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Magnetic Stripe Personalisation

A standard magnetic stripe cad has up to 3 tracks available, and normally just called Track 1, Track 2, and Track 3.  The personalisation of these tracks is set out in a standard called ISO7813, which details information such as where on the stripe this information appears, what characters are permitted, how many characters etc.  All of the equipment at Card Personalisation Solutions is calibrated and checked to conform to these standards.

Is there just one type of stripe?

As with any technology there is always a choice, and magnetic stripes are no different. The most common cards that are used fall into two categories that are referred to as Lo-Co and Hi-Co.

Lo-Co is short for Low Coercivity, and refers to the strength of the magnetic field that holds the data and is rated at 300 Oe. As Lo-Co cards require less power to encode and erase they are typically used for hotel door locks where cards need to be reprogrammed on a regular basis.

Hi-Co is short for High Coercivity, and these can either be rated at 2750 Oe or 4000 Oe. The higher value means the cards are much more difficult to accidentally erase, and used where data needs to be held unchanged for a long period of time, so used as standard on banking cards.

What is the format of the data?

Each magnetic stripe is encoded in the following way:

Start Character + Data + End Character + Check Value

The start character lets the reader know that the data is about to begin, and this character is different for each track.

The data can then be empty or up to a maximum length permitted for that track, see below.

After all of the data follows the End Character, this lets the reader know that no more data is present.

Finally there is a Check Value, this is a character that is generated based upon an algorithm of the data used. This allows the reader to check that it has read everything in properly.

What information can be programmed?

On Track 1 there can be up to 76 characters of data, using the characters 0-9 A-Z $^()-./

On Track 2 there can be up to 37 characters of data, using the characters 0-9 =

On Track 3 there can be up to 104 characters of data, using the characters 0-9 =

What about those Start, End and Check Value Characters?

These are added automatically by ourselves during the personalisation process, so there is no need to provide or calcualte them.  Also readers will handle these characters automatically, some will output them, so you may need to ignore them.

What if I only need 1 or 2 tracks?

Most cards are manufactured with the full sized 12mm magnetic stripe that can hold all 3 tracks of information. However, just because the magnetic stripe can take 3 tracks doesn't stop the card only being programmed with just 1 track of information. More specialised 1 or 2 track magnetic stripes can be applied to a card so that less space is used up on the reverse of the card, and you can hacve more printed information space to use.

How easy is it to read the data?

Magnetic stripe information can be easily read with a magnetic stripe reader.  Readers are available that will connect to the USB port of a computer and when the stripe is read the computer will see it as if someone has typed the information in on a keyboard.

How can I get CPS to program my cards?

Typically cards are magnetically encoded at the same time as visual personalisation.  This may be a sequential number and we geenrate all of the data for you. Or it may be cardholder specific information which is provided in a data file or spreadsheet.

Can you tell how my cards are programmed?

Lots of customers come to us looking for quick turnaround for additional cards for their system, but do not know how their cards are programmed.  If we are sent a couple of exisiting cards we can analyse them and provide a sample back to make sure our cards will work.

Additional Information

For further information on magnetic stripe personalisation, or any other service, please call 01242 5885999 or email


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