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RFID PVC Cards vs. Traditional Magnetic Stripe Cards: A Comparison

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Apr 23, 2024
  • RFID
RFID PCV Cards vs Traditional Magnetic Stripe Cards

The use of smartcards has been predominant in various industries & even in day-to-day life for decades. Ever since the introduction of the magnetic stripe cards in the year 1960 by IBM, we’ve used cards for the purposes of access control, transactions, etc. However, with the development of technology, newer and more advanced methods have arisen like RFID. So, it begs the question, “RFID PVC Card vs. Traditional Magnetic Stripe Cards, which one is better”?

Today, that is just what we will be discussing.

How Do RFID PVC Cards Work?

These cards consist of an RFID Inlay sandwiched between two protective layers of PVC held together with adhesive. The card works by communicating with the RFID reader using radio signals. The chip inside the inlay is pre-programmed with data. These cards usually communicate using NFC (Near-Field Communication) for security reasons. Once they enter the near field of a reader, the chip is powered up due to electromagnetic induction. The antenna on the inlay then sends out the signal to the reader with the authentication information.

Working Principle Behind Magnetic Stripe Cards

These stripes work on the principle of electromagnetic recording. In short, the stripe contains tiny ferromagnetic particles covered by a thin layer of a plastic film. These particles are magnetized into different poles (north & south) representing binary data. The way this technology works is by creating a small magnetic field in the card reader machine. To clarify, the reader head on the machine is a small electro-magnet, it creates a small field when active. When you swipe the card through the reader, the stripe moves along the reader's head, and the ferro-magnetized particles create disturbance in the field. The sensors in the reader record this interference and send them as signals to the chip. The chip then converts these signals into binary data & then readable data.

RFID PVC Cards: The Benefits of Contactless Identification

 As discussed above, RFID smartcards use NFC technology to communicate with the system, there are several benefits of using this system. Let’s discuss them.


The data stored in these cards is usually encrypted and cannot be accessed by a reader that doesn’t have the encryption key. Also, because they work using NFC, you cannot access these from more than a couple of centimeters.


These cards have a good data transfer rate and eliminate the need to manually put in any information. Even in monetary applications like credit cards, all you may need to do is put in a security code. This makes PCV cards very efficient in terms of their use.

Employee Tracking

Many organizations use custom smartcards to allow employees access to the premises. This allows the employers to track the movement of the employees in and out of the premises. It helps maintain an accurate database of attendance, break times, etc.

Storage Capacity

RFID chips can hold significantly more data than a magnetic stripe. For example, a stripe can usually hold around 1025 bits of information, while an RFID chip in a smartcard generally holds up to 2 kilobytes (16000 bits) of data.

Operational Lifespan

Being contactless and not relying on degradable properties like magnetic fields make these cards extremely reliable and long-lasting. They do not suffer through physical degradation, wear & tear during their use. They contain a passive RFID inlay, which has a virtually infinite lifespan.

Benefits of Traditional Magnetic Stripe Card

Magnetic stripe cards have been in standard use since the 1960s, making them a part of the market for more than 60 years. However, with developing technology, they have become redundant, yet we still use them. This is because of their inherent advantages, like:


Integration of magnetic stripes on cards is extremely cheap, to the point where they are still included as a means of redundancy even after becoming obsolete. For example, presently, Credit/Debit cards already use Encrypted Chip and RFID, because it is more secure and longer lasting. But manufacturers still include magnetic stripes, because the additional cost is negligible.

Fast & Ease of Use

All you need to do to use this technology is to swipe the stripe through a reader’s slot. As soon as you swipe the card, the reader captures all the information on it. Making this technology very easy to use and efficient.

Secure Access Control

You can use these cards to allow access to people based on authorization. For example, different levels of employees can have access cards with different authorization levels. This prevents any unauthorized personnel for access sensitive and secure areas of a facility. It also improves security by maintaining accurate records of employee movements in and out of different areas of the organization.


It is very easy and simple to reprogram the data on a magnetic stripe. This makes them customizable and reduced the cost by eliminating the need to discard the old card in case of a change in protocols or authorization levels.

Data Capacity

While not as efficient as RFID, magnetic stripes can still store more data than some other AIDC technology like barcodes.

Comparative Analysis: RFID Cards vs. Magnetic Stripe Cards



Magnetic Stripe


These cards have encrypted data and cannot be accessed by unauthorized readers.

These do not have any safety measures and can be accessed by any magnetic reader heads.

Data Capacity

Can hold significantly more data than a magnetic stripe. Around 16000 bites.

Can hold up to 1024 bits of data.


The RFID inlay is secured safely within the PVC cards, it has a virtually infinite lifespan.

The magnetic stripe is prone to damage and scratches from friction, every time you swipe it. Has an average of 3 years of lifespan.

RFID PVC Cards vs. Traditional Magnetic Stripe Cards: A Comparison


As mentioned earlier, RFID PVC cards are feature-rich and offer great benefits in comparison to traditional magnetic strip cards used as access cards, hotel key cards, payment cards, etc. However, RFID PVC cards are also categorized in two main categories.

  1. 1. UHF RFID PVC Cards

  2. 2. HF/NFC PVC cards

  3. Parameter


    UHF RFID PVC Cards


    HF RFID PVC cards

    Operating frequency


    UHF RFID PVC cards operate on UHF, 865-867MHz operating frequency.


    HF RFID PVC cards operate on HF, 13.56 MHz operating frequency, same as NFC cards.


    Read range

    UHF RFID PVC cards offer a read range of 9-12 meters.


    HF RFID PVC cards offer a read range of up to 100 cm however like NFC cards, HF cards are also mostly used for tap and share.


    Communication Standards

    UHF RFID PVC card follow the EPCglobal gen2 v 2 and ISO 18000-63 communication protocol, same as any RAIN RFID tag.


    HF RFID and NFC PVC cards follow the ISO 14443 and ISO/IEC 15693 communication standards. 


    Use cases 


    UHF RFID PVC cards are used as access control cards, in parking management, at events, etc. 


    HF RFID or NFC cards are used as room key cards, digital payments, ticketing, e-passports, business cards, etc. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the difference between RFID and Magstripe card technology?

The biggest difference between the two is the technology used. RFID uses radio signals to transfer data wirelessly between two points. On the other hand, magstripe technology uses magnetized ferromagnetic particles causing a disturbance in an already establish magnetic field (created by the reader’s head) to transfer data.

Q2. What are the two advantages of smart cards over magnetic stripe cards?

RFID smartcards have almost every advantage over magstripe cards, except for cost, i.e., magstripe cards are extremely cheap to make. On the other hand, smart cards use RFID technology to communicate, meaning-

  • They have better security due to their data being encrypted.
  • They have a longer lifespan since passive RFID can operate virtually forever.

Q3. What is magnetic stripe card uses?

We can and have been using this technology for several applications, like.

(A). We use magnetic stripes on the back of bank cards to allow easy transactions.

(B). These cards are used by security departments for gate access control.

(C). You can also use these cards for attendance and time management systems in companies.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on May 09, 2023

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