ID Badge Glossary

Access Control Card

A physical access control card or badge that is technology-based controls entry to and exit from a facility when presented to a card reader. These cards utilize smart cards, RFID, magnetic stripe, and barcode technologies. The most commonly used and newly deployed technology is contactless smart card RFID, which is more secure than the older proximity RFID card technology. Magnetic strips and barcodes are less secure than RFID and are used less often, typically found in older systems.

Adhesive PVC Stock

A credit card size or standard photo ID size card stock with an adhesive back that is revealed when the backing is removed.  It is ideal for recycling previously issued and printed RFID cards or placing them onto thicker clamshell-style RFID cards. Once the stock is printed, the backing is peeled off and affixed to the CR-80 technology card stock.


Barcodes are widely used in the photo identification industry for time and attendance tracking, job tracking, and membership ID. A barcode comprises a series of vertically printed lines separated by white spaces. When read by a barcode reader, it represents an encoded alphanumeric value. There are three primary barcode reader technologies: infrared, visible light, and laser. Infrared technology requires carbon ink to be printed and read, a requirement of many time clocks. Infrared readers can read a printed black barcode on top of a barcode mask or a non-carbon-based dark color bar, preventing photocopying. Standard barcode formats include Code 39, 128, Interleaved 2 of 5, and QR-Code.

Barcode Mask

A color bar or fake barcode is printed using carbon-less ink. When a real barcode is printed using carbon-based ink on top of the mask and photocopied, the copied version cannot be read by infrared readers for fraudulent purposes, as it prints the entire mask and barcode as one carbon-based image.

Cash Stripe

The cash stripe is a HiCo single-track magnetic stripe located in either track 2 (Debitech), track 4, or track 5 (ITC Systems) position. Primarily used in older offline point-of-sale systems where the card stores the value on the stripe and is used to pay for the print, copy, and vending.


A measure of the strength of charge to a magnetic field such as on a magnetic stripe. They are typically expressed as Low Coercivity or LoCo (300 Oersted/Oe) or High Coercivity or HiCo (4000 Oe); 2750 Oe is an intermediate level but not a valid HiCo format.

Contact Card

Any smart card where information is transferred to a reader via a series of contact points located on the smart card.

Contactless Card

Any smart card that transmits data using radiofrequency technology through a transmitter and receiver is known as a contactless smart card. The primary standard used in the photo ID industry is MIFARE®, which operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz.

Composite PVC

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) combined with polyester makes ID card stock material more durable and can be used in lamination systems where heat typically damages 100% PVC. It is the most widely used plastic material for laminated PVC ID cards and badges punched for use with strap clips and lanyards.

Credit Card Size

Credit card size, also known as CR-80 (2-1/8″ x 3-3/8″), is the standard industry size for PVC-produced identification badges and cards. Most credit cards are 30 mils thick; however, other common thicknesses include 10, 20, and 50 mils.


CR-80 is synonymous with credit card size (2-1/8″ x 3-3/8″) and is the standard industry size for PVC-produced identification badges and cards.

Dye Sublimation Printing

A photo ID printing process that uses heat to transfer color from monochrome or multi-panel colored printer ribbon onto PVC card stock. A typical ribbon comprises CMYKO: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (K for carbon), and Overlay (1-micron thin protective layer). The dye/colors penetrate the card slightly, allowing one color to fuse with another.

Edge to Edge

Printing “edge to edge” refers to the ability to print all the way to the edges of a card without any drop-out of printing along the edges, also known as “full bleed.” Most direct-to-card dye-sublimation PVC card printers do not achieve true “edge-to-edge” printing, although they can get very close. Maintaining registration settings to achieve this consistently is challenging. In contrast, reverse transfer dye-sub PVC printers can consistently achieve true “edge-to-edge” printing.

Europay, MasterCard & Europay (EMV)

A standard for smart cards in the banking industry created by Europay, MasterCard, and Visa.


Characters created by cold forming a reverse image by pressing the card’s plastic using a punch and die process, which is very rarely used today. This was the standard in the payment credit card industry as a quick form of capturing data using carboned ink paper.


Encoding within the identification card industry primarily refers to the processing and placement of electronic information onto specified tracks of a magnetic stripe. However, RFID, contactless, and contact smart cards can also be encoded.


Encoding involves converting information into code that can only be decoded by authorized parties. In the photo ID industry, encryption takes place at the magnetic stripe, RFID, and data submission levels. Special algorithms are used for reading and writing data from an ID card. Data can be encrypted at rest or in transit using various methods to protect it from being read if intercepted.


