Card Terminology

There’s a fair bit of jargon when it comes to printed plastic cards. Here’s how to know your LoCo from your HiCo (and whether you need them at all).


Plastic cards are measured in microns rather than mm’s. This refers to the thickness of the card. A micron is a thousandth of a millimetre (so 760 microns is 0.76mm thickness). A standard bank card is 760 microns. Our plastic cards are 760 microns unless otherwise stated.

Magnetic stripe (often referred to as mag stripe)

Magnetic stripes are the long brown or black strips running along the back of a bank card, and are what are used to ‘swipe’ the card through a reader. The strip holds information so that the reader recognises you. You’ll only need to include a mag stripe on your cards if you want them to work with a particular system, e.g. swipe through a turnstile, access locker, or till system. They are often found on membership cards, loyalty cards and ID cards.

Encoded or Unencoded?

Mag stripes come encoded or unencoded. If you want them to be supplied already encoded (i.e. programmed to work with your system), you’ll need to provide us with the relevant technical data. Or they can be sent unencoded, for you to ‘match up’ at your end. Consult the user manual that came with your system for more information.


Next you’ll need to decide if you need a HiCo or LoCo mag stripe. HiCo are typically black, whereas LoCo are usually brown.

HiCo magstripes are more secure and stable. They are commonly used in situations where cards are frequently swiped and the need for security is higher (for example in accessing a building).

LoCo magstripes are fine in situations where security is less important, and the need for the card to hold information is temporary; for example gift cards or hotel key cards.

Smart cards / Mifare cards

Smart cards or Mifare cards are capable of many functions, thanks to the chip contained within them. They are commonly used for access control, transport, ticketing, smart wallets etc. The Oyster Card is a well-known example of a smart card – capable of being ‘loaded’ with money and scanned by readers.

Smart cards can be printed on and branded in the same way that regular cards can. They’re more expensive than a regular plastic card, because they’re capable of so much more.