Storing information on your cards takes a simple photo ID or membership card and turns it into a multifunctional, time-saving device. But how do you decide between magnetic stripe and prox cards? It depends on how you’ll be using the card.

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic stripe cards are the most popular option for storing data on a card, used in a wide variety of ways:

  • Bank cards and credit cards
  • Hotel key cards
  • Door keys at businesses
  • School ID cards
  • Public transit passes

The format of data on a magnetic stripe card is fairly flexible, allowing you to store different types of data and use them in a range of applications. This flexibility is the major benefit of magnetic stripe cards.

To read a magnetic stripe card, you swipe the card through a reader. This physical contact with the reader can wear down the card over time, unlike a prox card that doesn’t need to physically touch a reader to work.

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Proximity Cards

Proximity cards, also called prox cards or access control cards, are a type of smart card that acts as a door key to replace the traditional key and lock.

Prox cards can only send data, and are only encoded with the building’s access code to unlock the door. So while they are extremely useful, they are not as flexible as a magnetic stripe card – but you can print on some styles of prox cards or use 10mil adhesive-backed cards, so they are still used as employee ID cards.

Unlike a magnetic stripe card a prox card only needs to come within close range of the door reader to work, so they don’t experience the same wear and tear a magnetic stripe card experiences.

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So Which Card do I Need?

If you only want the card to unlock doors to help secure your building, prox cards are your best bet.

If you want to use the card for other uses including payment cards or library cards, a magnetic stripe card is the better option.