Barcode vs Magnetic Stripe: What’s the Difference?

  • January 23, 2018
  • Blog

id reader

When it comes to choosing the right ID cards for your business, there are typically two choices: cards with barcodes and cards with magnetic stripes. Both types of cards can store important information related to the user. A typical ID reader can access the personal details encoded in card’s strip, which may contain up to 60 characters. But which card is right for your company? This article is going to discuss a few key differences between barcodes and magnetic stripes to help you decide.

How Do They Work?

  • Barcodes are a form of visual storage. Information is stored within a serieis of paralell lines of varying widths. A barcode scanner can decode these lines into a numerical code, which corresponds with a product or entry in the company’s database.
  • Magnetic stripes contain a thin black stripe known as a magstripe. The magstripe contains very small magnetic particles held within a film. These tiny magnets are used to encode a unique serial number, which is read by a magnetic ID card reader.

When it comes to ease of use, barcodes seem to be the more popular choice in some settings. When it is necessary to scan many items or cards at once, it is less time-consuming to scan barcodes than it is to swipe cards with a magnetic stripes. Additionally, errors with optical mark reading are rare, whereas sometimes a magstripe card has to be swiped multiple times before it is read. Because of their speed and efficiency, barcodes are ubiquitous in the retail and logistics world. However, they possess several vulnerabilities when used in access control systems.

Security is often a major concern when it comes to ID cards. Between barcodes and magnetic stripes, barcodes are considered less secure because the special identification code can easily be seen on the card. With a barcode, it could be easy for someone to simply copy the barcode and print it on a new card to fool the ID scanner. On the other hand, a magstripe card is much more secure because the special identification code cannot be seen. Because it cannot be read without a magnetic ID card reader, it makes it more difficult for the information to be obtained. Only those with special magnetic ID card readers and printing equipment would be able to copy the card’s data.

If your company is trying to decide between barcodes and magnetic stripes, it’s important to consider how easily an ID card’s barcode can be damaged. Barcodes can be easily scratched or rubbed away, which can make it impossible for optical ID readers to work. On the other hand, magnetic cards are much more durable and can often be used for years at a time.

It’s clear that barcodes and magnetic stripes both have their advantages. However, for purposes of access control and identification, magnetic ID cards and compatible ID readers are usually the superior choice.