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RFID Vs. Prox Cards: What are the differences between them?

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RFID Vs. Prox Cards: What are the differences between them?

Modern companies, especially ones with hundreds or thousands of employees, have increasingly complex access requirements. After all, when you’re running a small campus for your business you can’t just have anyone wander in and take a look at your valuable data, or pose a threat to executives by getting into management areas. That’s where RFID and prox cards are incredibly useful assets. Learn more about what RFID cards and proximity cards are, the main differences between the two and which option is right for your organization’s needs. 

What are RFID cards?

A radio frequency identification card, or RFID card, is a type of card that uses wireless communication to identify and track specific items. It operates by utilizing the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. It features an integrated circuit (memory chip) and an embedded antenna. With RFID technology, a reader can read and write the encoded digital information stored on the RFID card. In simpler terms, an RFID card is a card that can be wirelessly communicated with to send and retrieve information stored on it, without requiring direct physical contact or line of sight.

What are proximity cards?

Proximity cards, or prox cards, work primarily when they are within a very small radius of a card reader. These use a simple embedded antenna to transmit information to the reader and are mostly used for access control. The majority of proximity cards are read-only, meaning that there is no way to add new data to the card once it has been issued. A prox card doesn’t need to be inserted into a reader, but is mainly useful when within a few centimeters of the reader. 

The differences between proximity cards and RFID cards

There are a few fundamental differences between proximity cards and RFID cards that make a big difference when you are deciding on a tool for your organization to use for access control in the coming years. Investing in one of these systems is a big commitment and is likely a choice that you are making for the long term. Some of the main differences between the two systems include:

Memory capacity

One key distinction between proximity cards and RFID cards lies in their memory capacity. Proximity cards possess limited memory, whereas RFID cards offer expanded data storage capabilities. The amount of information stored within the card's chip directly influences its functionalities. Put simply, a card with a larger data capacity can perform a wider range of tasks.

Potential range

The potential range that an RFID chip has is vast. It can go up to as far as 100 meters in an active system whilst still retaining a few inches worth of range when working passively. This can be ideal for companies that work on large campuses or need to know when someone is with a certain range of a receiver.

On the contrary, proximity cards work in a much shorter range. At most, this can reach as far as a few inches and often requires a line of sight. It’s a much simpler tool that takes less initial customization and modification, but its range limits it to working better in smaller companies with an individual office. 

Data-hosting potential

A proximity chip has a fairly simple construction in comparison to an RFID chip, meaning that it holds fairly simple data. It’s a low-maintenance option because of this, offering a simple PASS/FAIL database that allows access to doors and stops people from accessing locations that they don’t need to be in. 

Thanks to the greater complexity of an RFID chip, it can inform readers of a lot more. Not only is an RFID chip not susceptible to a data wipe, but it can hold further information such as transaction and location data from the user. If companies are looking to build their insights and increase productivity through data, RFID is the way to go. 


The simplicity of the proximity chip returns, as these chips only allow users to read information. This effectively means that they come pre-set with information and can’t be adjusted thereafter. Proximity cards are functionally limited to working with access control tasks thanks to this. 

On the contrary, RFID chips are designed to be constantly overwritten and updated. This makes them ideal for a wider range of applications and updating the permissions for the card as someone moves through a company. Not only does this make the RFID card more versatile, but it can significantly reduce waste from disposing of old proximity cards.

Which is right for my organization?

Although both RFID and proximity cards offer their own benefits, most organizations opt to use RFID cards. They offer a greater degree of flexibility and insight for a business without incurring too much of a cost and effectively futureproof your access control and database systems. Simpler companies with reduced needs can benefit from using proximity cards as a quicker and easier option, but there are vast benefits to be found when investing in the more complex and thorough alternative.

To discover more about RFID or proximity cards, and how they could benefit your organization, contact our team of specialists today.