How Select A Best Hotel Key Cards?

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Hotel key cards are used in most, if not all, guest management systems. You’ve undoubtedly used a hotel key card to gain access to a room at least once in your life. You may also have concerns about how they operate and how secure they are. People often think of hotel doors as being quite secure, however the technology used to secure them is likely outdated and in desperate need of updating. Here’s a detailed breakdown of hotel keycards, as well as some information that may surprise you about how hackable they are, as well as some suggestions for how to modernise them.

Types of Hotel Cards:

Some hotels utilise magnetic stripe cards (also known as’mag stripe cards’). Swipe cards are another name for magnetic stripe cards. Other hotel entry options include proximity (RFID) cards, access cards with holes, photo ID cards, barcode cards, and smart cards. These are used to gain entry to rooms, elevators, and certain areas of the building. A traditional access control system includes all of these methods of access.

For large hotels, mag stripe or swipe cards are a cost-effective choice, but they wear out rapidly and are less secure than other options. RFID cards are more expensive and more durable. Hole (punch) cards work on a mechanical principle that requires the card’s holes to fit the reader’s specific mechanism. These cards aren’t as prevalent as others.

All of the examples above are based on various technologies, but they all perform the same door access control functions. Additional information about the user can be stored on smart cards (whoever the card is assigned to). A smart card can be used to gain access to amenities outside of the hotel room, such as restaurants, gyms, pools, laundry, conference rooms, and any other amenity in the building that requires secure access. Smart cards collect information from every step of the holder’s journey in the facility, allowing the hotel to acquire a single record of all their spending rather than tallying bills from several locations in the same building, thanks to their higher security and encryption requirements. This simplifies the hotel’s financial management and provides a better experience for hotel guests.

Hotel key cards can be configured to access certain doors at specific times using door card readers fitted on each door lock.

Modern hotel access control systems allow you to group door locks with many users, granting access to the same group, and keeping track of who opened the door and when. For example, if the administrator chooses to implement a certain window of time for access, one group may have access to open the hotel lobby entrance or the staff restrooms for a limited time during the day.

Smart cards can also be used to provide holders exclusive access to elevators, as we described before. If a guest has reserved a penthouse suite on a floor that should be off-limits to the general public, smart cards and advanced door readers can make this process a joy! Check out our guide to learn more about elevator access control systems in particular.

How do hotel doors open with mag stripe cards?

Magnetic stripe cards have a magnetic layer or strip that holds the hotel guest’s basic information. The user access number is usually the most easily recognised information on the card. At check-in, hotel staff will imprint the user’s information and usually place a time limit on its use until checkout. Once the magnetic strip is read and validated by the hotel door card reader, the key card door lock is activated. Swiping the card through the magnetic scanner completes the access process in most cases.

Swiping is not required for RFID or proximity cards. They make use of radio frequencies to provide access over a predetermined limited distance (hence the term “proximity”). RFID cards are part of the contactless card category. To unlock the door with a proximity card, the user must practically touch the RFID reader.

Smart cards can also be contactless. They save data on microchips and, despite being more expensive, are the favoured solution for hotels looking to upgrade their procedures.

Myths about Hotel Key Cards:


The information saved on key cards is the source of the most prevalent key card misconceptions. For example, many people believe that the cards contain sensitive user data, such as personal or financial information. The majority of hotel key cards, in fact, just store room numbers and dates of stay. While key cards do carry some concerns, one of them being access to precise financial information. The additional information that can be saved on a key card is divided into four categories:

  • Room number
  • Date on which access was granted
  • Date on which access was revoked
  • Number of visitors (on occasions)

Hotel key cards are access cards that contain the least amount of information, reducing the risk of misuse. This does not safeguard users if their card is stolen or lost, allowing a stranger to get access to their rooms before a breach is discovered. This type of security breach is more concerning than the risk of the card’s information being decoded.

Hotel Key Card Alternatives:

Most hotel key cards have technology that protects them from being misused. Smart cards, on the other hand, are more difficult to reset and read than magstripe cards, making them an excellent alternative to standard hotel key cards. Mag stripe cards use encryption methods to record and store data. To be able to read what’s on them, you’ll require decoding readers. Data is stored on three tracks on the magnetic strip for ISO-standard cards, however hotel lock systems employ a proprietary encoding method to put data on the third track.

NFC technology, which is integrated into mobile phones, is another option to hotel key cards. Hotel guests are given a code by the hotel administration and can either bring their NFC phone close to the NFC scanner or type the code as a pass code to gain entry to their rooms. This approach is quite new and used infrequently.

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