Why do hotel key cards need to be programmed?
If your hotel uses an RFID or magnetic hotel lock system, you may need to know how to program hotel key cards.
The hotel key card programming is generally carried out at the front desk. After the corresponding hotel room is divided, the guests will receive the key card after programming.
The programming is necessary for three reasons:
- To make sure that the correct card works on the right door
- To make it easy to assign a new key card to a guest when they check-in
- To be able to change or delete an assignment if a guest loses his key card and needs another one
What is the purpose of the key card in the hotel?
Nowadays, hotel key cards are made with different technologies and have many functions. Hotel key cards are used to temporarily access your room and enter the elevator.
They are also an energy-saving switch in the room or access to the gym, swimming pool, spa, or other common areas.
You need to know the purpose of your hotel key card to enjoy your stay more efficiently and safely.
What technology is used in key cards?
Key cards use several different kinds of technology. Older key cards used a magnetic stripe to store data about the room. They worked like credit cards: you ran them through a slot, and it read the data stored on the magnetic stripe on the back.
More modern hotels use RFID locks, Radio Frequency Identification, and radio waves to communicate between your card and something else. Usually, a scanner or antennae is built into something else entirely, like a door handle.
Some hotels even use NFC (near-field communication), which uses the same technology as RFID but at a very close range. This is less common in hotels because, unlike with RFID or magstripes, you have to wave your phone in front of something to get it to work—it’s not just passive reading from far away.
What are the Benefits of Hotel Key Cards?
There are many benefits to using hotel key cards. They add security and decrease costs while also increasing customer satisfaction. They can be easily programmed, deactivated, and personalized. Plus, they’re environmentally friendly.
Here are some benefits of RFID hotel key cards:
Security: Hotel staff can easily replace lost or stolen key cards at the front desk. They can be programmed with different access privileges for staff and guests (such as restricting employee access to specific areas).
Cost savings: While metal keys must be replaced frequently to work correctly, RFID cards rarely need replacement. Because they’re made of plastic rather than metal, they don’t wear out as quickly and are inexpensive in the long run.
Convenience: Guests can easily store their RFID cards in their wallets or purse instead of worrying about keeping track of a cumbersome metal key.
Easily programmable– No more fumbling with those old-fashioned manual keys at the reception desk!
And if something goes wrong during the programming process, reprogram your RFID reader again without worrying about having another set printed out by hand just in case one gets lost/stolen, etc… It’s much cheaper overall, too, since there aren’t any additional printing costs.
Advertising potential– Instead of having just plain white/black room keys without any information on them, now you could print out customized hotel key cards with the company logo printed directly onto each one.
Hotel key cards are a great solution to many problems with old-fashioned metal keys. The benefits of key cards include the following:
Security: If a guest loses their metal key, there’s no way for the hotel staff to deactivate the key from the lock and prevent theft. However, the hotel can immediately render it inactive with an RFID card by changing its programming. In addition, RFID is much more difficult to copy than traditional keys.
Customer satisfaction: Customers appreciate the convenience and security of using a hotel key card instead of dealing with an old-fashioned set of keys—especially if they’re familiar with modern technology like electronic room locks.
They also tend to be impressed by hotels that use smart new technology like smartcards (those used for credit).
What will you need to program the hotel key card?
Hotel key card encoder/programmer: The device that will program the key cards(usually provided by your lock manufacturer).
For a magnetic key card programmer, it has a slot where you insert the card and another slot to plug your computer into it.
You can put on the RFID hotel key card and program for an RFID hotel key card programmer.
Hotel key card: You need to write info to them for the blank key cards.
Computer: The computer installs hotel lock system software and connects with your key card encoder. Your average PC or laptop will do just fine.
Hotel door lock system software communicates with the programmer to tell it what information to write onto the key cards. You’ll need to purchase a copy of this software from an RFID manufacturer or distributor and install it on your PC.
You can download our RFID hotel door lock system software for your reference: ShineACS Hotel Lock System Software Download.
What type of hotel key cards can be programmed?
Magnetic stripe hotel key cards. These are often called magstripe or MSR. They are the most common and inexpensive, predating even the first computers. They are made of PVC plastic with a magnetic stripe on the backside that holds all the information about your account.
RFID hotel key cards. These have the same appearance as traditional magstripe cards. Still, there is a slight difference: an embedded antenna that allows radio communication between the chip and readers (for access control or payment purposes).
Hybrid key cards can be programmed with magstripe and RFID technology in the older and newer hotel door locks. Depending on how old your hotel lock hardware is, you may need to upgrade the hotel locks themselves and key card technology to use smart key cards at your hotel property.
Type of Key Card Used in The Hotel
There are several different types of key control cards:
Master card: This hotel door lock system can open all room door locks.
Building key card: Opens all guest room door locks in this building but can not be used for opening other room locks in different buildings.
Floor key card: Used to open all door locks on a particular floor in a building, except for rooms and any area locked by an emergency code.
Emergency key card: Used to open an area when there is an emergency;
All system door locks can be opened, and the doors are in a long-open state after opening. There are two ways to release the long-open state of the door lock.
- Method 1: Press the handle and then swipe the emergency card.
- Method 2: After opening the door with an ordinary door-opening card (general card, floor control card, etc.), the door lock will return to normal.
Group control key card: It is used to open the door lock of the specified group.
Record key cards are: used to extract the door opening record from the door lock. For the Mifare hotel lock, the record card is an S70 card; for the TEMIC lock, the record card is a T5557 or T5567 card.
