Two of the best Plastic Card Printers from a GDPR perspective

If you print your own ID cards, loyalty cards or membership cards using a plastic card printer, or you’re considering doing so in light of the new GDPR, there are a few things to consider: Sample transport card

  • How are you keeping your data safe?
  • How are you preventing unauthorised users from accessing your printer or ribbon?
  • Are you securely deleting the data left behind after the cards are printed?

Two plastic card printers stand out as being ‘GDPR’ ready – and here are the reasons why.

The IDP Smart 51

Why it’s great for GDPR

The Smart 51’s strength lies in making it very difficult for unauthorised people to access your data in the first place. It comes with the option of 2 locks to keep your printer and cards protected from unauthorised use.

  1. Ribbon and card lock

As you’d expect, this lock keeps your ribbon and cards safe. Only the person with the key can unlock and use the printer – preventing bogus use.

  1. Kensington Lock

We’ve heard a few stories of card printers going walkabout from reception desks, particularly in colleges. The Kensington lock secures the printer to a desk.

What else has it got going for it?

The Smart 51 is fast, powerful and prints high quality cards (up to 212 colour cards per hour and 720 single colour cards per hour). Its state-of-the-art CPU display makes it easy to use and it’s entirely scalable – you can choose to upgrade to double sided print, add encoding capabilities or lamination later.

The fact that it comes with a 5-year warranty (the longest in the market) shows the confidence that IDP Smart has in its printers.

What’s the cost?

You can pick up a Smart 51 for around £700 + VAT. We currently have a special package available with a host of free extras, including software and the two locks for just £749 + VAT.

The package includes:

  • Smart 51 single sided card printer
  • Ribbon & Card lock (usually an extra £65)
  • Kensington lock (usually an extra £40)
  • Extended rear output hopper (usually an extra £40)
  • Easybadge Lite software
  • YMCKO ribbon, 300 prints
  • 100 blank cards
  • Cleaning kit
  • 5 year warranty

HID Fargo DTC1500

Why it’s great for GDPR

The HID Fargo DTC1500 comes with a host of distinctive security features that makes this plastic card printer the ultimate in data protection.

  1. Unique printer ribbon resin scramble renders all the personal information unreadable

Just what is a resin scramble anyway?

If you use a direct-to-card plastic card printer, you might not realise that all the personal information for each card remains on the printer ribbon after its printed.

When you print the next card, the ribbon simply spools forward, leaving the information behind.

The DTC’s resin scramble feature hides all this information within a resin panel – rendering it unreadable. Which secures your data from any potential breach.

  1. Standard password protection and AES 256 data encryption

Both features provide extra peace of mind and protection from any unauthorised use.

  1. Custom watermark overlay

This allows you to lay your own logo or customised security image over your cards as a transparent watermark, making duplication of your cards almost impossible.

These key features are some of the reasons the DTC1500 is favoured by government organisations, healthcare facilities, schools and colleges.

What else has it got going for it?

The DTC1500 is a powerful, robust card printer, capable of printing 225 high quality colour cards per hour.

One of its big claims is its Low Cost, high-capacity consumables. This basically means that the ribbons are capable of printing more cards – making your ‘cost-per-card’ lower than it would be with other printers.

What’s the cost?

The HID Fargo DTC1500 comes with a higher price tag than the Smart 51s, but then you get what you pay for.

We currently have a printer package on offer for £1049 + VAT. This includes:

  • HID Fargo DTC 1500 single sided card printer with USB and ethernet
  • YMCKO Ribbon, 500 prints
  • 200 blank cards
  • Built-in Swift ID® badging software (this software prints cards without saving records or databases, ideal for data security)
  • 3-year warranty (printer and printhead).

If you need your software to do a little more, for example connect to Office Excel or MS Access, you can upgrade to CardPresso XS card software for an extra £120, or CardPresso XM for an extra £200.

Whatever printer you choose, make sure you shred your printer ribbon securely

Unless it’s the HID Fargo DTC1500 with its built-in resin scramble, don’t forget to build the shredding of your card printer ribbon into your data protection plans.

Read more about the data you leave behind

Have you considered how the GDPR affects your staff ID cards?

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is nearly official. Although the regulation has been in place since 2016, from May 2018, it will become enforceable.

