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Mifare Cards: RFID Contactless Cards and Types

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • May 30, 2024
  • RFID
Mifare Cards: RFID Contactless Cards and Types

Radiofrequency identification, short for RFID, as wireless communication technology is making strides in Industry 4.0. The technology offers significant advantages in automatic identification and data capture, more so than traditional barcodes that have been in use for decades but are limited by their ability to store and capture data. RFID is an advanced technology that utilizes a set of RFID tags and RFID readers to offer wireless communication in businesses like retail, supply chains, and manufacturing, logistics warehousing, etc.  

RFID tags are small electronic devices that have an antenna and a microchip which combine together to store the necessary data and transmit the same data when interrogated by an RFID reader. Mifare cards are designed on the same technology, offering contactless data transmission and applications as such.

What are Mifare Cards?

Mifare cards are contactless cards that work on high Frequency (HF, 13.56MHZ) and offer wireless data transfer which is used in access control, event ticketing, public transportation, identification cards, gaming, etc. 

Mifare is a trademark of NXP Semiconductors N.V. (NXP) a subsidiary of Philips, based in the Netherlands, and specifically refers to contactless RFID products and technologies. Like an HF RFID tag/label, a Mifare contactless card consists of an antenna to transmit and receive signals and a silicon microchip to store data. 

Mifare RFID cards are sold worldwide and now hold 80% market share by value on contactless cards and are regarded as the industry standard when it comes to contactless cards. Mifare cards are sold in various configurations, suitable for various business applications such as automated fare collection systems, home access control and security systems, transportation, inventory management systems, etc. 

Types of Mifare Cards

Mifare cards are the most popular and globally used when it comes to smart cards. Various types of Mifare cards are designed to offer distinct memory capacity, security features, and data read and write capabilities. 

Some of them are as follows:

  • 1. Mifare Ultralight
  • 2. Mifare Mini
  • 3. Mifare 1k/Mifare 4k
  • 4. Mifare Plus
  • 5. Mifare DESFire
  • 6. SmartMX, etc.

Difference between Mifare Plus, Mifare DESFire, and Smart MX Cards

Mifare technology follows the ISO standard ISO 14443A and Mifare cards work on operating frequency 13.56MHZ offering a read range of less than 1m with a suitable Mifare Reader. Normally the maximum distance of read/write is limited to 10cm. 

Mifare Plus Cards

Mifare Plus cards are very popular and offer AES and DES security encryption with a memory capacity of 2000 bytes and 4000 bytes respectively. These cards work on ISO/IEC 14443A communication standards and find applications in public transportation, ticketing, ID cards, access control, etc. 

Mifare DESFire Cards

Mifare DESFire cards offer 3DES encryption and are known for Fast, Innovative, Reliable, and Enhanced (FIRE) operations. These cards offer 4k bytes memory capacity and find applications in advanced access control, advanced public transportation, access management, event ticketing, e-government and identity cards, etc. 

Smart MX Cards

Smart MX cards are known for a high degree of security and encryption such as 3DES/RSA/ECC and offer 2k-144k memory capacity. These cards are used in e-passports to contain the sensitive personal information of people and various other applications such as advanced transportation, building access control, banking, e-government, finance, and mobile communication amongst others.

Read Range of Mifare Cards and Readers 

Since Mifare cards work on a 13.56 MHz operating frequency, the read range is pretty much limited to 10 cm or 4 inches. Mifare cards operate on ISO/IEC 14443A communication standard which also means a communication range of 4 inches. The proximity between the cards and the reader ensures that unintended communication is limited. 

Some Mifare cards and readers can work together to provide a read range of up to 45cm but not more than that as Mifare cards are designed for only short-range communication. However, the use of a higher gain antenna in a Mifare reader or a signal booster can enhance the read range of Mifare. Less interference in communication also means better read range. So the placement of Mifare cards and Reader also matters. 

The ISO/IEC standard which deals with air interface protocol, essentially the communication between the tag and reader, is also somewhat responsible for limited read range. For example, the ISO/IEC 15693 standard can offer a read range of 80cm. 

Mifare and NFC

Mifare and NFC (Near Field Communication), both types of tags and cards are used in transportation, access control, Identity cards, and ticketing, however, NFC is more versatile and offers compatibility with smartphones. NFC has added advantages to mobile payments and data transfer. 

The use of Mifare cards is mostly in ticketing and access control, and ID cards. Mifare cards and tags require dedicated readers and require the setting up of additional Mifare infrastructure. NFC is highly used in payments and requires a high level of security and encryption whereas various Mifare cards offer varied encryption methods such as AES, DES, and 3DES. The data transfer rate in Mifare is higher than NFC. NFC is widely used and very versatile with smartphone compatibility features. It is also cost-effective whereas distinct Mifare cards require added infrastructure such as Mifare readers and Mifare antennas and cost varies accordingly. 

Mifare is a trademark of NXP Semiconductors whereas NFC is governed by NFC Forum. The communication is also different as Mifare works on ISO/IEC 14443A communication standards whereas NFC is standardized under ECMA-340 and ISO/IEC 18092 standards. Thus both are noninterchangeable. 



To summarize, Mifare cards and tags are a prominent invention that is very much in use in the hospitality sector, hotel keys and cards, identity cards, e-government, access control, etc. Mifare is very popular when it comes to contactless cards and commands a higher market share, over 80% by market value. Mifare cards are proximity cards that typically offer a read range of 10cm, most suitable for access cards.




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 Oct 25, 2023

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