thanks DTLow and PinkElephant
I was not aware the business card recognition is a paid feature and that must have changed recently. That solves the riddle since I am not a premium account.
I will look for a replacement card reader and welcome your recommendations. So many promoted and I just tried CardHQ which is cumbersome and doesnt really save time with all the manual steps. The scannable linkedin feature was a bonus but adding a bunch of cards into contacts and having them accessible to phone/email etc is a real value.