Free On Board is used in conjunction with a physical point to determine—

  1. The responsibility and basis for payment of freight charges; and
  2. Unless otherwise agreed, the point where the title for goods passes to the buyer or consignee.
  3. The shipping address “city” is the physical point of destination

FOB Destination – Free On Board at destination; i.e., the seller or consignor delivers the goods on seller’s or consignor’s conveyance at destination. Unless the contract provides otherwise, the seller or consignor is responsible for the cost of shipping and the risk of loss.

FOB Origin – Free On Board at origin; i.e., the seller or consignor places the goods on the conveyance. Unless the contract provides otherwise, the buyer or consignee is responsible for the cost of shipping and the risk of loss.

Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM)

The Global System for Mobile Communication is a widely used digital mobile phone standard. It entails using a smart chip (SIM) to authorize the use of a mobile phone.

Gift Card

A gift card is a prepaid retail card with a specific currency or value that can be used to purchase goods and services. Most gift cards are now supported by payment card vendors such as Mastercard and Visa, and they can be reloaded with additional funds. Some gift cards are linked to a patron’s account within a retail point of sale system using a barcode or magnetic stripe, allowing for the deduction of a balance.


In the identification industry, real holograms are not used as security features in ID cards. The industry standard is tri-modal images, a “security seal” that changes colors when tilted and reflects light. The original image, Advantage®, was developed by Armstrong Industries in Lancaster, PA, and became a standard in the driver’s license industry. Armstrong’s patent expired years ago, leading to increased competition and alternative pricing options.

ID Badge

An ID badge is a card worn to identify the wearer easily. It usually features the wearer’s name printed in large letters, along with a related photo. ID badges are either slot-punched, attached to a strap clip or lanyard, or placed in a protective badge holder.

ID Card

An ID card is a non-worn card that identifies the holder and the organization the holder represents. It usually features the wearer’s name printed in large letters, along with a related photo. ID cards are typically stored in a wallet or purse.

International Standards Organization (ISO)

The central body for forming and disseminating industry standards for all national standards bodies.


In the photo ID badge industry, lamination is the durable outer layer of PVC ID cards and badges. It is a 1 MIL thick clear patch that is applied to each side of the badge during the personalization printing process to enhance durability and security. Eliminating the necessity for clear and hard plastic badge holders is another advantage of lamination, as the slotted areas last much longer, and the entire badge image is protected from image fading and surface wear.

Most manufacturers require the use of PVC and polyester card stock, also known as composite stock. The ideal composite format is 60% PVC and 40% polyester, but some are 80/20 and come in a .6 MIL thickness to reduce the laminate cost. A laminate film patch can be manually applied after the card is printed.

When using a professional-grade laminator, Teslin media must be laminated in clear polyester and polyethylene laminate making the badge rigid and durable.

Loyalty Card

A loyalty card is a merchant-branded marketing resource that uses a barcode or magnetic stripe to track consumer spending and rewards with recurring customers using points and discounts for purchasing new products and services.


MIFARE is an industry-standard (ISO 14443 A or B) contactless smart card RFID format operating at 13.56 MHz, replacing the less secure 125KHz card stock. The ISO 14443 “A” standard RFID MIFARE identification card chip is the de facto standard for the photo ID badge issuance industry as it is considered the open standard. In contrast, the “B” format is considered closed/locked. The technical difference lies in the modulation methods, coding schemes, and protocol initialization procedures.

Magnetic Stripe

The magnetic recording material on the back of an ID card or badge typically consists of tiny iron-based magnetic particles, such as barium ferrite, embedded in a plastic-like film inserted into a PVC card substrate.

A HiCo or high-coercivity magnetic stripe provides a moderate level of security at a low issuance cost for door access, time and attendance, and payment. Magnetic strips come in various track formats, including a single or “debit” stripe, a less common two-track, and the most common three-track format. Encoding multiple tracks (Tracks I, II, and III specifically) with the same or different data can be challenging if not done correctly to avoid overlap of the encoded data. Magnetic stripes are becoming increasingly rare in new time clocks and physical door access systems, as RFID technology offers higher security and protection.

Near Field Communication (NFC)

NFC is a communication protocol based on RFID. It allows a device like a smartphone or card reader to communicate with an unpowered device such as a contactless ID badge or another mobile device that imitates the ID card’s communication. An NFC-enabled device can be used with a compatible NFC reader to open doors, clock into payroll systems, or make purchases at vending machines or cash registers, thereby eliminating the need for an ID badge, card, token, or FOB. The NFC technology is compliant with ISO 14443, operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz, and is categorized as High-Frequency (HF) RFID. One notable difference between MIFARE and NFC is that NFC generally provides stronger encryption compared to the commonly used Mifare Classic.