As an organisation, you’re probably someway through conducting an information audit, seeking to:

– Build a thorough picture of your ‘data landscape’ – i.e. documenting where your data is currently held and who you share it with,

– And what the lawful basis is for processing it. Do you need to regain the individual’s consent?

If you currently share your staff’s personal data with an ID Card Bureau and they print cards on your behalf, how does the regulation affect you?

The Data Landscape

Are you doing enough to protect the identities of your card holders?

If you outsource your ID card printing, you (as the Data Controller) are sharing personally identifiable information of your staff with an external third party (known as the Data Processor) which needs to be protected under the data protection principles of the GDPR.

It isn’t enough to just generate a list of your third-party suppliers or partners – organisations that process your personal data on your behalf –  you also need to assess their procedures. Is the data being processed in a manner that ensures its security? Are they meeting their GDPR responsibilities as a Data Processor?

The first thing to do would be to ask the ID card Bureau for their Privacy Policy and interrogate it. You need to know what they are doing with your data, how they’re protecting it and what they’re doing to ensure they don’t infringe on the rights of the subject of that data.

Lawful basis for processing & consent

You need to demonstrate that there is a lawful basis for processing data. In the case of ID cards this is simpler than most: you need your staff to wear their ID cards to access the building and complete their job responsibilities.

In this case, the processing of the data is necessary in relation to a ‘contract the individual has entered into’ – namely employment.

What are the risks of continuing to use an external card printing company?

Remember that your staff have the right to know where their data is stored, and you have an obligation to implement technical and organisational measures to show that you have built data protection into all your data processing activities.

First things first – you need to ensure that any third party processing your data has their own GDPR ‘ducks in a row’. Are they fully compliant?

Naturally there are risks when you aren’t controlling the data yourself. And the more third-party processors you use, the more that risk increases.

Data Breach

Don’t forget, under GDPR, if there is a data breach by one of your Data Processors, you are both liable (you as the Data Controller, the third party as the Processor) – even if there is nothing you could have done to prevent that breach. You are also reliant on the Processor informing you that a breach has occurred.

Failure to report a breach when it happens could result in a fine, as well as a fine for the actual breach itself.

Printing your own cards minimises your data risk

An ID card printer puts you in control of your own security

Bringing your ID card or membership card issuance inhouse allows you to manage the data risk, rather than relying on a third-party processor to process and store your data correctly and securely.

Investing in a Plastic Card Printer puts you in control of your own data:

  • You keep your personally identifiable information within your own controlled environment.
  • You manage when cards are printed, by whom and how the data is handled.
  • You manage the right for rectification and the right to be forgotten or restrict processing
  • You follow your own due process rather than relying on someone else to follow theirs.
  • Choose a plastic card printer with the necessary locks and security features, and you’ll ensure that no unauthorised personnel can access it.

If you choose to print your cards yourself, don’t forget about the data you leave behind 

A lot of people don’t realise that the card printer ribbon retains the imprint of the personal information after the card has been printed.

Smart 51 ribbons
Card Printer Ribbons retain the imprint of images and confidential information

Which means anyone picking up the used ribbon after its been discarded would be able to retrieve all the information of your card holders.

Make sure you build the shredding of your printer ribbon into your due process or you could buy a card printer that automatically ‘scrambles’ the ribbon for you. Read more here

Do a thorough data mapping

Whether you choose to carry on using an external supplier for your ID cards or you take them inhouse, make sure you consider all angles of the process. Where are the risks likely to lie?

Is the data transmitted securely, and kept on a password protected database for example? Is a data breach possible through not disposing of a card ribbon safely, or by sending cards through non-secured mail?

Considering the reasons you might fail to meet GDPR compliance is the best way to create a plan to ensure you don’t.

Read more on the ICO’s website

Search Card Printer Packages

Card Sample Packs now available – oh yeah!

Membership cards samplesNow you’d think that all printed plastic cards are the same, wouldn’t you?

Well they’re not.

The quality of print and materials can vary from supplier to supplier. And then there’s the vast array of finishes and features available, from spot UV varnish to foiling and metallic stripes. These can turn a good card project into a stunning card project – if you know what to ask for.

