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The Complete ID
Printer Buyer's Guide

This guide walks you through all the important considerations you'll need to know when selecting an ID card printer.

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Encoded ID Cards

Encoded ID Cards

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Encoded ID cards are specially designed to hold and share data. Whether they track points for membership rewards programs or work as key cards for buildings, encoded cards add functionality to ID card programs beyond basic identification.

Barcode ID Cards

To print and encode barcodes does not require special technology cards or advanced software. Because of this, barcodes are the easiest and most affordable encoding option. There are several types of barcodes you can choose to include on your ID cards, including 1D barcodes and 2D barcodes.

Barcode ID Cards Are Best For:

  • Membership & Reward Cards
  • Time & Attendance Programs
  • Library Cards

Magnetic Stripe ID Cards

Magnetic stripe cards are a popular and easy option for encoded ID cards, common in retail and hospitality businesses. To encode a magnetic stripe card you will need a printer capable of encoding the cards, software that can encode the data, and a magnetic stripe card reader.

Magnetic Stripe Cards Are Best For:

  • Membership & Reward Cards
  • Hotel Room & Key Cards
  • Cashless Payment Cards

Proximity ID Cards

Proximity cards (also known as prox cards or access control cards) are used as digital key cards to unlock doors. Proximity cards must be ordered from a secure supplier and can’t be encoded in house; this prevents keycards from being fraudulently duplicated.

Proximity ID Cards Are Best For:

  • Data & Information Storage
  • Access Control
  • Security

Smart ID Cards

Smart cards, a general term that includes several types of more advanced encoding, require a printer with an encoding module and software to encode the cards. If you’re printing on smart cards, you should only use reverse transfer printers—smart cards can have uneven surfaces and may damage the printhead on a dye sublimation printer.

Smart ID Cards Are Best For:

  • Cashless Payment Cards
  • Data & Information Storage
  • Multifunctional ID Programs