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ID Card Technologies: Magnetic stripe cards vs. proximity cards

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ID Card Technologies: Magnetic stripe cards vs. proximity cards

In today's tech-driven world, the need for secure and efficient identification systems has never been more important. One of the most common forms of identification technology used today is ID cards. These cards come in various shapes and sizes and are used in various settings, from schools to corporate offices to government agencies.

One of the primary ways in which ID cards differ is in the technology used to store and transmit data. Two of the most common types of ID card technologies are magnetic stripe cards and proximity cards. In this blog post, we will explore the pros and cons of both technologies and explore which of these technologies is then better choice.

Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic stripe cards have been around for many years and are still used in various settings today. These cards, which have a magnetic stripe on the back, contain data that can be read using a magnetic stripe reader. When swiped through the reader, the information on the stripe is transmitted to the system, allowing the user to gain access or perform certain functions. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is a credit card, though today we are seeing increased use of chip and contactless technologies, as an alternative. 

Here are some of the pros and cons of using magnetic stripe cards:


  • Low cost: Magnetic stripe cards are relatively inexpensive to produce, making them a popular choice for organizations with large numbers of employees or members.
  • Familiarity: Many people are familiar with magnetic stripe cards and know how to use them.
  • Widely accepted: Magnetic stripe readers are widely used and can be found in many different settings.


  • Security: Magnetic stripe cards are not very secure. The data on the stripe can be easily copied or skimmed, allowing unauthorized individuals to gain access to secure areas or sensitive information.
  • Wear and tear: Magnetic stripe cards can become damaged over time, rendering them unusable. This can be a nuisance for organizations with lots of employees or members who require replacement cards frequently.
  • Limited data storage: Magnetic stripe cards have a limited amount of space on the stripe, meaning they can’t store as much data as other types of ID cards.

Proximity Cards

Proximity cards are a newer type of ID card technology that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to transmit data. These cards contain a chip and antenna that transmit a unique code when the card is held within a few inches of the reader. They are essentially a type of smart card that controls access and security to certain areas of an organization. 

Here are some pros and cons of using proximity cards:


  • Security: Proximity cards are more secure than magnetic stripe cards. The data on the card can’t be as easily copied or skimmed, making it much more difficult for unauthorized individuals to gain access to secure areas or information.
  • Durability: Proximity cards are more durable than magnetic stripe cards and are less likely to become damaged over time.
  • More data storage: Proximity cards can store more data than magnetic stripe cards, making them a more versatile form of identification. Allowing for the addition of information such as a facility number to be stored.


  • Cost: Proximity cards are more expensive than magnetic stripe cards, making them a less attractive option, if cost is your primary concern.
  • The need to upgrade infrastructure: If an environment is currently using magstripe cards, there may be significant upgrades that need to take place before proximity cards can be used – this will include new readers, servers and other access control equipment. Though this isn’t a concern for new system installs.

Why you should choose proximity cards

In summary, proximity cards are a superior option to magnetic stripe cards. While magnetic stripe cards may be cheaper and more widely used, they are less secure and more susceptible to wear and tear. Proximity cards, on the other hand, are durable, secure and versatile. Proximity cards also don’t rely on card readers to physically read the information stored on the card – they just have to be near a reader to allow access. 

Magnetic stripe cards can also be interfered with by other magnetics, but the information on a proximity card cannot be altered, making them the best choice for organizations that require a high level of security and data storage. You can even request for some proximity cards to be already encoded by the manufacturer or on-site.

If you are currently using magnetic stripe cards, we recommend that you consider upgrading to proximity cards to ensure the safety and security of your organization’s data and assets. At ID Cards Direct, we have a wide range of proximity cards for any business. From HID Prox Cards to SwiftProx cards, there is something for every organization’s security needs. Browse our range of proximity cards to find out more.