Try before you buy

We don’t expect you to take our word for it when we say we create great quality plastic cards.Loyalty cards samples

So if you’re thinking about ordering some plastic cards, we’ll happily send you out some samples of what to expect. You’ll get to physically hold and see the difference between matt and gloss finish; and to see for yourself the difference a bit of foiling or varnish can make.

Because a photograph just can’t convey that ‘ooh’, in the same way that a tactile print finish can.

We have samples of everything from Membership Cards to Loyalty Cards, Cloakroom Tags, Hotel Key Cards, 2-part snap-off cards, Key Tags and car park passes. And if you’re interested in a particular feature, like barcode, metallic stripe or QR code, or in a special finish, we can send examples of those too.

Cloakroom Tags samplesSimply email us at sales@thecardnetwork.co.uk or give us a call on 01244 526009 to give us an idea about your card project, and we’ll get our card samples on their merry way to you.

Oh, and one other thing. We manufacture all our printed plastic cards right here in the North West – we never outsource overseas. It’s the only way we can stay in control of the quality process.

 

 

The cost-effective way to order your golf bag tags

Custom golf bag tags

It’s nearing membership renewal time again. With budgets increasingly tight, Golf clubs all over the Country are looking for ways to increase sign-ups and maximise cost efficiencies.

One area where savings can be found is in your custom golf bag tags printing and membership card printing.

Don’t pay over the odds for your new golf bag tags

Rubber, leather and hard plastic golf bag tags are expensive. As well as the inflated unit price, you have to pay set-up fees and year stickers to go on them. And when a member doesn’t renew, you lose the potential costs savings you might have recouped by just handing out a new sticker.

Our full colour plastic golf bag tags start from £215+ VAT for 250, including straps

Our custom golf bag tags are made from quality, durable plastic, and are very slightly thinner than a standard credit card for flexibility. All our quoted prices are for full colour on both sides – you don’t pay per colour.

Custom golf bag tag large
Sponsorship can pay for the entire print run of your golf club bag tags

Many golf clubs use the reverse side for a sponsor’s message or branding, which often pays for the cost of the printing.

We share some more ideas on how to cover the costs of your membership card printing here.

Clearly label all of your members, so you can see immediately what membership they have

Having different tags for each membership is ideal in terms of visibility, particularly for Week-Day, IMP and Full members, but doing so is often cost prohibitive as it requires a new run of tags.

With our golf bag tags, you can have any number of designs in the same run for an extra £25.00 per design.

So if you ordered 500 cards for £320 for example, but wanted three different designs in total, you would only pay an extra £50.

You can also personalise them with members’ names or barcodes for just 5p per card.

Maximise the reverse of your bag tags

Many clubs don’t maximise the potential of the back of the cards, even though it doesn’t cost any extra to do so. If you don’t want to include a sponsor’s message, how about reminders about etiquette, or club rules?

Or you could include the new handicap conversion calculator as a handy ready reckoner.

Our Golf Bag Tags come in two sizes: standard credit-card size and oversize, at 75mm x 105mm. They are durable, wipe clean and keep their good looks over time.

Printing branded plastic cards? Make the back count

Rocksalt cloakroom tag

Whether you’re getting some membership cards, cloakroom tags, loyalty cards or key tags printed, don’t miss out on the branding opportunity presented on the back.

Most plastic card companies will print on the reverse of the card within the same quoted price, or for a bit extra.

So when you’re thinking about your design, here are a few ways to really make the back count.

Cloakroom Tags – branding, a disclaimer and even sponsorship Benares restaurant cloakroom cloakie tag

The back of your Cloakroom Tags is the perfect place for your disclaimer and Ts and Cs, but also for a message in your brand’s distinctive tone of voice, like Rocksalt’s “If you’ve got this ticket, we’ve still got your stuff.”

Atul Kochhar’s Benares Restaurant uses the back as a sponsorship opportunity – with Cobra taking pride of place. Perfect partnership.

Membership Cards – Fixture lists, sponsorship and member benefits

Rugby membership cardThere’s loads of ways to maximise the opportunity presented by the back of your membership cards. We have a number of clubs that print their fixtures on the reverse and others that promote other club facilities.

