Badging Glossary

Access Control Card - A technology-based ID card or badge that is presented to a reader to control access to and from a facility.

Adhesive PVC Stock - Most adhesive stock is CR-79 in size, 3.303" by 2.051" with either paper or mylar backing. Ideal for recycling previously issued and printed RFID cards, or placement onto thicker clamshelll style RFID cards. Once the stock is printed on, the backing is peeled off and affixed to the CR-80 technology card stock. The smaller format allows for easier placement. Remember to slot punch the adhesive card before placing on your slotted technology card.

Barcode - Is an optical mechanically read series of vertically printed lines separated by white spaces; that when read by a barcode reader, represent an encoded alphanumeric value. There are three primary barcode reader technologies: infrared, visible light, and laser. Infrared technology requires carbon ink printed bars to be read.  A barcode is a low-level security ID feature that is designed for simple data collection: job tracking, time and attendance, asset tracking, and membership identification. Place the barcode on your RFID, and/or incorporate with your mag stripe for single ID badge issuance. 

Barcode Mask -  Barcodes printed using a carbon-based format allows for a carbon-less barcode mask to cover the barcode so it cannot be photocopied and read for fraudulent purposes.

Cash Stripe: Also called a debit stripe, and for a short time, it was called/branded as a "junk stripe" by a few campus contact smart card systems integrators, but was dropped as the contact smart card was short-lived. Typically the cash stripe is a HiCo single track magnetic stripe that is located in either the track 2 (Debitech), track 4 (ACT), or track 5 (ITC Systems) position. Primary use is in off-line point of sale systems where the card stores the value on the stripe and is used for pay for print, copy, and vending.

Coercivity - A measure of the strength of charging a magnetic field such as on a magnetic stripe. They are typically expressed as LoCo (300 Oersted/Oe) 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 card.

Contactless Card - Any smart card which transfers data using radio frequency technology via a transmitter and receiver.

Composite PVC - Polyvinyl chloride that is combined with polyester making it more durable so it can be used in lamination systems where heat would typically damage 100% PVC. The most widely used plastic material for laminated PVC ID cards and badges that are punched for use with strap clips and lanyards.

Credit Card Size (aka CR-80) - The industry standard size for PVC produced identification badges and cards. (2-1/8” x 3-3/8”). Most credit cards are 30 MIL thick, however other common thicknesses include 10 and 20 MIL.

Dye Sublimation Printing - is a printing process that uses heat to transfer color from monochrome or multi-panel colored printer ribbon onto PVC card stock. A typical ribbon is made of 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 - As it applies to forms printing, "edge to edge," is the ability to print over all edges without any drop-out of printing along the edges. Also referred to as "full-bleed". Most direct to card dye-sublimation PVC card printers do not print true "edge to edge." They can get very close, but it is hard to keep the registration settings to maintain it. Reverse transfer dye-sub PVC printers can print true" edge to edge" as they print an inverted image of the design on the underside of the transfer film that extends beyond the edge of the card before transfer to the PVC card. 

EMV -A standard or specification created by MasterCard, Europay, and Visa for smart cards used in the banking industry.

Embossing - Characters created by cold forming a reverse image by pressing the plastic of the card using a punch and die process. Very rarely used in today.

Encoding - Within the identification card industry, it primarily refers to processing placing electronic information onto specified tracks of a magnetic stripe. However, RFID, contactless, and contact smart cards can be encoded (primed) as well.

Encryption - Transferring information during the encoding process based on an algorithmic key to make it intelligible to unauthorized parties.

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

Gift Card - A retail prepaid card with a currency or unit value used to redeem for goods and services.

Hologram - In the identification industry, real holograms are not used as security ID card stock features. Tri-modal images,"security seals" that change colors when tilted and reflect off light, are the industry standard.  The original image called Advantage(TM) was developed by Armstrong Industries in Lancaster PA, and became a standard in the drivers licenses industry.  Armstrong's patent expired years ago increasing competitive and alternate priced options.  

ID Badge - A worn ID Card that is either slot punched and attached to a strap clip or lanyard, or placed in a protective badge holder.

