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Determining Card Characteristics of a New ID Card Program

Now that you've answered the big picture questions about your new ID card program, you are ready to think about specific details of your card program.

What should the cards look like?

Beyond serving a security purpose, ID cards also reflect your company’s brand. An attractive ID card helps ensure that your employees represent your organization in a professional manner. There are many options for creating an ID card that matches your company’s identity. Consider the following questions to identify the options you should consider.

Will the card be full color or one color?
Bright and colorful cards make a card stand out and can make visual confirmations easier. If you would like your card to serve a promotional purpose, color printing is a good way to achieve this. Note:Printing in full color does cost more than monochrome cards and can take longer to print.

How many sides of the card need to contain information? 
ID cards can have information printed on either one or two sides. If all that is needed is an employee’s name and/or picture, single sided printing may be sufficient. Printing on two sides of a card is more expensive and time consuming but allows you to include more information. If a card needs to include, for example, an employee’s ID number, date of birth, and job title, listing some of this information on the reverse will help ensure that a card doesn’t appear crowded.

Does your company’s logo and the cardholder's photo or name need to appear on each card?
If yes, this customization can be easily done with a digital camera and software. ID Superstore can help you with deciding on the best way to create this custom information.

Will card customization be done in-house or outsourced?
If you want to keep your ID card customization in-house, will it be managed by human resources, security, library staff (for universities and colleges), or your IT department? Hiring an outside organization, such as ID superstore, to do your card customizations for you ensures that you end up with a quality product and also that your regular employees remain focused on their regular tasks.

How many cards need to be customized per week/month/year?
To figure out whether in-house or outsourced customization is best for you, consider how many cards you anticipate needing each week/month/year. If you only need to produce a few cards at a time, this may be something your internal staff can manage. However, if large quantities of new cards are needed frequently, outsourcing this work is a better choice.

Does the card need to store information?

As mentioned previously, ID cards can be used to store various types of information. If you would like to use your cards to store information, consider the following questions:

  • What information needs to be tracked for each cardholder?
  • How will the information be accessed?
  • How secure must the cards be to fraud (duplication/tampering/having many cards)?

What information needs to be tracked for each cardholder?

If you have decided that you need the cards to track information about the card holder, you should decide what information is needed. This could be a simple password or it might be detailed information about the cardholder, involving biometric information, personal data (like date of birth), or information about their position with your company. Smartcards can also be used to store company information like important files or documents.

How will the information be accessed?

After you’ve settled on the type of information to be stored on the card, you will next want to think about how this information will be accessed. There are a few different options for you to consider:

  • Barcodes
  • Magnetic stripes
  • Chip cards

The following table describes the features associated with each type of card.

Type of Encoding




Barcodes are a way of presenting alpha-numeric (letters and numbers) information in a form that a computer can read. The most common is the UPC code that is used on most consumer goods but there are many different types of barcodes that can be used on an ID card. Because barcodes are limited to a finite number of letters and numbers, more detailed data cannot be stored on these cards.
Magnetic stripes

A magnetic stripe (like those on the back of a credit card) is made up of tiny iron-based magnetic particles in a plastic-like film. Magnetic stripes can contain 147 numeric characters and 79 alphanumeric characters. Like barcodes, magnetic stripes can only have letters and numbers stored on them, which limits the types of content that can be stored on them.Magnetic stripes come in either high coercivity (HiCo) or low coercivity (LoCo). HiCo magnetic stripes provide the highest level of immunity to damage by stray magnetic fields while LoCo magnetic stripes are easier to encode and slightly less expensive.
Chip cards Chip cards contain an embedded integrated circuit chip. These circuit chips come in two different forms:

  • Memory
  • Memory and a microprocessor

Chip cards are more versatile than the other types of information storage available for ID cards. They can store detailed, complicated information such as biometric data, company resources, and detailed personal information.

There are three main types of chip card:Contact smart cards : Pins attached to card reader make "contact" with pads on the surface of the card to read and store information in the chip.Contactless smart cards : Embedded antennas allow transfer of information without inserting cards into a card acceptor device.

Proximity cards : Similar to contactless smart cards but are read-only devices that have a greater range of operation than other chip cards.

How secure from fraud must the cards be?

Once you’ve established how information will be stored on your cards, think about the level of security you want your cards to have. If you are concerned about forgeries, cards being tampered with, or other types of ID card fraud, consider adding additional security features to your card. Holograms, scratch off panels, and metallic writing can be added to cards to make them difficult to copy or otherwise tamper with.

 For Further Reading:

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