It’s also prime advertising space. Offer it up to the right sponsor, and you can Printed membership cardeasily cover the cost of the cards, and enhance your own brand image at the same time.  Think about relevant local partners or national brands that would be interested in the profile of your membership, or even brands that you sell internally that may want extra promotion (for example food or drink providers).

You can also use the back to remind members of the benefits or discounts available to them.

Hotel key card
Or just give a simple instruction!

Hotel key cards

There’s loads you can do here. Promote other services available in the hotel like your spa or restaurant, raise awareness of a special offer or give a discount on a repeat booking.

Carden park hotel key card
Include checkout times, useful numbers and other guest information

You could also use it to remind guests of useful numbers or opening/checkout or breakfast times, like Carden Park in Cheshire does for example.

Loyalty cards

Discounts, offers and text relating to the loyalty scheme are all ideally placed on the back so you don’t have to mess up the branding and design on the front. Put your social media buttons on there too.Printed loyalty cards

Or you could include a guest message encouraging card holders to call to book or pre-order for example, like Kemps Bistro in Liverpool have done here.

Bar tab cards

We’ve all got home after a night out to discover a bar tab card in our pocket. Which can mean only one thing – your bank card isn’t. A message on the back of the bar tab card is reassuring, and can be as fun as you like.

Basically, the back of a plastic card is up for grabs, and if you’re going to the expense of getting cards printed, it’s worth maximising the potential of both sides. You could of course include a QR code, signature strips or include blank panels that you can write members’ details or expiry dates on for example.

Why plastic key tags are our unsung heroes

Branded key tagsMeet our superhero, ‘Mr Adaptable’

They’re dinky. Handy. Always visible. Incredibly adaptable. And very cost-effective.

In our view, plastic key tags are mini super heroes, just minus the capes.

Branded key tags are one of the few plastic cards that can be used for multiple purposes: promotion, loyalty, labelling, information, discount offers, reference: the list goes on.

They’re also highly visible, rather than being hidden in a wallet. They happily dangle off a key ring, reminding the owner of their presence.

And at just £110 + VAT for 250 branded key tags printed in full colour on both sides, they super cost-effective.

Packing a mighty powerful punch for one so small

Branded key tags make great:

  1. Mini loyalty cardsBranded key tag

Add a barcode that works with your loyalty system and make sure your customer never loses out at the point of purchase. Tesco seem to have made it work quite successfully.

  1. Mini membership cards

Forgotten your main membership card? Just show your key tag instead, or save the budget and do away with main membership cards altogether.

  1. Promotional cards

    De Vere membership key tag
    Print key tags to go with your membership cards, or just do away with the cards altogether

Think of your key tags as mini billboards, there to advertise your next promotion or brand message. Use them to advertise your happy hours or special weekly theme nights, or remind customers of a regular monthly event. Or just use it as a branding opportunity.

  1. Discount cards

Remind customers that they can get a discount off their next purchase, on presentation of the key tag.

  1. Staff reference cards

Get key employee information on show, not hidden away in a handbook. Key tags make great reference cards because they’re always visible. Use them to remind staff of key health and safety information, employee standards or processes and procedures.

  1. Helpline reminders

Plastic key tags are easy ‘go to’ reference points for important numbers. If given to key holders for example, you could include telephone details of the alarm company. Or for lone workers, telephone numbers of head office support.

  1. Accommodation Key Holders

    Branded key tags holiday parks
    Leaving blank areas on the design gives you the flexibility to add your own names, numbers or details

We get a lot of orders from accommodation providers, particularly caravan parks and holiday lodge parks, because they’re a great way to add a brand or promo message to sets of keys that are given out to guests. Or leave a blank space to add individual accommodation numbers.

8. Key labels

If you store sets of keys in your office, like estate agents or property maintenance companies do, why not label them with your own branded key tags? They’ll convey a more professional image to your customers, and you can leave a space blank for handwriting your own details on.

One other thing – The Card Network offers free design and artwork on branded key tags.

 

How to get your membership cards printed for free

Want someone else to pay for your membership cards printing this year?

The fact is, if you’re a club, organisation or attraction, a professionally printed membership card is expected by your members, and it’s a necessity for you too.

But it’s more than that: a branded and personalised card gives a feeling of belonging, and a sense of being part of something special.

