Magnetic Stripes Become Trendy in Plastic Cards
Now more than ever, companies are looking for new ways to differentiate cards from competitors with unique card design features. Many are achieving that distinction with magnetic stripes.
Magnetic stripes are no longer considered “just” a necessary part of a card’s construction. Instead, card issuers and card manufacturers are finding valuable real estate on plastic cards by integrating the magnetic stripe as a design feature. They are leveraging it to deliver new value and increase return on investment at a nominal cost.
Magnetic stripe cards work by swiping a magnetic stripe through a card reader. They are one of the oldest forms of cards and offer minimal security because they can be copied very easily. However, magnetic stripes offer a reliable data storage and reading method when other processes are damaged or inaccessible.
Magnetic stripe cards typically work as a single application card and are primarily used in low-security settings for casino player cards, entry to a hotel room, as well as for membership, loyalty and gift cards.
Innovative Magnetic Stripe Concepts
Designing a plastic card that communicates the corporate identity and brand values of an issuer in a 3 3/8-inch-by-2 1/8-inch space is a challenge. Card designers and card manufacturers need to align with branding guidelines while ensuring that the design follows the latest trends, all while maintaining a time, cost and quality balance.
Three innovative magnetic stripe design solutions include: the “bleed-out” effect, hidden magnetic stripes and holographic elements using lamination plates.
The bleed-out effect refers to the magnetic stripe being placed at the edge of a card. To achieve this, a wider than standard magnetic stripe is used (usually between 14.3 mm and 16 mm). This design complies with current card manufacturing specifications and even allows cards to be encoded with the traditional tracks and read by standard equipment. The wide magnetic stripe can be any color—there are no limitations.
Hidden Magnetic Stripes
In Asia, specifically Japan, the hidden magnetic stripe has been used for several years. Widespread global adoption faced several barriers, from intellectual property to the practicality of production. However, card manufacturers now have access to overlay sheets that have been pre-laminated with hidden magnetic stripes and primed—ready to be overprinted and collated for lamination.
This option offers complete freedom of design as the magnetic stripe can be overprinted without losing its function.
“Card manufacturers can mimic a wide magnetic stripe, a custom color magnetic stripe or fully cover the magnetic stripe for a completely hidden design,” said Aida Aranda, global business development manager for composite materials at Sun Chemical. “The hidden magnetic stripes are ideal for small production runs and sophisticated designs.”
Holographic Effects Using Lamination Plates
Specially designed lamination plates allow card manufacturers to add a logo or text and imprint it onto the magnetic stripe during lamination to provide a holographic, dynamic light reflecting feature.
This process is more cost- and time-effective than sourcing specially designed holographic magnetic tapes. It also offers a unique anti-counterfeit feature for production campaigns of any volume.
Previously, the only way to extract brand value out of the magnetic stripe area in a plastic card was to play with its color, but Pantone® color matching can be costly and time-consuming, making this option less attractive for small to medium production runs.
“Using magnetic stripes as a design feature is a new way to gain real estate on the card,” said Aranda.