If you think about the last time you stayed in a hotel, you probably didn’t use a traditional key; instead, you were given a digital key that looked like a credit card.

We are constantly witnessing innovations that alter how we interact with businesses and services.

For a long time, the hotel industry has been a trailblazer. The most notable is the transition from lock and key to digital access control. =

In this guide, we will look at some of the reasons why Key Cards have become so popular in the hotel industry, as well as why they have become the premier solution for hotel security and access control.

We’ll go over:

  • Hotel Key Cards 101
  • Hotel Key Card Benefits
  • How Do Hotel Key Cards Work?
  • Benefits of Hotel Key Cards 
  • Industries That Can Use Hotel Key Cards
  • Key Cards for Hotels Summary

What exactly are Hotel Key Cards?

The technology in Key Cards used in hotels varies by country and even chain, but the overall concept remains the same: digital access control.

Hotel Key Cards are metal key alternatives that allow guests to enter their room through the reception desk by using the Key Card that has been uniquely assigned to them.

Hotels were among the first industries to push for keyless entry systems as traditional lock and key systems were phased out.

The technology has recently been integrated into a wide range of vehicles and the automotive industry as a whole. That is, you no longer need to manually unlock or start the car with the key, as long as it is in close proximity.

The data is scanned via the reader when the card is within the radius, similar to how Hotel Key Cards work. The Key Cards not only unlock your room but also allow you access to other guest areas such as the gym or pools.

Hotel Key Card Varieties

When it comes to Hotel Access Control, there are a few options. For example, a similar technology is Key Fobs, but for the sake of simplicity, we will focus on Key Cards today.

We’ll take a quick look at three of the most commonly seen or used Hotel Key Card types; there are some subtypes, but these cover the essentials.

Magnetic Stripe

Possibly the most common, and one we’ve all seen in the last decade or so. The key cards with magstripes have a black strip that is swiped downwards through the reader.

Radio Frequency

Is a type of proximity card, tap, or contactless technology. This is a short-range card that the scanner can use to gain access within a few CMs.

Hole Punch

These are usually on their way out these days, but they were very popular in the past. Access to your room would be determined by a unique combination of holes punched in the card.

Key Hotel Key Card Components

As you can see from the preceding section, there are various ways that cards work and technologies that are used.

With that said, let’s take a look at the core components of Hotel Key Cards, which are fairly universal across the various types.

Card Assigner

This is the component of the system that connects to the computers in the reception area. When you check in, the blank Key Cards can be assigned to your croom.

Key Card

The physical method of accessing your room, your Key Card is where the data is temporarily stored and scanned when you arrive.

Door Reader

The device that scans your Key Card to grant you access to your room or other guest areas. The data on your Key Card is used by the reader to determine whether or not you can enter.

In-Room Power Device – not always available, but a method of providing power to your hotel room using your Key Card. Normally, a small card slot near your room’s front door.

What Is the Function of Hotel Key Cards?

As previously stated, a variety of technologies can be used in Hotel Access Control, not only for room access but also for limiting lift controls and even parking management.

However, in terms of room access, the technology used is frequently comparable, and the core concept is the same. A digital key is scanned or inserted in close proximity to gain access to your room.

Let us contextualise how the process works with a simple example, which will demonstrate the fundamentals of how Key Cards work in hotels.

Step 1: the guest to check in.

When you arrive at the hotel, you go to reception and check in. When you arrive at the counter, a front-of-house employee will hand you a Key Card and begin the process.

Step 2: A key card is issued.

Each Key Card is blank at first, and the door unlocking privileges will be assigned at the front desk or concierge.

They will connect the Key Card to your room on the digital system, which is usually done with a keypad attached to a computer that will transfer temporary data onto your Key Card.

Step 3: Use Your Key Card to Unlock the Door

When you go to your room, you’ll either slide your card into a card reader or tap it against the reader.

Both methods will scan your card, read the data, and grant you access to your door, unlocking it. The entire process should take no more than a few seconds, and you should be able to hear the mechanism unlocking.

Step 4: Using Cards to Gain Power

In many hotels, your Key Card will provide power to your room via a small reader next to the door. This is a green initiative used by hotels to reduce power consumption while also providing a secondary use for your card.

The reader is normally designed to be triggered by ANY credit card, not just your room key, so you could put your library card or something else in there that you won’t need.

Step 5: Reset Your Checkout Card

When you check out, the card is wiped again in order for it to be assigned to a new lock and door. This allows the process to be restarted for the next visitor.

Because all of the cards can be linked to any of the hotel’s doors, the value of each Key Card is much lower and easier to replace.

What Are the Advantages of Using Hotel Key Cards?

We will divide the advantages of using Hotel Key Cards into three categories: user advantages, security advantages, and operational advantages.

User Advantages


The difference between a Key Card and a traditional key does not have a significant impact on your overall carrying weight; however, having keys is much more difficult than having a card that can be stored in your wallet or purse alongside your payment cards.

Key Cards were designed to be easy to carry and not add another item to your bag; keys can be bulky and difficult to find a comfortable place to store.

A Key Card, on the other hand, is much more portable and lightweight.

Simple and quick

Being able to enter your room quickly and easily makes the entire process much smoother and improves guest perception of the hotel.

When you combine this with how simple it is to check in and out, you have a seamless process from beginning to end that is designed with the guest in mind.

Understanding how to create a memorable guest experience is an important part of running a hotel and improving your security.

Advantages in Operations

Simpler to Manage

You will be able to track and manage your access control system from a central computer, as opposed to a traditional lock and key system.

You’ll have a record of who has access to what, what keys have been issued, and whether or not they’ve been returned or are still active.

This can be useful in an emergency because it allows you to unlock all fire or outer doors for a quick and safe exit.


Another advantage of using a Key Card access control system in a hotel is that it is extremely cost-effective.

Because each card can be reprogrammed an infinite number of times and has a very low manufacturing cost, you can easily replace any cards that need to be replaced.

If you lose a card, it can be deactivated; however, if you lose a metal key, you risk a security breach and may need to change the locks.

Advantages of Security

More difficult to imitate

Having a system that is both easy to issue new cards and difficult for a layperson or guest to copy means you will be much safer overall.

Key Card access control in hotels creates a safer environment because guests cannot copy a Key Card like they could a metal key.

Enhanced Security

There are numerous reasons why a Key Card system is more secure than other forms of security or access control.

Consider a lock and key system: you have no idea who has which keys, and if one is lost, your entire system is jeopardised. Let’s put this in the context of a Key Card.

In the event that a Key Card is lost, stolen, or accidentally taken, most systems allow you to deactivate it manually or remotely.

Industry of Hotel Key Cards

You should now have a better understanding of the significance of access control in hotels, as well as the decision to shift away from lock and key and toward digital security methods.

Hotels were undoubtedly among the first major industries to adopt this technology, but they will not be the last. They’ve been ahead of the curve for a while, and this is another step toward a safer, and eventually, metal-keyless future.

In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of industries shift toward this type of security, looking for a cost-effective, easy-to-integrate, and user-friendly solution that doesn’t jeopardise the business.

The transition to these systems, as well as the desire of users to expect them and be comfortable with using that technology, will ultimately determine the longevity of traditional keys.


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