However the cost of membership card printing can be prohibitive.

So here’s how to get someone else to pay for it.

event_pass_big_1

Use the back of your membership cards as a sponsorship opportunity

Most plastic membership cards are printed double sided, in full colour, so the reverse is a prime advertising space. Offer it up to the right sponsor, and you can easily cover the costs of the cards – and enhance your own brand image at the same time.

Here are a few routes to consider:

  1. Linked local suppliers
    If you’re a tennis club, and there’s a sports shop in town that sells the right kit, they’re the ideal partner. They’ll be advertising their wares to a captive audience that will be exposed to their brand on a regular basis, for less than the price of a newspaper ad.
2. Linked online suppliers
If there’s an online supplier that a lot of your members go to for equipment or gear, or specialist insurance, get in touch. You’re unlikely to be successful with the Amazon’s of this world, but it might be right up a smaller online retailer’s street (for example a specialist cycling insurance provider).

 

3. Linked big brands
Don’t think that you can’t approach the big brands, even if you only have a few hundred members. For example, if you’re a golf club, approaching brands like TaylorMade or FootJoy could deliver dividends. A few hundred pounds is nothing out of their marketing budget, and your membership demographic might be exactly what they’re looking to target.

members cafe
Look for local establishments, or within your own

4. Complimentary local services or suppliers
Your membership demographic should determine who you approach for sponsorship in your local area. What type of people are they? What stage of life are they at? Whose ideal customer are they likely to be? If your membership is predominately 20/30 somethings with time on their hands, then think about local bars or nightclubs. If they’re older professionals with disposable incomes, a prestige car showroom might be more relevant.

5. Look internally for brands that may want extra promotion
If you have a bar, restaurant or café on site, look at the brands you’re selling. Breweries are a good starting place: they may have a particular drink that they want to sell more of over the following year. Or if you’re a gym selling a particular range of energy bars or drinks, think about approaching them. This route has benefits for you too in terms of increased sales.

Whoa there Nelly! A word of caution before you start

Before you pick up the phone and start ringing round, make sure you don’t damage your own brand by choosing the wrong sponsor. If you’ve spent years building up an exclusive membership of professionals, don’t blow it by advertising Carl’s Cheeky Chicken on the back of your plastic membership cards.

Associating yourself with a well-known brand, or an aspirational brand, will do wonders for your own organisation. It’s a great message to existing members that they’ve made the right choice, and it’s even stronger in terms of attraction. Because if a famous brand has chosen to be affiliated with your club, why wouldn’t they?

 

Why you should start the membership renewal process early

Renewe membershipContrary to what you might think, the two most common reasons people don’t renew their club membership isn’t because they’re unhappy or have found a better offer elsewhere. They are:

  1. They think they’re still a member, or
  2. They simply ‘forget’.

Which is precisely why you should start ‘reminding’ them to renew well before their club membership is due.

If you’re still sending them a club newsletter, or club communications, chances are they think they’re still a member, and it won’t occur to them to check.

And even if you have sent an electronic reminder, there’s a high possibility that it will get lost in a crowded inbox.

So make sure you set up a renewal touchpoint schedule

Don’t be embarrassed to ask more than once, and don’t rely on email for all of the touchpoints (think of that crowded inbox again). Be prepared that it might take a number of attempts to get the result you’re looking for.

A good schedule to follow is:

First touchpoint – 2 months before club membership expires

Send them an email or letter reminding them that their membership is coming up for renewal soon. Remind them of all the great member benefits they receive, and how much their membership is valued. Consider offering an incentive if they renew before a certain date – either a discount off their membership fees, money off in your café or vouchers.

Second touchpoint – a month before club membership expires

Send them a reminder of the date their membership comes to an end. If you haven’t offered an incentive before, now’s the time. If you have a members-only events, key matches or other areas of interest coming up in the new membership season, be sure to let them know about it.

Third touchpoint – as the membership is due to expire

Make a personal phone call to thank the member for their club membership, and ask if they’re happy to renew again this year. If not, why not? This can give you valuable insights into any issues that need addressing, and that might be affecting other members. If you see them in person at the club, even better.

If they still don’t renew, make sure you include them in your promotional campaigns.

