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.
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
More Helpful Resources on Plastic PVC Cards
- Video: How to Keep PVC Cards from Jamming in Your ID Card Printer
- How Do I Get the Best Print Quality from My Card Stock?
- Ordering Custom PVC Cards – Frequently Asked Questions
- Color PVC Cards or Blank White Plastic Cards – Why Generic Stock Provides High Quality at Lower Cost
- What’s the Difference Between Magnetic Stripe & Proximity (Smart) 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.
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1 Definition by Wikipedia