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Key Fobs vs. Access Cards: Unlocking Access Control

November 8, 2023

No time to read? Here’s a summary:

  • When deciding between fobs and cards for access control, consider factors like your budget, existing infrastructure, and security requirements.
  • If your business demands the highest levels of security, key fobs with encryption capabilities are likely the better choice.
  • If you're a small business with budget constraints, proximity cards, and magnetic-stripe cards may be a cost-effective but reliable solution.
  • In terms of user experience, key fobs are generally easier to carry and can be attached to a keychain. Access cards, on the other hand, are familiar to most people due to their similarity to credit cards and IDs.

In the realm of business security, the debate between key fobs and access cards is a hot topic. While both serve the fundamental purpose of controlling who gets in and out of premises, they do so in different ways.

So, you may be wondering:

What exactly are these two options, and how do they differ in their functionalities and features?

Well, you're in the right place to find out!

Key Fob vs. Access Card

A key fob is essentially a compact, programmable piece of hardware that transmits identifying data to access control door readers. On the basis of this data, doors and gates are either opened or remain closed. Think of it as a modern-day key but with advanced features like encryption.

On the flip side, an access card is a thin, plastic rectangle—much like your average credit card—that transmits identifying data the system needs before making access authorization decisions.

In this article, references to “access cards” refer specifically to magnetic-stripe cards and proximity cards. The magnetic-stripe and proximity cards discussed in this article are less secure than smart cards and modern contact cards, which, just like fobs, usually offer encryption and other advanced security features.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Key Fobs

The Upsides

Ease of Use: One of the most appealing aspects of key fobs is their convenience. They're small, easy to carry, and can be attached to a keychain, making them less of a hassle for end users than cards.

Enhanced Security: Most key fobs come with advanced encryption capabilities, making them a secure choice. If a fob is lost or stolen, it can be quickly deactivated, reducing the risk of unauthorized access. This is particularly important considering that, according to Proxy's Physical Security Trends report, 17.3% of fob users have lost at least one card in the last year.

Longevity: Key fobs are robust and durable. They're designed to withstand the rigors of daily use without showing signs of wear and tear.

The Downsides

Initial Expense: Key fobs are usually more expensive than access cards, especially when implementing a new system.

System Compatibility: Not all access control systems are compatible with key fobs. If your existing system doesn't support them, you'll need to invest in an upgrade or select a different credential method for identification.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Magnetic-Stripe and Proximity Access Cards

The Upsides

Cost-Effectiveness: Access cards are usually less expensive than key fobs, making them a budget-friendly option for startups, small businesses, and organizations without high-level security requirements.

User Familiarity: The use of cards for various applications, like banking or identification, makes them a familiar and comfortable choice for many people.

Branding Opportunities: The flat surface of an access card provides ample space for branding. You can easily print your company logo or other identifying information on it.

ID Badges: In addition to providing a branding opportunity, access card surfaces can function as ID badges.

The Downsides

Security Concerns: Access cards are more susceptible to cloning or duplication than fobs, which means they pose a greater security risk.

Durability Issues: Unlike key fobs, access cards can become worn out or damaged over time, necessitating more frequent replacements.

Fobs vs. Cards: Your Business, Your Choice

The decision between key fobs and access cards for entry management brings several concerns into play, such as budget constraints, security requirements, and existing infrastructure.

Security Requirements: Businesses in sectors that demand heightened security, such as financial and healthcare institutions, are much more likely to benefit from the encryption features of key fobs.

Budgetary Considerations: For smaller businesses or those just starting out, the lower initial cost of access cards may be appealing.

Employee Preferences: Don't underestimate the importance of user experience. While key fobs offer the convenience of being easily attachable to a keychain, some employees might prefer the familiarity of an access card.

System Compatibility: Before making a decision, it's crucial to check if your current access control system supports the credential option you’re considering. Renowned brands like ICT, DMP, Honeywell, Brivo, PDQ, Salto, and Avigilon offer the best options to satisfy a host of needs.

Case Studies: Real-World Applications and Outcomes

When it comes to understanding the practical implications of choosing between key fobs and access cards, nothing speaks louder than real-world examples. Let's delve into some case studies that highlight the effectiveness of each.

Financial Institution Chooses Key Fobs for Enhanced Security

A leading financial institution faced a dilemma when it came to securing multiple branches across the country. After thorough research and consultation, they opted for key fobs, primarily due to their advanced encryption capabilities.

Within a year of implementation, the institution reported a significant decrease in unauthorized access incidents. The key fobs were even integrated with other security measures, including CCTV video surveillance systems by Avigilon, to create a robust, multi-layered security system.

Small Retail Business Finds Success with Access Cards

A small retail store with a limited budget was in need of an effective yet affordable access control system. Attracted by the lower upfront costs and the ease of implementation, they chose magnetic-stripe access cards. The cards were customized with the company's branding and served a dual purpose as employee IDs.

The store has not faced any security issues, proving that access cards can be a viable option for small businesses.

The Mammoth Verdict

The debate between key fobs and access cards is not about which is universally better but rather which is better suited to specific business and security needs.

Regardless of the type of access control credential you choose to use, selecting the right vendor and installer is crucial for smooth implementation and long-term success.

In Connecticut, Mammoth Security is always the best choice for security products and installations.

We partner with the best manufacturers in the industry, which is how we empower our diverse business customers with an even more diverse range of high-quality security solutions.

Just as important as the products we install are our friendly and knowledgeable crew of technicians and installation experts. They know exactly how to select and customize security systems for any site—no matter how simple or complex.

For a free on-site survey and consultation with a friendly expert from our team, just click to contact us and fill out the form!




In the context of business security, key fobs are compact, programmable hardware devices that use advanced encryption to unlock doors and gates. Access cards, particularly magnetic-stripe cards, and proximity cards, are plastic cards that grant or deny entry when swiped or brought near a card reader.

The advantages of using key fobs for business security include ease of use, enhanced security through encryption, and durability. They are convenient to carry and can be quickly deactivated if lost or stolen.

The downsides of using key fobs in access control systems include their initial expense and potential compatibility issues with existing systems.

Magnetic-stripe and proximity access cards offer cost-effectiveness, user familiarity, and branding opportunities for businesses and organizations. They’re generally less expensive than key fobs and can also serve as ID badges.

The security concerns associated with using magnetic-stripe and proximity access cards are based on their susceptibility to cloning or duplication. They generally offer less security compared to key fobs and other types of access cards, such as smart cards.

To determine compatibility, consult with your system provider, check the specifications of your existing access control system, or reach out to the knowledgeable team at Mammoth Security for a free consultation.

When choosing between key fobs and access cards, consider factors like your industry's security requirements, budget constraints, employee preferences, and compatibility with existing infrastructure.

For an access control system in Connecticut, you should consult with Mammoth Security. Mammoth Security is Connecticut’s one-stop shop for commercial-grade security for a reason. From product selection to installation and staff training, their knowledgeable team has the experience and know-how to select, install, and implement the right security solutions to meet your needs. You should reach out to Mammoth Security today for a 100% free, zero-risk on-site security survey and consultation.



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