Magnetic stripe cards - also known as mag stripe cards or swipe cards - are a popular choice for cards that store data, such as ATM and bank cards; gift, membership, and phone cards; access control cards; hotel key cards; and library and transit cards.
But choosing the wrong variety of magstripe card - or not protecting the card from damage - can cause the cards to not work as expected.
In our experience magnetic stripe cards, when properly selected and cared for, retain their data sufficiently and remain a great cost-saving alternative to smart cards.
What is a Magnetic Stripe Card?
A magnetic stripe card is a type of card capable of storing data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic material on the card. The magnetic stripe, sometimes called swipe card or magstripe, is read by physical contact and swiping past a magnetic reading head.1
What Damages a Magnetic Stripe Card?
You can run into problems when a mag stripe card has prolonged or constant exposure to any item that may wear down or scratch the stripe - like another plastic card or cell phone that rubs against your card.
With such wear-and-tear conditions over time, the data on your mag stripe card may no longer be read by a card reader machine, including a hotel card key lock. The best way to prevent this kind of damage is to handle your card with care.
Tips for Protecting A Magnetic Stripe Card
To protect your magstripe card:
- Keep each mag stripe card in a separate pocket within your wallet or clothing to prevent them from rubbing against one another
- For highest protection, place each mag stripe card in a protective badge holder or wallet holder compartment
- Keep all mag stripe cards away from magnets
HiCo and LoCo Cards - What Does it Mean and What's the Difference?
HiCo stands for high-coercivity and LoCo stands for low-coercivity. Coercivity refers to the magnetic material's resistance to becoming demagnetized - therefore, HiCo and LoCo represent different standards of card durability and security.
Coercivity is usually measured in Oersted (Oe) units to denote the magnetic stripe's strength or intensity. High-coercivity (HiCo) stripes are magnetically harder, while low-coercivity (LoCo) stripes are magnetically softer.
HiCo mag stripe cards can run as high as 4000 Oe; however, a 2750 Oe is common for most HiCo cards. In contrast, LoCo cards are 300 Oe.
LoCo is best suited for cards used infrequently and/or where data is routinely changed, such as with hotel key cards. HiCo cards are best for cards used frequently and that are expected to have a long life. Most credit cards use at least 2,750 Oe and are considered HiCo.
HiCo vs LoCo? How to Choose the Right Card for Your Needs
- Harder to erase
- Requires a higher amount of magnetic energy to record
- Best for frequently used cards or cards requiring a long life
- Resistant to damage from most magnets users may come into contact with
- Can be read by any card reader
- Card writers are more costly than LoCo recording machines
- HiCo card writers can write both HiCo and LoCo cards
- Commonly used for bank cards, drivers licenses, access control cards, library & membership cards
- Less durable
- Requires a lower amount of magnetic energy to record
- Best for infrequent use or cards where data is changed often
- More easily damaged by brief magnetic contact (such as a purse snap)
- Can be read by any card reader
- Card writers are much cheaper than HiCo recording machines
- LoCo Card writers can write only LoCo cards
- Commonly used for hotel key cards, gift cards, phone cards, transit passes
ID Card Group carries a large selection of HiCo and LoCo magnetic stripe cards, including generic (value) and name brand - as well as biodegradable eco-friendly magstripe cards.
More Helpful Resources on Plastic PVC Cards
For help choosing the right magstripe card to fit your needs, contact our expert sales staff at (877) 868-0012 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We're happy to walk you through your options and answer questions.
ID Card Group offers a price match guarantee, provides free shipping on orders over $100, and accepts purchase orders.
1 Definition by Wikipedia