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7 Steps to Updating ID Cards for Better Security

Sample ID Cards

A number of years ago, ID cards mostly consisted of laminated white cardboards with cut out photos pasted on them. They served their primary purpose of providing basic identification, but over time, ID cards have evolved.

Now, they not only identify the cardholder, they also serve several other functions like access control, library checkouts, meal payments, and track time and attendance, among others.

As a result of these ID innovations, efficiency and productivity have been greatly increased. But more than modern features, newer IDs are now more secure from tampering and counterfeiting, offering dramatically better security benefits for both the user and the ID issuer.

If you are looking to upgrade your ID cards, here are a few steps you need to take to make your new cards not only functional, but also secure.

Step 1 – Define the purpose of your ID card program

Updating ID cards is fairly simple, even if you are new to ID printing and issuance. The key is planning. Start by setting objectives. Ask yourself what you wish to achieve in upgrading your ID cards. Here are a few guide questions:

  • Do you want to automate a service or function like attendance tracking or meal payments?
  • Will you be issuing ID cards to different groups of people?
  • Are you updating your ID card to comply with regulations or because of a security or functional deficiency?

By defining your objectives, you will be able to list down the features and functions of your new ID badges.

Step 2 – Determine the level and type of security required

The next step is deciding on security. Will your updated cards have payment functions? Will it be used for accessing secure areas? If you answered yes to both questions, then you should never skimp on ID security features. You wouldn’t want your cards to be vulnerable to counterfeiting.

State ID cards and driver’s licenses usually include holographic security elements, which can be visually authenticated but are difficult to copy. Organizations that require more secure cards often include secondary validation options like data encoding and PINs. Whatever security feature you choose to include in your updated ID cards, the important thing is it works in conjunction with the other features of your ID cards, which brings us to the next step.

Step 3 – Decide on the technology to use

Choosing how much technology and which innovation to incorporate in your ID cards is often a difficult decision. Note that the choices you make will impact the design, functionality, security, and even longevity of your ID badges. It will also significantly impact your budget.

With a little creativity, you can get the same advanced functionality from newer ID technologies using more affordable solutions. Let’s look at data encoding as an example. If you plan to incorporate payments and building access into your ID cards, you can opt for the more advanced smart cards, but the same functionality can be achieved using much cheaper magnetic stripe cards.

Step 4 – Settle on a design and layout

When designing your new ID cards, take into consideration the embedded electronics and other features of the cards. Remember to avoid printing or punching slots over embedded electronics. Think of the way your ID cards will be displayed as well and make sure to select the appropriate ID accessories for them.

Here are a number of guide questions:

  • Will your users be displaying their ID cards using badge holders?
  • Do your cards have magnetic stripes that need to be swiped regularly?
  • Will you be punching slots on the cards?

All these, and more, affect your ID’s design and layout.

Note, however, that design isn’t just about aesthetics. Designing ID cards is also about security. Remember to factor visual security elements in your card design process as well.

Step 5 – Do a test production of your new ID cards

Now that you have settled on ID card design and features, do a test production to identify potential issuance problems down the road. Some of the factors that you need to consider include:

  • Cost per card
  • Ease of ID revocation and re-issuance
  • Speed of ID production
  • Availability and cost of supplies needed

These things, among other factors, affect the efficiency of your ID card issuance program. This step is especially important for ID card programs that cater to a big number of users like schools, corporations, and licensing bureaus.

Step 6 – Beta test your new card’s functionality, reliability, durability, and security

The next logical step after a test production run is to assess the new card’s functionality and reliability. If your cards double as access credentials, test them to see if they work well with your existing access control system. Did you incorporate payment options on your new card? Test the payment functionality to ensure smooth operation.

Examine the security features as well. Check if it’s easy to duplicate your card’s design using optical scanners. Confirm that your ID card’s lamination is tamper-proof. Finally, verify that the payment functionality of the card is secure.

A good way to do beta testing is to issue the upgraded cards to a small group of users and have them use the cards on a regular basis. Gather as much feedback and usage data as possible, and use the information you collect to refine your upgraded ID cards.

Step 7 – Deploy your updated ID cards

When you are done testing and fine-tuning your ID card program, the final step to take is to issue the upgraded ID cards to your users. To better manage deployment of new ID cards, try distributing the new cards by batch or in waves. This way, you’ll be able to quickly catch and address any reliability or security issues missed during testing.

Security is paramount in any organization. As such, you shouldn’t go at it alone. Professional ID system solution providers like ID Superstore can be a valuable resource in planning a comprehensive card program that takes advantage of advanced technologies while keeping your costs within budget.


For a complete security and functionality audit of your existing ID card program, speak with our ID experts at 1-800-667-1772. You may also get in touch via e-mail.

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