tips and tricks to make the process smoother. By the end, you’ll know how to get yourself out of a locked-out situation quickly and easily using just a card from your wallet. No special tools are needed!
How Does Unlocking a Door with a Credit Card Work?
To understand how this technique works, you need to know a little about how locks function. Most door locks are pin and tumbler locks. This type of lock has an inner chamber that houses key pins and driver pins. When the correct key is inserted, the pins align at the shear line which allows the lock to open.
A credit card can manipulate these pins like a lock pick and align them properly to unlock the door. The rigidity of the card allows it to slide in and lift the pins to the correct height. The flexibility of the card also allows it to curve and move the pins so they sit at the shear line. Once all the pins are aligned properly, the torque from the card will turn the lock allowing the door to open.
Step-by-Step Guide to Unlocking a Door with a Credit Card
Now that you understand the basic principles behind this trick, let’s go through the steps to unlock common doors using just a credit card:
Unlock a Regular House or Apartment Door
What you’ll need: A credit card or gift card
- Start by inserting the card into the door frame near the lock at an upward angle. Slide it down so that it rests between the door frame and the lock mechanism.
- Wiggle and jimmy the card so that it pushes up the pins inside the lock. You’re trying to position the card so it can manipulate the pins to the correct height.
- Once you have the card in the optimal position, twist the doorknob to rotate the lock while keeping upward pressure on the card. The card acting as a lock pick should keep the pins lifted to the shear line allowing the cylinder to turn and unlock the door.
- Keep wiggling the card and turning the knob until you finally get the pins aligned properly and the door unlocks. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t work right away, you just need to find the right card position.
Unlock a Car Door
What you’ll need: A credit card or gift card
- To use a credit card on a car door, you’ll want to slide the card into the weather stripping seam around the door. This is the rubber seal that goes around the window to block out exterior elements.
- Push the card up as far as you can go on the side closest to the lock. Angle the card so it sits right above the lock mechanism.
- Push gently on the card to apply pressure to the lock while simultaneously pulling up on the door handle. The card should press down the locking knob allowing the door to open.
- You may need to slide the card around to different areas near the lock to find the right spot to press down the lock. Apply a gentle prying motion with the card until it disengages the lock and the door opens.
Unlock an Interior Door Knob Lock
What you’ll need: A credit card
- Interior door knob locks, like those found in bathrooms, can also be opened with a credit card. Start by sliding the credit card into the small vertical slot on the side of the doorknob.
- Angle the card so it’s pointed down like you’re trying to reach the internal mechanism.
- Once you have the card in the slot, rotate it 90 degrees so the short edge is facing the door frame. This will cause it to press down on the latch inside so you can turn the knob.
- Keep the card rotated 90 degrees while turning the doorknob with your other hand. Apply gentle pressure with the card to keep the latch depressed as you turn the knob. The door should unlock with the dual motion of the card and knob.
- You may need to wiggle or slide the card around to find the sweet spot that will press down the latch enough to unlock the door. Don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away.
Unlock a Deadbolt
What you’ll need: A credit card
Deadbolts are tougher to unlock than regular spring latches but it is possible with some finesse:
- Start by sliding the card into the vertical seam between the door frame and lock. Go as high up as possible.
- Angle the card downward so the tip is pointing towards the mechanism inside.
- Wiggle and slide the card around while applying gentle pressure. You are trying to move the internal spring-loaded bolt out of place so it disengages from the lock strike plate.
- Once you feel the card manipulating the spring bolt, apply a very light torque force to the card to try and rotate the lock open.
- Keep adjusting the card’s angle and position until everything aligns right to unlock the deadbolt. Having patience and a delicate touch is key for this to work.
Unlock Door Chains
What you’ll need: A credit card and heavy-duty tape
- If your door has a chain lock, you won’t be able to open it fully with just a card. But you can unlock the main lock and then use the card to bypass the chain.
- Slide the card through the gap in the doorway to try and lift the chain up and out of place. You want to lodge the card in the slide slot on the chain bracket.
- Have heavy-duty tape ready to hold the chain in the disengaged position. Tape the card in place so it keeps lifting the chain.
- With the chain lifted and held, you can now fully open the door. Use gloves for grip when handling the tape and card.
- Alternatively, you can tie a looped string around the card and then tape that to lift and hold the chain. Just be sure the card has tension so it doesn’t slip.
Unlock Security Door Latches
What you’ll need: Two credit cards
- Security door latches require two cards to unlock. Start by inserting one card into the door gap and slide it to press down on the latch bolt.
- Take your second card slide it between the door frame and strike the plate where the latch slides into place.
- Press this card inward while simultaneously pushing in the card lifting the latch bolt. The two-card motion mimics turning a key allowing the latch bolt to retract and the door to open.
- You may need to adjust the pressure and angle of both cards to line everything up correctly. Keep trying until the dual card motion retracts the latch.
What you’ll need: A credit card
- Any standard padlock with a spring-loaded shackle can be opened with card manipulation. Wedge the card in the seam of the padlock near the shackle.
- Push upwards with the card, using a see-saw motion, to compress the spring and release the shackle. Maintain upward tension on the card once the shackle is released.
- Slide the shackle out of the padlock while keeping upward card pressure. Allowing the shackle to retract back will relock the padlock so don’t release card tension.
