Flip over a typical gift card and you’ll find a magnetic stripe or, as its commonly called, mag stripe. Unlike barcodes, there are only two types of magnetic stripe cards, identified by the strength of the magnetic field on the card. This strength is called coercivity.
The two different types are high coercivity, or HiCo, and low coercivity, also called LoCo. HiCo magnetic stripes are easily identified by their black color while low coercivity is a distinctive brown color.
Most magnetic stripes, roughly 99%, are HiCo. This is because they have a longer lifespan than LoCo stripes. LoCo stripes are best when used in short-term situations, like for hotel room keys.
Coercivity – a measure of the strength of a magnetic field
HiCo – High Coercivity
LoCo – Low Coercivity
Magnetic stripes allow you to encode a long ID number on a magnetic track. When you swipe a card, the ID number will locate the corresponding ID in your database giving you access to whatever information you have relating to the ID. For example, the ID may show how much money is left on a gift card. Magnetic stripes are often used for:
Monitoring time and attendance
Cannot be photocopied
Can be used with standard payment terminals
Simple to Program
Easy to use
Information can be rewritten and updated
Unlike barcodes, mag stripes cannot be photocopied. This makes them more difficult to use fraudulently. Another benefit of magnetic stripes is that they can be used with standard payment terminals. This makes them a good option for retail applications.
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