ID Card - Typically, a non-worn card that identifies the holder and the organization the holder represents. This identification can be visual (printed logo, photo and/or data), electronic (magnetic stripe, barcode, proximity, contact or contactless smart card; or a combination thereof). Today, the use of virtual ID cards are starting to appear on the market.

ISO - International Standards Organization, the central body for formation and dissemination of industry standards for all national standards bodies.

Lamination - The durable outer layers of some a plastic ID card. Sometimes added as part of the personalization process for durability and security. PVC cards can be laminated during the printing process if they are made of a composition of PVC and polyester (composite stock), or a laminate film can be manually applied after the card is printed. Teslin media must be laminated in a pouch made of clear polyester and polyethylene using a professional-grade laminator.

Loyalty Card - A loyalty card uses a barcode or magnetic stripe to track consumer spending, and rewards recurring customers with points and discounts for use with purchasing new products and services. 

Magnetic Stripe - The strip of magnetic recording material on the back of an ID card or badge that typically made up of tiny iron-based magnetic particles, like barium ferrite, embedded in a plastic-like film that is inserted into PVC card sub-straight. A HiCo or high coercivity magnetic stripe offers a moderate level of security that has a low cost of issuance for; door access, time and attendance, and payment. Place the mag stripe on your RFID, and/or incorporate your barcode for single ID badge issuance. 

MIFARE (ISO 14443 A or B): A standard contactless smart card RFID card format operating at the frequency of 13.56 MHz. The easiest way to state the difference between the "A" and "B" formats is that the "A" format is considered and open standard, and the "B" is a closed/locked format. A good example of a "B" format is HID's iClass card that has created a secure distribution channel working with authorized integration partners that can use their secured/locked down format. The technical difference states: regarding differences in modulation methods, coding schemes (Part 2), and protocol initialization procedures (Part 3). 

Near Field Communication (NFC) -NFC is a RFID communication protocol between a device like a smartphone and an un-powered device like a contact-less ID badge. An NFC device can be presented to a compatible NFC reader to open a door, clock into payroll, purchase an item at a vending machine, or at a cash register eliminating the need of an ID badge, card, token or FOB. NFC operates using 13.56 MHz frequency and considered High-Frequency (HF) RFID.

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 that is encoded at a 4000 Oersted(Oe) is considered HiCo, or High Coercivity and 2750 - Oe is an intermediate level, and 300 Oe is LoCo.

Offline - A secure card and reader transaction that is conducted and authenticated at the reader level, and does not require connection to a central system. This was a standard in campus point of sales systems until mid-2005 or so for pay for print, copy, and vending. Most systems use a single track magnetic stripe, called a debit or cash stripe, that retains an encoded value directly on the card that is used in a read/write format for managing both credits (adding value to the card) or debit (deducting value from the card) transactions. There are some applications of both contact and contact-less smart card in off-line systems. There is a good application for contactless smart cards used in an off-line mode for physical (door) access control, and most commonly seen on a hotel room door. Today many off-line physical access control transactions are populated back to the on-line system by the contact-less smart card itself.

On-line - A secure card and reader transaction that is read at the reader level, but authenticated in a networked centralized system. The card itself carries no value. The on-line configuration applies to campus point of sale, physical access control, tracking, and time and attendance systems. Since 2005, on-line campus point of sale systems has become the industry standard replacing off-line CPOS systems in the USA.

Personalization - Printing, encoding and programming a card with data specific to an individual cardholder.

Physical Access Control (PAC) - Also called door access, access control, gate access, card access ... refers to a system that typically consists of at least a control device (reader) that is used to authenticate an individual and a locking device that is unlocked once authentication is valid. Most commercial systems include management software that program advanced controller boards or panels; or even the reader itself that has it's own built-in controller. These advanced components control multiple readers and locations by using a series of user rights; time zones and reader groups, to which an individual is assigned. Most PAC systems use RFID badges as a form of automatic authentication that may be combined with PIN and/or biometric presentation.