Oersted (Oe)

The unit of magnetic coercive force used to define the ability to change or encode the information on a magnetic stripe. A magnetic stripe encoded at a 4000 Oersted(Oe) is considered HiCo, or High Coercivity, 2750 – Oe is an intermediate level, and 300 Oe is LoCo.


 “Offline” is a technology platform term that refers to a secure card and reader transaction being conducted and authenticated at the reader level, without the need for connection to a central system. This was the standard in campus point-of-sale systems for pay for print, copy, and vending until around mid-2005. Most systems use a single-track magnetic stripe that retains an encoded value directly on the card, which is used in a read/write format for managing both credit (adding value to the card) and debit (deducting value from the card) transactions. Some applications of contact and contactless smart cards exist in offline systems. Contactless smart cards are commonly used offline for physical (door) access control, and this is most commonly seen on a hotel room door. Today, many offline physical access control transactions are synchronized back into the online system using the contactless smart card.


“Online” is a technology platform term that refers to a secure card and reader transaction that is read at the reader level but authenticated in a networked centralized system. The card itself does not carry any value. When the card is read, the reader communicates with a backend system database that can deduct a communicated value from the current balance and then send a response back to dispense a vending, point of sales, or event transaction. The online configuration applies to campus point of sale, physical access control, tracking, and time and attendance systems. Since 2005, online campus point-of-sale systems have become the industry standard, replacing offline CPOS systems in the USA.


Personalizing an ID card applies to printing, encoding, and programming a card with data specific to an individual cardholder. Personalized information is considered variable data, as it is different on each ID card. Constant data are elements that are repeated in each ID badge design. Examples using both during personalization:

  • Name: John Sampleton, “Name:” is constant, and “John Sample” is a variable merged field from a database
  • Padding or embedding encoded values within numeric strings [100001]{0001}[3232000] [Constant]{variable/sequenced/merged}[constant]

Physical Access Control (PAC)

Physical access control (PAC) involves using an access control card, entering a PIN, or using biometrics to open a door, parking gate, locker, cabinet, or locker. The PAC systems typically consist of at least a control device (reader) used to authenticate an individual within a back-end software system that triggers a relay to open or close (lock/unlock/sound an alarm) once the authentication is completed. Most commercial systems include management software that programs advanced controller boards, panels, nodes, or even the reader with its built-in controller. These advanced components control multiple readers and locations using a series of user rights, time zones, and reader groups to which an individual is assigned, per ID badge.

The most commonly used and newly deployed technology is contactless smart card RFID, which is more secure than the older proximity RFID card technology. Magnetic strips and barcodes are less secure than RFID and are used less often, typically found in older systems.

Prepaid Card

A branded merchant or loyalty card with a stated value ($25.00) or consumer-specified value purchased for full value. The card is then used online at merchants that accept the merchant-branded card until the value is reduced to zero—major credit card brands back most cards today. Many prepaid cards can be reloaded today, increasing the recycling value for our environment. Prepaid cards are now being used to replace payroll checks via a direct deposit model for those who do not have bank accounts.

Proximity Card

A prox card, also known as a proxy card, is a passive contactless RFID card. It operates at 125kHz and transmits an encoded serialized ID value when it comes within the range or proximity of a reader’s radio frequency range, typically within an inch or two. It provides low to medium security with just a wave of the ID badge. To ensure consistent graphics over the irregular surface of the RFID chip area, it is recommended to use reverse transfer ID card printers. The formats of proximity cards vary, so it’s important to know the exact specifications of the card before ordering.

PVC Card

Polyvinyl chloride is the most widely used plastic material for ID cards. If you laminate your PVC ID cards, ensure they are made from a composite of 60% PVC and 40% polyester to prevent card warping, melting, and damaging any internal RFID chips in the card.

Radio Frequency Identification Card (RFID)

An RFID card communicates with the interface device via radiofrequency. It is a standard communication protocol in proximity and contactless smart cards. RFID cards can be formatted with multiple RFID formats and magnetic stripes. The most common frequencies used are 125 KHz (proximity) and 13.56 MHz (contactless.)


Registration in printing refers to the alignment of multiple colors during the printing process to create a clear image. It can also refer to a printer setting that determines how the edges of a printed image are placed to match the specific characteristics of the printing media. Most printers have a small margin of error in the movement of the printed image, which means that any part of the image should be within this margin; otherwise, it might not be fully visible or could be cut off.

