When implementing a point-of-sale or ID card system, one fundamental decision that must be made is whether to employ barcodes or magnetic stripes for card data identification. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but here are a few things to consider:
- Self-Service – In a self-service environment, such as a gym front desk, a barcode card can be a quicker, easier solution to get cardholders on their way. Barcodes alleviate the need to rely on magnetic stripe cards or readers that are more likely wear out or malfunction, and since security in these types of scenarios is less of a concern, a plastic barcode card may be the perfect solution.
- Price – Many POS systems allow you to choose either a magnetic stripe card reader or barcode card reader. While magnetic stripe card readers tend to be less expensive, the cost of printing a magnetic stripe card will be more over time. If you anticipate issuing several hundred cards annually, it may be less expensive to choose a barcode card reader. Of course, if you already own a card reader, the cost of switching should be factored in.
- Security – Because data encoded onto a magnetic stripe is invisible, it is more difficult (but no impossible) to duplicate, requiring a card encoder. However, a barcode can be duplicated using film or other means. For this reason, a magnetic stripe may be a better option for key cards or name badges providing access to secure areas.
- Ergonomics – For wall-mount access control applications, a magnetic stripe is preferred, since it is easier to swipe downward for access than align a barcode.