If you’re wondering what on earth we’re talking about, take a look at your credit or debit card. That’s a magnetic stripe card (you might also know it as a magstripe or a swipe card), and if you turn it over, you’ll see the long black strip across the top of the card. That’s where your data is stored and it’s how card readers can ‘see’ what that data is when you swipe your card through them.
That magnetic strip is made up of a whole lot of minute iron-based particles that are on a strip of magnetic material, and the way it works is that your data is stored by changing the magnetism of those particles.
Where do ‘HiCo’ and ‘LoCo’ come into it?
Those are the types of card available. HiCo cards are long-lasting for frequent use, and LoCo cards are better used for either infrequent use, or for uses where the data is often changed on the card, like the gift cards you get in supermarkets.
If you want the technical bit, HiCo is short for high coercivity, and conversely, LoCo is short for low coercivity. Coercivity is simply how resistant the particles on the magnetic strip are to being demagnetised, or to put it another way, how strong the magnetic strip is.
Scientists use the unit, Oersted (Oe) to measure coercivity, and HiCo cards can go as high as 4000 Oe, with LoCo cards more around the 300 Oe mark. Your credit card is probably around 2750 Oe or upwards.
What does all that actually mean for you? When choosing a card, you need to consider which type is best to do the job you want it to do and whether you need one that lasts and keeps its data or one that’s only for occasional use or where you need to update the data on the card regularly.
Here’s what to think about to decide on which type of card you need:
HiCo card properties:
• It’s much harder to erase the data on these cards
• Very durable and long-lasting
• Recording the data takes a much higher amount of magnetic energy
• These cards can be read easily by any magnetic stripe reader
• HiCo card writers are more expensive to buy than the ones used for LoCo cards, but they can write to either type of card
• HiCo cards are far more resistant to damage, even when in contact with a magnet
These cards are best if you want a long-lasting card that easily handles frequent use, such as your driver’s licence, credit and debit cards, company door access cards, membership cards and library cards.
LoCo card properties:
• These cards are not as long-lasting and are far more easily damaged by any kind of magnetic contact, however brief it is
• Just like HiCo cards, these cards can easily be read by any card reader
• It takes far less magnetic energy to record your data onto one of these cards
• Buying a card writer for LoCo cards is a lot cheaper than for HiCo, but LoCo card writers can only write to LoCo cards
While LoCo cards aren’t great for heavy use, if you need a card where it’s easy to change the data as often as you need to, LoCo cards are perfect. You’ll find them being used for phone cards, store gift cards, hotel key cards and transport passes.
Still stuck? No problem. Just give our friendly team a call on 0203 960 5297 and we’ll be happy to help talk you through your options to pick the perfect card for the job.