How Does a Key Card Access System Work?

Key card access systems allow entry into restricted areas when a person with a security pass card swipes, inserts or displays the card in front of or into a card reader integrated into the security system. The pass card features a magnetic stripe encoded with information that the card reader uses to authorize entry into the area, such as a name, identification number or access level.

The magnetic stripe, or magstripe, features tiny magnetic particles much like the encoding on the back of a credit card. The card reader reads the back of the card to determine whether to open the door to allow access to the card holder. The security pass card may provide general access, which means it does not provide data about who swiped the card, or it may feature special encoding that lets companies track who accessed which areas.

There are three general types of card readers capable of reading the information on the magnetic stripe: swipe, insert and proximity reader. To use a swipe reader, the user swipes the card through a slot in the reader, much like swiping a credit or debit card at the point of sale. An insert reader requires the user to insert the card into a slot, while a proximity reader reads the card when the user holds it in front of a designated area on the card reader’s face.