- If the padlock has a double shackle, you may need to use two cards, one for each side. Apply even upward tension with both cards to release the shackle.
As you can see, just about any common door lock can be opened with an ordinary credit card or gift card. With some finesse, maneuvering, and patience, you can save yourself the cost and hassle of calling a locksmith. Just always be careful not to break the card or damage the lock in the process.
Tips and Tricks for Unlocking Doors with Credit Cards
Follow these tips to make your door unlocking easier:
- Try several different cards to find one with the ideal flexibility. Old hotel key cards work well. Gift cards are thicker than credit cards and tend to work better.
- Make sure to slide the card slowly and gently to prevent damage. Move the card in and out to find the right spot.
- Angle the card on a diagonal rather than straight in to better manipulate the lock parts.
- Apply very light pressure and torque when turning. Over-twisting can damage the card and lock.
- Try both horizontal and vertical card positions to see which works best for a particular lock.
- If one card isn’t strong enough, layer 2 or 3 cards together for extra strength and leverage.
- Spray lubricant like WD-40 into the lock first to help the pins move more smoothly when picking.
- Have patience and don’t get frustrated. Relax your wrist and fingers for better dexterity. It may take some time to get the feel.
- Practice first on your doors to get used to the unlocking techniques before an emergency arises.
Benefits of Unlocking Doors With Credit Cards
- You avoid costly locksmith fees which can run $50-$100 or more just to have your door unlocked.
- It takes just minutes to unlock your door versus waiting an hour or more for a locksmith to arrive.
- You can get yourself out of the predicament immediately instead of sitting around outside your house.
- No special tools or skills are required – only an ordinary card most people have in their wallets already.
- It doesn’t cause any damage or need repairs like forcing or drilling a door open.
- Great temporary solution for a broken key until you can get a replacement made.
- Allows you to retrieve keys locked inside without ruining the lock.
- Comes in handy in a variety of situations from being locked out of your house, car, shed, gate, etc.
Risks and Downsides
While very effective, there are some risks to be aware of:
- Picking locks illegally or without proper authorization may constitute trespassing. Only do this on your property.
- Older or cheaper locks may be easier to pick but also easier to break if too much force is applied.
- Locks can sometimes become seized up and completely stop functioning after too much card manipulation.
- Sharper door latches may slice up the cards during picking.
- Locked doors may be indicative of a dangerous situation inside. Use good judgment if picking a lock when no emergency exists.
- Someone could steal your credit card data by skimming the lock while you’re distracted picking it. Always retrieve your card once the door is unlocked.
While a simple everyday item, credit cards do take some finesse to work properly on locks. With practice though, you can add this clever trick to your repertoire to get yourself out of a jam when locked out of the house, car, shed, gate, or any other locked door in your life.
FAQ About Unlocking Doors with Credit Cards
Q: Can you unlock a house door with a credit card?
A: Yes, most spring latch house locks can be picked with a credit card using the right techniques. Insert the card in the door frame, wiggle it to lift the pins, apply tension, and turn the knob to unlock standard house doors.
Q: Will unlocking a door with a credit card damage it?
A: It’s possible to damage both the credit card and lock if you use too much force or torque. Apply very gentle, incremental pressure and twist slowly. Stop if the card starts to bend or the lock seizes up.
Q: How do you unlock a door with a credit card step-by-step?
A: Follow these basic steps:
- Insert the card at an upward angle into the door gap near the lock.
- Slide down and wiggle the card to lift the lock pins.
- Keep upward pressure on the card and slowly turn the doorknob.
- Adjust card angle/depth until the lock opens.
Q: What credit cards work best for unlocking doors?
A: Gift cards and old hotel key cards work better than regular credit cards. Their increased thickness makes them more rigid to lift pins more easily. Layering 2-3 cards can also work.
Q: Will this damage the credit card?
A: It shouldn’t damage your card as long as you are gentle with the twisting/prying pressure. Don’t bend the card too far or forcefully. Some minor cosmetic marks are possible from the pins.
Q: Which locks can be opened with a credit card?
A: You can unlock spring latches, knob locks, deadbolts, chains, padlocks, security latches and more. Keyed handle set locks are challenging. Practice first before relying on this in an emergency.
Q: Is it illegal to unlock a door with a credit card?
A: It is not illegal if it is your property. However, picking locks without authorization can be considered trespassing. Only do this on doors that you own or have permission to access.
Unlocking doors with a credit card is an incredibly useful life hack. It requires no special skills, only simple techniques anyone can master. In an emergency, you can get yourself out of a locked-out predicament fast and avoid waiting for locksmith help. Just be gentle, take it slow, and don’t force the lock. With practice, you can save yourself time, frustration, and money by keeping an old card handy to pick basic locks when needed. Just be sure you are always using this responsible method only on your property and locks.
Faizan Ahmad is a financial analyst and writer who specializes in investments, banking, and corporate finance. He has over 7 years of experience working in the finance industry in various roles.
He leverages his strong financial modeling and data analysis skills to provide insightful commentary on business, markets, and economic trends.
At Ventures Money, Faizan covers topics including Credit Card Reviews, Loans, Insurance, and Mutual Funds in the banking sector. He provides in-depth analysis of the latest news and trends to help readers make smart investment decisions.
Outside of writing, Faizan enjoys following the stock market, rooting for his favorite sports teams, and spending time with his family.