Prepaid Card - A branded merchant card with either a stated value ($25.00) or consumer specified value that is purchased for full value. The card is then used in an on-line mode at merchants that accept the merchant branded card until the value is reduced to zero. Most cards today are backed by a major credit card brand. Many pre-paid cards can be reloaded today increasing the recycle value to 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; 10-12% of the US population.

Promotional Card - Same as a loyalty card.

Proximity Card (also called a proxy card or prox-card) - A passive contactless card that is awakened and then broadcasts at 1225kHz an encoded serialized ID value when it comes within the range or proximity of a reader's radio frequency range; which is typically an inch or two. Offering a low to medium level of security with just a wave of the ID badge.  “Proximity” is still heavily used in many systems today, but is being replaced with the more secure 13.56 MGz contactless smatcard. Go ahead and incorporate your mag stripe and/or barcode for single ID badge issuance.

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

Radio Frequency Card (RFID) - A card in which the coupling between the card and the interface device is by radio frequency. Used as a standard communication protocol in both proximity and contactless smart cards.

Registration - A printing term referring to how multiple colors align with each other during the printing process to produce a clear image. It can also refer to a printer setting adjustment that determines how the edges of a printed image are placed to match the edges of the media being printed on. Most printers have a slight tolerance in the movement of the printed image, requiring any portion of the printed image to be within the movement tolerance range; otherwise, it may bleed off the edge of the media and not be seen/cut off.

Reverse Transfer Printing Technology also (High Definition Printing) - The standard 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 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 itself. 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.

Signature Panel -The area of an ID card where the cardholder enters a signature. Do not use signatures for identification, use a face photo as they are more reliable.

SIM - Subscriber Identification Module: the smart card necessary for the operation of GSM phones.

Skimming - Copying the encoding from one card to alternate device for the sole purpose of fraudulent duplication and use of the source ID card or badge. Magnetic stripes get the most recognition here, but RFID cards are the ones that are most vulnerable since they do not have to come in contact with the skimming device to be read unless they are kept in a shielded holder.

Slot - An elongated narrow hole that is punched into the ID card making it an ID badge.

Slot Punch - A tool used to punch the slot in an ID badge. Slot punches can be handheld, desktop and even electronic.

Smart Card -(aka Chip Card, IC Card)- A plastic credit card sized card that contains one or more semiconductor chips. In the capability category, there are three types:

  • Memory Card…smart card that stores and retrieves serial "streams" of data that are sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.
  • Protected Memory Card…smart card that requires a secret code or PIN number to be entered before the data can be sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.
  • Microprocessor Card…contains a microprocessor chip with a microcode that defines a command structure, a data file structure and a security structure in the card.


Stored Value Card (aka cash card, electronic purse, prepaid card) - A financial card that is encoded with a certain amount of money with each purchase amount being deducted from the card.

Time and Attendance (T&A) - Also called a time clock system, attendance system... refers to a system that typically consists of at least a control device (time clock or PC) that is used to authenticate an individual and a recording system to record the employee's 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. Most manual T&A systems use the traditional paper time card punch and require a manual entry for tracking payroll metrics. Automated T&A systems use several formats: 

  • ID card or badges that are enabled with barcodes, magnetic stripes and RFID technologies that are presented to time clocks which expedite the throughput time versus using time clocks with just a PIN pad.
  • A biometric presentation has made a big impact on time clock transaction generation as you can never leave you finger at home.
    • The combination of both card and biometric create the most secure and efficient system.
  • PC log-in for those who have access to a computer.
  • Mobile Devices are now showing up as a common authentication tool.


Teslin - A plastic-like material that has similar properties of paper making it ideal to working with inkjet printers for printing photo ID badges that are then laminated. This process is just not as user friendly as using a dye sublimation PVC card printer that does it all with one press of a button. Teslin is a common material used for key FOBs and loyalty/prepaid cards. 

Thermal Transfer Printing - typically 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 and therefore the last color printed is shown. 

Ultra-High Frequency (UHF RFID) - Is a RFID card technology that has an extended read range up to 40 to 50 feet. This is primarily due to the UHF readers' signal strength and antenna configuration of the UHF card, token or FOB.