Just because they haven’t renewed this year doesn’t mean they won’t again. Stay in touch, but don’t bombard them with information or sales messages. Make sure you keep them up-to-date with any improvements or changes happening at the club, and after 6-12 months, try them with an incentive again.

How to improve your membership sign-up

Clubs and organisations are always looking for ways to increase their membership. We’ll share a few ideas for boosting membership numbers in this post.

But before we do, we recommend you start at home first – with your existing members.

Opinion countsBegin by asking your current members what they think

What’s the best thing about your club? What could be better? We often hear Organisers say ‘our members don’t like that’, or ‘our members prefer this’, but have you ever actually asked them?

It’s easy to think that one person’s view is representative of the entire membership, when often it isn’t.

So start with a member survey and ask for your member’s opinions and ideas. As well as being a good way of retaining your existing members by making them feel important, it will flag up any problem areas and tell you which benefits are seen as most valuable (and therefore which you should prioritise in promotion).

If you make changes in light of the feedback, be sure to pass this back to the existing members. This is a positive message that you’re a responsive club that cares about your members’ opinions, and they’re much more likely to recommend you to friends as a result.

Use your current members as referrers

Your existing members are your best promotional tools – as long as they’re feeling happy and valued (see point one above).

Word-of-mouth is more valuable than anything, but you have to give them a reason to spread it.

So provide them with opportunities to talk you up.

If you haven’t set up a ‘Refer-a-Friend’ scheme, do so now. Think about what benefit or incentive would mean the most to both the referrer and the referee.

Is offering a discount off their first year of membership fees the strongest message? What benefit will you give the existing member? Ask them for their opinion in the member survey – this will tell you what they would respond best to.

Set up opportunities to personally interact with potential new members

The worst thing you can do is set up a refer-a-friend scheme and expect your existing members to proactively put it into practice. Don’t rely on email either – you need physical touch points.

Taster Days or Community Events are a good way to get new people through the door. Ask each of your members to invite along a friend, lay on some refreshments and set up some entertainment or activity that’s relevant to your club or organisation.

This doesn’t need to be about slick marketing, it’s about getting people to experience your friendly atmosphere for themselves. Your existing members will do the promotion naturally for you.

Do make sure you have a discount offer available at the time. You need to have an incentive on offer to encourage people to join THAT DAY, like a discount on their membership fees, or 14 months for the price of 12.

Another way to get people through the door is to:

Print extra promotional cards with your membership card run

The more cards you print, the cheaper the cost per card is.

So when you send your run of membership cards to print, ask about running-on some generic branded cards at the same time. This is a really cost effective marketing tool. You can use these in various ways:

  • Give one to each existing member with their new membership card to pass on to a friend or family member
  • Advertise a refer-a-friend incentive – e.g. 30% off membership fees for new joiners when you present this card
  • Print a discount card for members to pass on that offers a discount off a meal in your restaurant, or a free session at your club, e.g. a free round of golf, or afternoon using the spa facilities.

You could also use the extra cards to:

Promote an offer locally to your target audience

This relies on you having a strong understanding of where your target audience ‘live’. You could run a series of promotional cards offering a discount in your restaurant or bar for example, and post it out to local postcodes, or to a relevant database.

This will only work though if you know your demographic, and if the potential rewards are worth the cost. For example doing a mass mail out to local households with details of your tennis club will have high wastage, as only a small percentage of them will actually play tennis.

If you’re able to isolate a group of highly desirable potential members, then consider:

  • Pre-loading branded gift cards and posting those out. A card with ‘actual’ money on (say £5 for spending in the bar) is hard to ignore or throw away.
  • Set up an incentive programme with other local businesses
    Partnering with local businesses is a great way to provide your members with valuable benefits, and to encourage participation from different groups. For example, you could come to a deal with a neighbouring hotel or attraction, and make it reciprocal. They offer your members a discount when they visit; you do the same in return.
  • Market your club where your members are likely to be
    Seems a bit obvious this one, but there are still a lot of clubs that expect potential members to come to them. You need to do some research into who your ideal member is, and what their lifestyle is likely to be. By which we mean: what do they read, what social media groups do they follow, what are their interests? How can you reach them?

Go where your members are and you will be able to find new members/leads to mine.

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.