Reverse Transfer Printing Technology

Reverse transfer, or high-definition printing (HDP), is the standard printing process for high-security card applications that use contact and contactless smart chip cards due to surface irregularity. The technology prints reverse images onto the underside of a special film (overlay) that fuses to the surface of a PVC card through heat and pressure. Since this process transfers dyes and resins directly onto a smooth, flexible film, the print head never comes in contact with the card surface. As such, card surface interruptions such as smart chips, ridges caused by internal RFID antennae, and debris do not affect print quality. Even printing over the edge is possible.

Security Seal

A tri-modal image is used when creating security seals on laminates and card stock for issued photo ID badges. Most security seals mimic holograms but are distinct from them, as it has three statistical modes. Others can be printer-applied seals etched on the card laminate or overlay. ID card stock can be ordered with custom security seals as well.

Signature Panel

A signature panel is the area of an ID card where the cardholder physically writes their signature. Never use signatures for identification; use a facial photo as they are more reliable and do not require signature match expertise.


Skimming is copying the encoding from one card to an alternate device to fraudulently duplicate and use the source ID card or badge. Magnetic stripes get the most recognition here, but RFID cards are the most vulnerable since they do not have to come in contact with the skimming device to be read unless kept in a shielded holder. RFID cards are constantly evolving to keep ahead of hackers.


The slot is the elongated narrow hole punched into the ID card. It is used with an ID strap clip or lanyard, a wide plastic swivel hook, or a vinyl strap to attach the badge to the holder. Do not use metal swivel hooks, rings, or bulldog clips to attach the badge via the slot.

Slot Punch

A tool for punching the slot in an ID badge. Slot punches can be handheld, desktop, or electronic. It is not recommended to order ID card stock pre-slotted if using a PVC card printer.

Smart Card

A smart card is a plastic credit card-sized card that contains one or more semiconductor chips. They are manufactured in contact and contactless formats. In photo identification, smart cards are mostly contactless via 13.56  frequency RFID (MIFARE®) and are used for physical access control, time and attendance, and tracking. Contact smart cards are primarily surface-chipped interfaced via a thin contact panel and used for network logical access or a secured PC-signed system offering the highest security. Most government cards have both contact and contactless, meeting the heavily regulated requirements of HSPD-12, which is a very complex regulation that is extremely expensive to manage.

In the capability category, there are three smart card types:

  • Memory Card: A smart card that stores and retrieves serial “streams” of data sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.

  • Protected Memory Card: A smart card that requires a secret code or PIN to be entered before the data can be sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.

  • Microprocessor Card: Contains a microprocessor chip with microcode that defines a command structure, a data file structure, and a security structure in the card.

Stored Value Card

A financial card encoded with a certain amount of money, with each purchase amount being deducted from the card.

Time and Attendance (T&A)

Time and attendance are also called a time clock system; it refers to a system that typically consists of at least a control device that is used to authenticate an individual (time clock/reader) and a recording system (backend software) to record the employees in and out times generated from each valid transaction. Most commercial systems include management software to enroll employees, assign user rights, and then programs each time clock for use with the valid users. Time and attendance vary vastly in authentication media. ID cards or badges enabled with barcodes, magnetic stripes, and RFID technologies are presented to time clocks, which expedites the throughput time, unlike time clocks used with just a PIN pad.


Laminated Teslin is a commonly used material for creating information cards, buddy badges, visitor badges, key fobs, and loyalty/prepaid cards. Before PVC card printers became popular, Teslin’s plastic-like properties made it ideal for working with inkjet printers to produce color photo ID badges, which were then laminated. However, this process was less user-friendly compared to using a dye sublimation PVC card printer that completes the entire process with a single button press.

Thermal Transfer Printing

Thermal transfer printing is an older technology used for text or barcode printing. It is typically black but can be a variety of mono colors. They cannot be combined as in dye-sub, so the last color printed is shown.

Tri-modal Image

A tri-modal image is used when creating security seals on laminates and card stock for issued photo ID badges. This image mimics holograms but is distinct from them, as it has three statistical modes. It displays three different colors when tilted under a light source at various angles. Tri-modal images are a cost-effective security upgrade that quickly detects fraudulent duplication of a photo ID badge. The inventor was PPG back in the 1980s. It was first brought to market branded as Advantage® and only sold by IDenticard Systems, now a Brady People ID company, until the 1990s when it became available to other manufacturers.

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF RFID)

UHF is an RFID card technology with an extended read range of up to 40 to 50 feet. This is primarily due to the signal strength of the UHF readers and the antenna configuration of the UHF card, token, or FOB.  NFC is only limited to the high-frequency band of 13.56MHz, while proximity RFID has a low frequency (125KHz to 135KHz), high frequency (13.56MHz), and ultra-high frequency (860MHz to 960MHz).