Difference Between RFID Key Card And Magnetic Key Card

There are two prominent technologies when it comes to access control. We have RFID key cards and magnetic key cards. As much as they do similar things, their operations are totally different. As such, you need to understand how they work and key differences. We also look at their use cases and which one you should get depending on the applications. Let us learn more about them below.

RFID Key Cards


Technology has really changed over time, and the same applies to radio frequency identification or RFID. This innovation has transformed many fields, especially access control systems, using RFID key cards.

These cards might be small and seem irrelevant, but they are crucial in our lives, making things easier. We can use them to secure our homes and offices, make payments, and more. Below, we delve deeper into RFID key cards to see how good they work and their diverse applications.

How RFID Key Cards Work


RFID key cards feature a tiny but powerful chip and antenna. The chip is the brain that contains all the essential information about the key card. This includes the unique identifier or access code. The antenna, on the other hand, is what facilitates wireless communication to and from the RFID reader.

Other than being in the form of key cards, you can have RFID technology as key fobs, bracelets, and other forms. However, the working remains the same.

RFID technology is loved for being wireless. This means it does not have to be in contact with the reader for it to work. You simply have to keep it in close proximity to the reader for it to be activated.

The reader emits electromagnetic waves, which activate the card for the data to be transmitted. This is for passive RFID cards, which are what you will get in the market most of the time. As for active RFID cards, they have power onboard, which means the card is always active and can be picked up by the RFID reader over several meters.

Once the card is the card, the RFID reader requests authentication information. The antenna should communicate this back. The reader then determines whether the data is right and whether the cardholder has authorization for access entry. That is how the key card would be used to open doors, make payments, and more.

Advantages of RFID key cards

There are several reasons people would consider RFID key cards. Such include;

  • Having enhanced security. This is important as you end up with unique identifiers and data encryption that enhance the security features. As such, the key cards can be used for securing facilities, research labs, and data centers.
  • The contactless convenienceis another reason you would feel it is worth choosing the RFID key cards. You just have to wave the card in front of the RFID card reader, and you will be let into the premises without a problem.
  • RFID key cards also feature multiple customization options. This ensures you can always have the right key card that suits your needs. This includes the name, department, photograph, colors, and more. Such customization will help with organizing and ease of identifying the cardholders.

Common Uses of RFID Key Cards


  • Access control systems in various industries
  • Hospitality and hotel industries
  • Making contactless payments

Magnetic Key Cards

magnetic card

Whenever you mention RFID key cards, people would inevitably compare them to magnetic key cards. One thing about these key cards is that they have been around for a long time, so people are familiar with them.

Magnetic key cards are commonly found in hotels, where they are used for protecting hotels and businesses worldwide. Even with the rise of new technology such as RFID, magnetic key cards still remain a top option in various fields.

How Magnetic Key Cards Work

While in the RFID key card, we had a chip and antenna; here, it is a magnetic stripe. It is found on the back of the key card. It is the one that stores information that would be needed to handle its applications.

You have to swipe or insert magnetic key cards into the reader. The reader will detect and read the contents of the card. Once the reader has verified the information, it will handle the request. For example, if the key card allows entry into the room, the magnetic stripe will have instructions telling the reader to open the door.

Advantages of magnetic key cards

Magnetic key cards are cost-effective, meaning many businesses and organizations will likely consider them an option. So, if you are on a tight budget, try the magnetic key cards. Both the cards and readers are affordable compared to other options in the market.

Also, compatibility with existing systems makes magnetic key cards a great choice. You can easily use them with the current magnetic key card readers without overhauling the whole system.

Durability is also good. These cards can last long, thanks to wear and tear resistance. Because of this, the card can remain functional for several years while in use. The durability also means using them even in harsh or wet conditions.

Common use cases

  • Making employee badges
  • Managing hotels and motels
  • In the banking and finance sector as ATMs.

The Comparison: Which To Choose

We live in a world where access control and security are very important. That is why we may have to consider choosing between an RFID key card and a magnetic key card. However, it is good to see closely how they compare first. How would you choose between the two? Below is a comprehensive comparison.

1. Technology and mechanism


RFID key cards use radio waves to communicate with the reader for authentication. This is done wirelessly so long as the card is within the reader’s proximity. Magnetic key cards must be inserted in the readers for them to be read. The data is read by detecting the changes in the magnetic field on the stripe.

2. Security


The RFID key cards offer higher security thanks to having encryption as an option. Also, you could include biometric information as part of the security system. The magnetic key cards will not have as robust security as the RFID key cards. This makes them less suitable for applications that demand high security.

3. Durability


Both RFID and magnetic key cards are highly durable. RFID key cards have no physical components that would wear out during use. As much as magnetic key cards are durable, they can potentially encounter stripe degradation depending on how often it is swiped through the reader.

4. Cost


RFID technology is cost-effective if you are looking at a long-term investment. The initial investment is always higher but evens out over several years of use. Magnetic cards are more cost-effective, especially for those needing entry-level access control.

5. Compatibility


As much as RFID key cards need specialized readers, it is easy to integrate RFID key cards from different manufacturers into the existing system. This can save you a lot of money rather than having to replace all of them. It is the same with magnetic key cards, as they also offer high compatibility with legacy systems.



RFID key cards have amazing security features, contactless convenience, and more customization choices. As such, many people might find them useful for their companies. Magnetic key cards are still resilient in simplicity, affordability, and working with legacy systems. That is why it is still found in many hotels today. So, because of functionality and needs, you may choose the one you like.


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