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What are the most common barcodes used for key tags and gift cards?

The most common barcode is referred to as Code 39 or Code 3 of 9. Code 39 uses a combination of letters, numbers 0-9 and special characters ($, %, +). Typically cards and key tags are encoded with a random, 8-digit number. Code 128 and UPC A are other types of barcodes that can be found on cards and key tags.

What are the most common encoding instructions for magstripes?

Encoding instructions vary greatly for magstripe cards. Card are encoded on either track 1, track 2 or both tracks of a magstripe (think of track as a line in a paragraph). The number of encoded characters generally ranges from 8 to 16 and may require a specific start number or numbering sequence. Please feel free to contact us with specific system or card encoding questions.

What are the most common encoding/numbering conventions for key tags and combo cards?

Most software systems that utilize key tags and combo cards to identify members or loyalty programs utilize barcodes rather than magstripes. Code 3 of 9 is the most common barcode format.

What is a CR80?

A CR80 is the standard size of financial cards (credit, gift, loyalty, etc.) in the United States. CR80 specifications are 3.375 inches x 2.125 inches and .030 inches thick.

What is card “encoding?”

Encoding is a fancy way of saying unique numbering. Gift, loyalty and membership card and key numbering may be consecutive, random or based on an algorithm and may include letters and special characters. Card and key tag numbers are embedded into magstripes, barcodes or QR codes. The specific encoding format we use with your custom cards and key tags depends on the system you will be using them with. Please feel free to contact us with specific system or card encoding questions.

What is the difference between a magstripe and a barcode?

Not much. Both are mechanisms for embedding a number that references a record in a database on a software system. Magstripes are read by magstripe readers while barcodes are read by barcode scanners.

What is the difference between CMYK and pantone (PMS) colors?

CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. The combination of different amounts of CMYK inks yields over 95% of the visible color spectrum. However, there are certain colors that do not convert well using CMYK and thus require the use of Pantone colors. Pantone colors are generated using a combination of 14 base pigments mixed in specified amounts. Plastic Resource generally prints in CMYK, however, we have the ability to print PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors upon request.

What is the difference between gift cards, loyalty cards, and key tags?

Very little as both “store value” albeit different types of value. The best way to understand the difference is a gift card references a monetary value while a loyalty card references a non-monetary value like points, discounts or a free drink. Both types of cards contain unique numbers that reference a unique database that contain card balances and history and both can redeemed for goods and services. Key tags can be used in the same way as gift and loyalty cards. The only difference is size and shape. In fact, a single card or key tag can be used for both a loyalty and gift card purposes provided the account/database is set up for both.

What should I use for a disclaimer on the back of the card?

Plastic Resource has a number of standard disclaimers for cards and businesses of all types. Contact us at or 833-290-5684.

Who provides the data, and what formats can it be supplied in?

Your point-of-sale software (POS), credit card processor or gift card software provider will provide you with either:

  • The data/encoding instructions (e.g. number of digits, type of barcode, track on the magstripe); Plastic Resource will create the numbering sequence and save it for future order purposes.
  • Or, a file with the card numbers in text (.txt), Excel (.xls or .xlsx) or Comma Separated Values (.csv) format.

Why should I consider a key tag and card combo rather than a single key tag?

Plastic combo card and key tags offer two unique and convenient card options for membership and loyalty program identification: a card for a wallet and a key tag(s) for a key ring. Both the card and the key tags have identical encoding/numbering.

Will gift cards really help my business make money?

Yes. Here’s how: Gift card programs drive new business to your store, customers usually spend more than the balance of the card when they shop, and many customers leave an unspent balance on their gift cards. Customized plastic cards are also a great way to build brand loyalty, receive “free” advertising for your business, and the fees for creating and implementing a gift card program are usually cheaper than the fees for processing credit card payments. By increasing revenue and decreasing cost, you set yourself up to make more money.

Will my gift cards from my old POS system work on my new POS system?

Yes, however, you will need to transfer the card balance information from your old point-of-sale (POS) system to your new POS system and, in most, cases have a card printing company like Plastic Resource re-number/re-encode the cards. Contact us to learn more.

Will your cards work as key cards for my hotel?

By creating a custom card complete with magnetic stripe encoding, you can use our custom key cards as hotel key cards for your business. Simply create your hotel key card, proof your card and then pay.

Will your key tags work with my POS or membership system?

Our cards work with all popular systems that have membership and attendance tracking functionality. Simply let us know the name of your system and our team will quickly determine key tag compatibility.

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