Lost key cards: When a keycard is lost, stolen, or destroyed by water or heat damage. You can use a lost key card and swipe this key card on the related hotel room door. The missing card prevents anyone from using a lost keycard (or creating their own) to enter a room or building.
Check-out cards: For the hotel staff’s use. After swiping the check-out card on the door lock, the previous guest key card will not be able to open the door, and the newly issued guest card will not be affected.
Guest key cards: It is mainly used for hotel guests to use the hotel elevator, open the room door, supply power to the room, etc.
How are hotel keys programmed? Step by step
Let’s take the ShineACS RFID hotel lock system as an example to explain how to program hotel key cards step by step.
- Install the hotel lock system software: Install the hotel lock management software on the computer.
- Connect the hotel key card encoder: connect the card issuer via a USB interface to the computer.
- Registration: use the activation code to register the hotel lock management software to ensure that the card issuer and software work properly
- Add administrator: set the hotel lock system administrator; you can select super administrator, general administrator, supervisor manager, and front desk operator.
- Set room number: add room number in hotel lock management software
- Set door lock: set the specified room number to the corresponding door lock.
- Set door lock times: Verify that all room lock times are set correctly so that the time a customer can use a hotel room is defined correctly
Program hotel staff key cards
Find the Employee Cards area and click.
Now you can select the corresponding employee card, and after entering the cardholder name, validity period, and other information, you can create the card.
Program hotel guest key cards
Find the front desk reception card issue option in the software, and display the front desk reception screen.
At this point, you can view the usage of all rooms. Choose an available room. Then set the specified number of days of use, check-out time, and guest information, and issue a card to the guest.
You can check this video about how to program hotel key cards step by step guide:
For more details on programming hotel key cards, you can check our hotel lock system user manual and download: the ShineACS hotel lock system user manual.
How to use the key card in a hotel?
Once your key card has been programmed, the way it works is pretty simple:
Step 1: Guest Checks In When guests check-in and receive a key card, the RFID card is programmed to match their room number and stay dates.
Step 2: Use the elevator: Some hotels have used hotel key cards for the hotel elevator control system. You will have to swipe your hotel room key card on the elevator card reader; then, you can use the elevator and enter the right floor where your room is.
Step 3: Unlocks Your Door with Your Key Card. Electricity flows through the metal coils embedded within the plastic door handle when you put your hotel key card into the slot on your door (near the doorknob or above the handle). This causes an electric circuit to close and unlock your room’s door lock so you can get inside your room.
Step 4: Cards Provide Power. For most hotels, a hotel key card also powers all lights, air conditioning/heating settings, and televisions for guests’ rooms when they insert their cards into the hotel energy-saving switch (but not all properties operate this way).
This allows hotels to conserve energy by ensuring that none of these electronic devices is left running while no one occupies the room.
Step 5: Enter other hotel areas with the hotel key card. Some hotels use hotel key cards to restrict access to non-hotel guests. Only guests with a key card can access these areas, such as hotel restaurants, gyms, etc.
Step 6: Check Out. When guests leave the hotel, they need to take out the key card from the power energy-saving switch, close the door, return the key card to the front desk, and then guests can leave the hotel.
Step 6: Reprogram the hotel key card. After guests check out, a hotel’s front desk staff member will reprogram the hotel key card for another guest booking an upcoming hotel room.
What information is on a hotel key card?
You may be wondering, “Why would I need to know this?” but once you know what information is stored on your hotel key card, it’s easier to understand how the card works and why you might want to modify your own.
In general, hotel key cards store specific information, which includes the following:
- The name of your hotel and its location
- Your room number
- Your guest name
- An expiry date for the room booking
Depending on how much space is available on the card, there may also be some branding or advertising from the hotel chain.
What do you do with hotel room keys when you leave?
- Leave the key in your room.
- Give the key to housekeeping.
- Hand it over to the front desk reception.
- Drop it into the key dropbox if you’re checking out during off-hours.
- Keep it as a souvenir of your trip, or give it to a child who may be interested in collecting keys from different places and is not a risk of breaking anything (if you do decide to keep your keys, monogram them with the date and location of their origin is a fun way to commemorate them).
Do you return hotel key cards?
The answer to this question will likely be, “It depends.” Some hotels might require you to return key cards upon check-out, while others will charge you a fee if you don’t.
It all comes down to hotel policy. If your hotel requests that you return the key or charge a fee for failing, they will inform you during check-in.
I’ve never stayed at a hotel that charged me a fee for returning my keys upon check-out—and I’ve stayed at hundreds of hotels worldwide. So really, it will all depend on the property and its policies.
How do the wireless hotel key card room locks communicate?
The RF in RFID stands for “radio frequency,” which these key cards use to communicate with the room locks. Each of these key cards emits a unique, encrypted signal that identifies them as belonging to a particular room at a hotel.
Once the door lock receives this signal, it’s decoded and matched with the wireless code for the fitting room. This means that only those who have access to this encoding information can create new wireless keys for a specific room—and since this information isn’t shared or publicly available in any way, it’s scarce for an outsider to be able to break into your hotel room using an RFID card they’ve stolen from another guest.
How do hotel key cards only work on your door?
The hotel key card is programmed with a unique code recognized by the room lock.
Each code is sent to the lock from the hotel database via an encoder with its unique code number (“access group”).
For example, Room 201 can be programmed to use access-group 201 to open any door configured for Room 201 on your database (the system will not allow you to overwrite another entry with a different access group).
If you wanted Room 205 to have its unique code number and key card, you would program it with access-group 205 at the encoder machine.