Magstripes to microns: Just what do they mean anyway?

 

Know your onions when it comes to plastic cards

Plastic card terminology
Plastic card terminology explained

There’s a fair bit of jargon when it comes to printed plastic cards. Here’s how to know your LoCo from your HiCo (and whether you need them at all).

Microns
You’ll notice that plastic cards are measured in microns rather than mm’s. This refers to the thickness of the card. A standard bank cards is 760 microns. Some discount cards or appointment cards can be thinner, often 680 or 420 microns.

Always check the microns so you know what you’re getting. The higher the microns, the thicker and better quality the card will be.

Magnetic stripe (often referred to as mag stripe)
Whether or not you need plastic cards with magnetic stripes depends on what you want them to do, and whether you have the system that works with them.

For example, if you have the technology that allows members to ‘swipe’ through a turnstile, access lockers or buy their lunch, you’ll need a magnetic stripe on the back of the card.

Mag stripes come encoded or unencoded. If you want them to be supplied already encoded (i.e. programmed to work with your system), you’ll need to provide the relevant information to the card supplier. Or they can be sent unencoded, for you to ‘match up’ at your end. Consult the user manual that came with your system for more information.

HiCo or LoCo?
Next you’ll need to decide if you need a HiCo or LoCo mag stripe. HiCo are typically black, whereas LoCo are usually brown.

HiCo magstripes are more secure and stable. They are commonly used in situations where cards are frequently swiped and the need for security is higher  (for example in accessing a building).

LoCo magstripes are fine in situations where security is less important and the need for the card to hold information is temporary; for example gift cards or hotel key cards.

Mifare cards/smart cards
Smart cards or Mifare cards are capable of many functions, thanks the chip contained within them. They are commonly used for access control, transport, ticketing, smart wallets etc. The Oyster Card is a well-known example of a smart card – capable of being ‘loaded’ with money and scanned by readers.

Smart cards can be printed on and branded in the same way that regular cards can. They’re more expensive than a regular plastic card, because they’re capable of so much more.

Other features to personalise cards
You can also choose to include a range of features on your printed plastic cards, for example signature panels, bar codes or QR codes. These usually cost extra, so consider whether you actually need them before ordering.

One other thing – check what the card is made of

Don’t just assume that the plastic cards are 100% plastic. Some printed plastic cards have a cardboard inner core, particularly if sourced from the Far East, which results in a much lower quality card.  It impacts on colour definition and vibrancy – you’ll often see a border around the card where the cardboard ends, and they aren’t as durable.

If you need any help on ordering printed plastic cards, our friendly team are happy to answer any questions.

New membership cards for January?

If your membership programme renews in January, now is the ideal time to look at your membership cards and consider what you want them to do in 2014. It’s likely that they could be performing more functions for you than they currently are.

What would you like your cards to do?   

Membership cards
Include a range of features on your cards

Increasing numbers of clubs and organisations want their membership cards to do more than just prove eligibility of membership. By including a range of features, or changing the type of card you use, you can turn them into multi-purpose cards.

If you want to secure access to locker rooms or members-only areas for example, you can easily turn the membership cards into ‘swipe to access’ cards.

Or you could turn them into ‘smart cards’, and allow members to use them to ‘swipe’ for their lunch, or access their tab at the bar.

More clubs are also looking for membership cards that also act as loyalty cards, to encourage more spending from members. We can also advise on the right loyalty system to meet your requirements.

Numbering as standard  

All our membership cards are full colour, double sided numbered cards. You can also choose from a range of extra features, such as signature panels or barcodes. Or why not include a QR code to unlock a members-only benefit on your website? 

Refresh your look for 2014

Even if you don’t need any new features, and don’t need your membership cards to do anything particularly clever, refreshing the design is always a good idea. Many clubs and organisations use the same design year after year, mainly because they don’t have a Designer to create a new one for them. Design and artwork is included in all of our quoted prices, so why not ask us to refresh the look of the cards for you.

All our membership cards are made from high quality, durable plastic and are the same thickness as a standard credit card.

Our friendly team is happy to advise on the many features of membership cards. Call us on 0844 257 8857 or email sales@thecardnetwork.co.uk