ID Cards Guide

Your ID card program starts with the right ID cards. Learn more about the different types of cards that are available to you to choose the ID cards that meet your requirements.

Types of ID Cards

We offer 3 different types of ID cards: PVC cards, proximity cards and pre-printed cards.

PVC cards

Commonly referred to as plastic cards, PVC cards come in a variety of sizes, thicknesses and colors. The most standard size is called CR80 - which is the size of your credit card (3.375" x 2.125") — but we also carry CR79 cards (3.303" x 2.051") that are a bit smaller and feature an adhesive back. Thicknesses vary from 10 to 30mil. As a reference, your credit card is a 30mil card. PVC cards can also include additional features such as magnetic stripes for multifunctional badges. If you want to create unique ID cards, browse our selection of color PVC cards.

Proximity cards

"Prox" cards have an embedded antenna that stores the cardholder data. This data can be read when the proximity card is passed within range of a reader. Mainly used for access control applications, proximity cards are also chosen in environments where crowd control is a factor.

Pre-printed cards

This option is ideal for membership cards, loyalty cards, or other ID cards where only a name, ID number or barcode might be added onsite. Let us print professional cards and if needed, personalize them on the spot in seconds.  You will get stunning results that will definitely impress your customers.

ID Card Encoding Options

What does it mean to “encode” an ID card? Simply put, encoding is the process by which data is placed onto (stored within) an ID card’s components. ID cards can hold data in several different ways, from the simple to the complex, and from a little data to large amounts of data. Each card encoding method is designed to accommodate certain data types and quantities, and each encoding type requires appropriate software (some card-printer software can handle only limited encoding options). The more sophisticated the ID card’s data-storage mechanisms, the more complex the software.

ID Card Visual Security

By incorporating visual-security elements into ID cards, card-issuing organizations can—with high confidence—readily verify card authenticity and protect card integrity by minimizing card tampering and illegal duplication. Ensuring the benefits of great visual security depends on printer features, ribbon types, and specialized blank card stock.

Choosing the Right ID Cards

Your card printer and card application will determine which ID cards are right for you.
Here are a few tips when choosing ID cards

Card thickness

ID card printers will only accept specific card thicknesses. Most printers are built to print 30mil cards (thickness of a credit card) so if you need to personalize thinner cards (10-20mil), check the specs of your printer.

Card size

Most ID card printers print CR80 cards (3.375" x 2.125"), CR80 being the standard card size. However, if you need to print cards of other sizes such as CR79 (3.303" x 2.051"), note that only a few card printers will allow it.

Card material

The most common type of plastic card is 100% PVC. However, it is recommended to use composite PVC/PET cards for retransfer and laminating printers. Composite cards are 60% PVC and 40% PET and are more durable than PVC cards. They are also heat resistant and won’t bend under high temperatures. Composite cards can be used with any card printer.

Technology cards

If your printer is equipped with a magnetic encoder and you need to store data into a magnetic stripe, you will have the choice between high coercivity (HiCo) and low coercivity (LoCo) cards. HiCo cards are very resistant, harder to erase and built to handle frequent usage. Choose HiCo cards for access control or time and attendance applications. Less expensive but also less resistant, low coercivity cards work best with short-term applications such as hotel room keys or event passes.  For advanced access control systems, proximity cards are a popular choice. Proximity cards are read-only devices: that is why the encoding is typically handled by manufacturers before shipping.

How to take care of your blank pvc cards

Taking care of your blank white cards is critical to get the best quality at every print. Dust and debris on your cards can easily damage your ID card printer and result in poorly printed cards.

To make sure that you get the best out of your blank PVC cards, follow these steps:

  • Store your packs of cards in a clean, dust-free environment. Keep your cards in a temperature controlled area to avoid extreme heat or cold.
  • Unpack your cards only when you are ready to use them. Do not use a sharp object to open the shrink wrapping to avoid scratches on your cards.
  • Hold your cards by the edges. Do not touch the card surface as oils from your hands will transfer to the cards and reflect on the printed cards.
  • Fan your blank PVC cards before using them. Fanning will reduce static and help prevent the cards from sticking together.
  • If you drop a card, throw it away. Trying to clean it might only result in added damage to the card.
  • Clean your printer regularly: cleaning your printer, rollers, and printhead will reduce the risk of contamination by dust and dirt. Follow the cleaning recommendations of your card printer manufacturer.

Remembering these simple tips will help you print high-quality cards and protect your ID card printer.

If you have questions, feel free to give us a call! Our experts are here to help. Call our toll-free support line at 1-800-897-7024, chat with us or email us whenever you need it.