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How to Check The RFID Chip of Your Hotel Key Card?

all kinds of hotel key card

If you are using a key card as your hotel’s key, there are 2 technologies that you may use, magnetic stripe and RFID (radio frequency identification).

Then how to tell whether you are using a magstrip card or RFID card for your hotel? If using an RFID card, how to check which chip you are using? You may ask, why I should know the chip type of my hotel key card. Well, if you do, you can purchase your hotel card from a card manufacturer directly, which could save you US$8,000 to US$ 250,000 on the card costs per year.

Magneitc stripe is usually a black, silver, gold or brown stripe laminated on the back side of the card. If you couldn’t see any stripes on the back side, then you are using an RFID card. Also, the cost of RFID card is usually 3 or even more times over than magnetic stripe card.

card with magnetic stripe







Confirming you are using an RFID card for your hotel, let’s learn some basic knowledge about RFID.

RFID has 3 different frequencies;

LF (low freqency) 125 KHz, HF (high freqeuncy) 13.56 MHz and UHF (ultra high freqeuncy) 840-960 MHz.

Then how to check whether you are using LF, HF or UHF for your hotel key card?

A flashlight will help you to tell which frequency you are using for your hotel card quickly (it’s not 100% accurate but at least 90%).


How to quickly tell the frequency of chip that your key cards are using?


LF is using a big round copper antenna inside;

LF card antenna







HF is using a big rectangular copper antenna inside

RFID antenna of HF card







– But if you are using a thin card (thickness around 0.54 mm) or paper card, it’s normally an rectangular aluminum antenna;

RFID antenna for HF card HF paper card







UHF is using a long-strip aluminum antenna inside – but it’s rarely used for hotel key card, please do tell me if you have one.

RFID antenna for UHF card

Remember, always check the specification of your lock for double confirming. Most specification won’t tell you which chip their lock is compatible with, but they will give you some reference and a range.

HF (high frequency) 13.56 MHz in RFID is the most popular in hotel lock development because of it’s large memory, high security, suitable reading range, stable working performance and cost-effectiveness.


And now, we can officially start the testing. You will always need to prepare at least 3 key cards that are never used and 3 key cards that had been used by guests for testing, to make sure the testing result is as accurate as possible.


3 ways to test the chip your hotel key cards use


Detect the chip type with your NFC mobile phone

Click here to check whether your mobile phone is NFC enable if you are not sure.

All you need is an NFC smartphone.

  • Download an app named “tag info” which is developed by NXP in your phone;
  • Run the app;
  • Tap the card with your phone and pay attention to the IC type on your screen.

–  If all the cards gave the same result in the IC type, then basically you are using that chip type for your hotel card.

tag info app

Note: NFC smartphone can detect HF RFID chips only. Sometimes the antenna looks like HF, but the phone didn’t give any response, there are 3 reasons.

A – The card is not high frequency

B – The card is encrypted by the locking system developer

C- The chip is damaged


Detect the chip type with an RFID reader

There are LF, HF and UHF reader in the market. So if you don’t have an NFC mobile phone, get yourself a HF reader, it’s not expensive – just be careful that there are three different protocols (ISO 14443A, ISO 14443B, ISO 15693) in HF, make sure your reader can read all three protocols.

So, all you need is a HF reader and SDK for the reader.

  • Install the SDK in your computer;
  • Connect the reader with your computer;
  • Run the domo in the SDK;
  • Check the IC type on the demo;
  • Check if all cards give the same results.

If your card is not high frequency, get a LF reader, and repeat the above operating process.

detecting RFID hotel card with a reader


Send your card to someone who’s specialized at RFID


It’ll be better with someone who you trusted. If not, make sure they are really professional in this field.

The most important thing before you give your order to any card supplier, that to make sure you ask them for at least 5 sample cards to test in your hotel and make sure the samples work well and stably. Even if the samples are working well, you should always keep an eye on the bulk.


After all the above, maybe you will say, why bother? I can just give my card to a card factory, and they will do all the rest jobs. That’s right, but if you are working in this industry, you’d better know something about this technology in case someone is selling “compatible” chip card to you with authentic price.

We will tell you how to distinguish them next time if you want to know how to make sure you are getting what you really ordered.


Check our Hotel Key Card for more details.

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