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Magnetic Stripes

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Magnetic stripe cards are used in a variety of card programs including employee IDs, student and staff IDs, retail rewards cards, membership programs, and more.

With mag stripes, you have two types of encoding to choose from, depending on how your cards will be used. They both hold the same amount of data, but have different durability for short-term or long-term use. Magnetic stripe strength is measured in Oersteads (Oe), or how much energy it takes to change the polarity of the card to encode, or erase, the card.

Not sure which cards you’re already using? The easiest way to tell is their color – LoCo cards have a dark brown magnetic stripe, while HiCo cards are black.

LoCo Cards

LoCo, or Low Coercivity, cards are designed for short-term card use. These cards fall between 0 and 300 Oe, making them easier to encode and erase the data on the card. As a result, the encode will last a shorter amount of time and is more susceptible to interference, especially from strong magnets. LoCo cards made from PVC or composite materials are often reused.

When would you use LoCo cards? Anytime you don’t need a card to last a long time, making them ideal for parking garage tickets, public transit systems, visitor IDs, and hotel room keys.

HiCo Cards

HiCo cards, or High Coercivity, are between 300 and 3000 Oe and designed for long-term use. They require much more energy to encode or to erase the data, making them less susceptible to interference from magnets or to daily wear and tear.

When would you use HiCo cards? Anytime you need a card that will be swiped frequently and needs to last a long time. Debit and credit cards use HiCo magnetic stripes, employee ID programs, and student and staff ID cards at many schools and universities.

How do I include magnetic stripes on my cards?

To encode magnetic stripe cards, you’ll need to purchase blank mag stripe cards – this are available in LoCo and HiCo, and several types of prox cards also have magnetic stripe options!

In addition to magnetic stripe cards, you’ll also need:

  • Software that can encode the cards
  • A printer than can encode the cards (often an upgrade option)
  • A reader to read the cards

Your ID card printer can print on magnetic stripe cards the same as any other card, but just make sure you don’t print or laminate over the mag stripe itself.