ID Cards

The 4 Most Common ID Card Types


With so many features and variations to choose from, deciding which ID card is best for your badging and access control program can be an overwhelming task. To help you in your search for the right Proximity CardsID card, check out our informative video. You’ll gain a better understanding of the different types of available ID cards and which features and functionality meet your specific business needs.

Proximity Cards
These are printable, credit-card sized cards and feature an antenna and electronic chip “sandwiched” between two thin plastic cards. The antenna and chip combination is used to interface with an access control system to provide entrance to a location.

Available in numerous formats, you’ll need to choose the proximity card format that your access control system is configured for. If you’re unsure of what format you need to order, simply check the box of your current prox cards. Normally, the card’s format is labeled on the box. If it’s not, you can always call a friendly ID Professional at (800) 321-4405 for help.

Unlike barcodes or magstripe cards, proximity cards do not require contact with the prox card reader, so they tend to have a longer lifespan. ID Wholesaler carries a wide variety of prox card brands and formats to accommodate your business requirements, including:

  • Standard PVC – A great all-around card option, particularly when used with direct-to-card printers. Graphic-quality PVC ID cards have flat, clean edges and surfaces with no surface contaminates like dust, oils, or fingerprints. The high-quality PVC cards we carry are all vision inspected or optically scanned to verify their purity and cleanliness.
  • Clamshell  Larger and thicker than standard prox cards, clamshell cards can be programmed the same way. These are typically used with printable adhesive cards and allows for reuse, as the adhesive would be removed if different credentials are printed on them. Adhesives come in both Mylar and paper material, in two different card sizes. Businesses that provide credentials for temps or contractors would commonly use these cards for door access.
  • Composite – Ideal for retransfer (reverse transfer) and laminating printers to prevent card warping or for those using cards in extreme temperatures to prevent card cracking and brittleness. Business applications that may require IDs to be outdoors or in an industrial setting most commonly use this type of card to avoid breakage.

Who uses proximity cards?

  • School facultyPVC Plastic Cards
  • Government organizations
  • Businesses
  • Corporations
  • Anyone with an access control system and 125kHz card readers

PVC Cards
Plastic Polyvinyl Chloride – or PVC – are blank cards without any form of internal technology such as antennas or chips. In addition, they are the most commonly used card for photo ID. PVC cards are best used for visual identification where automated or proximity access control is not a concern.

The most common size used is a standard “credit card” size, also known as CR80. PVC cards are also available in CR79 (usually adhesive-backed) and CR100 (for events) sizes.

What are PVC cards used for?

  • Membership cards
  • Student ID
  • Medical IDSmart Card with Chip
  • Employee ID
  • Anywhere ID is needed but access control capability is not

Smart Cards
These technology cards have an embedded chip with accessible memory and a microprocessor capable of executing programs. Smart cards are most often used for applications where you need to keep track of a value associated with the cardholder.

Smart cards are available in two different variations:

  • Contact (exposed chip)
  • Contactless (antenna)

What are smart cards used for?

  • Network security
  • VendingSmart Card with No Chip
  • Meal plans
  • Loyalty programs
  • Transit cards
  • Electronic cash

Magnetic Stripe Cards
For organizations with an access or entry system that requires cards to be “swiped” for clocking in and out or employee identification, we carry magnetic stripe cards. Magnetic stripe technology can be added onto other card types as additional to store information. Magstripe cards are available in two types:

  • High coercivity
    Also called “HiCo,” high-coercivity cards are the most common and recommended type of magstripe. Due to their strong magnetic field, they retain data longer and are more durable. In addition, HiCo cards are resistant to damage from most magnetic fields.
  • Low coercivity
    Low coercivity – or LoCo – is most often used for short-term data storage such as hotel room keys or theme park passes. LoCo cards are used less frequently than high-coercivity cards and can be damaged by contact with a magnetic field.Magnetic Stripe Card

What is magnetic stripe technology used for?

  • Time & attendance
  • Lunch programs
  • Library cards
  • Credit cards
  • Access control

It’s important to remember that the type of cards you use are limited by the infrastructure you have inn place within your organization. For example, you cannot use a smart card with an access control system meant for 125kHz proximity cards.

Determining the right kind of card for your unique business needs can be overwhelming, and that’s why we want you to be educated with the right information before you purchase. We want to help you achieve a successful ID card issuance program and save you money in the process. Call a knowledgeable ID Professional today at (800) 321-4405 to discuss your needs and the card options we offer.

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