Do hotel key cards contain my personal data?

Custom printed hotel key card
Hotel key cards aren’t clever enough to retain financial information

Do a bit of research on this and you’ll find wildly conflicting answers.

There’s a school of people out there who believe that hotel key cards must contain personal information including credit card numbers and details. How else could the hotel ‘charge’ items to the right room during your stay?

It’s turned into a bit of a myth.

We have a friend who had a friend who knew someone that had their bank details stolen from a discarded hotel key card.’

But it’s exactly that: a myth.

– For a start, the information contained on a hotel key card is encrypted. Even if you were able to break the code (which you’d have to be a tech geek to achieve), the only information you’d find would be the date you checked in and out. Not exactly useful data for an identity thief.

– Also, the magnetic stripe on hotel key cards just isn’t that clever. It simply can’t hold detailed information like credit card details. It doesn’t hold information for all that long either – if you’ve stayed in a hotel for more than a few nights, you’ll probably have experienced the ‘card doesn’t work any more’ scenario.

– There is no need for them to hold financial information. As long as the card identifies you and your room, the hotel can add the charges to your bill.

So don’t feel you have to destroy your hotel key cards the next time you’re checking out.

And the next time you’re told about someone having their bank details stolen from a key card, tell them it’s an urban myth.