How to Use a Credit Card to Unlock a Door

Everyone has been locked out of a home, apartment or room where they really needed to be. Sometimes, there's someone who can bring you a set of keys, or open the door for you on the other side. But there are also those tricky situations when there aren't any options but to pop the door open with a credit card.

Stack of multicolored credit cards close-up
credit: Kwun Kau Tam/iStock/GettyImages
How to Use a Credit Card to Unlock a Door

This handy trick works best for lockset doors where there's a gap large enough to fit a credit card through.

How a Lockset Works

Opening a door with a credit card works on a lockset because it's a lock that has a barrel that fits through the strike of the door jam. As long as the lock is turned, the door won't open. It does move a little, though, when a door knob is turned, even if the door is locked. Because there's that little bit of movement, the door can be opened if something thin and flexible – but still rigid – is used to slip over the end of the barrel. Once it gets in the space between the door jamb and the lockset's barrel, the door will open with enough pressure.

A door won't open with a credit card if it has a stop that's mounted on the outside jamb because that covers the gap. If the gap is covered, there's no way to jiggle the knob and slip the credit card in to push the barrel.

Using the Card

Pick a card that you don't mind losing in case it bends or is damaged in any other way. Slide the card into the gap between the door and the jamb. Keep sliding it in until it touches the barrel of the lock. While you slide the card in, jiggle the handle so that it goes down a little as you keep putting pressure against the barrel with the card.

With enough pressure, the door should open when the knob moves a little and there starts to be more space for the card to go through.

When to Avoid the Card Method

Though unlocking a door with a credit card works on lockset doors, it does not work on deadbolted doors. Deadbolts are locks with a spring, and cannot be opened unless you are using a key. They're more secure than locksets, which is great for home security but not for breaking into an apartment you may have accidentally been locked out of.

Credit cards do not unlock electronic locksets that have entry pads that can only unlock themselves with a key or specific passcode. Like a deadbolt, the door can't be jiggled to create a space large enough for a credit card to fit through.

When it comes to those two types of doors, it's best leave an extra key with a friend or neighbor, or call a locksmith to help open the door.