Checklist: How to choose the right card holders

You expect your users to carry their smart cards on them at all times – and not to lose them. Luckily, there is a very wide range of card holders to assist your users. “There are 11 important things you need to think through before you choose which card holders are right for your organization,” says Thobias Thorn at identity and security company Nexus Group.

Different users have different needs, so you will want to offer your users different card holders depending on the user’s role in your organization.

“People also have different personal preferences, and you should accommodate these by letting the user choose between a couple of card holders that are suited for their occupation,” says Thorn, manager of Nexus’s customer care.

11 important things to think through:

1. Does the card need to be protected from harsh environmental conditions?

If the card is exposed to tough external forces, such as heat, radiation or chippings, you will want a card holder that covers and protects the card.

“And if the card is used for visual identification, the coverage needs to be transparent,” adds Thorn.

2. Does the card need to be removed from the card holder?

A multifunctional card – that is, a smart card that can be used for a wide variety of applications, such as opening doors and cabinets, visual identification, computer login, access to cloud services, payments in the cafeteria and follow-me printing – might need to be removed from the card holder for some applications. The same holds true for a card that is only used for computer login, for example.

“If the user has to remove the card from the card holder all the time, it has to be a super smooth task. Additionally, you should choose a card holder that lets the user remove the card without bending it, since bending causes unnecessary wear and tear on the technology in the card,” says Thorn.

3. Do you want to eliminate the need to remove the card?

There are card holders with Bluetooth that communicate with the computer for logins. This means that the user can login without removing the card from the card holder.

“It also mean that you do not have to buy a card reader for the computer. The Bluetooth card holder is actually a combined card holder and card reader,” says Thorn.

A friction clip – a small, spring-loaded device that is fastened on the very top of the card – in combination with a yoyo is also a good choice, according to Thorn.

“Since the clip is so small, you can insert the card into a card reader without removing the clip. And the yoyo minimizes the risk of the user forgetting the card in the card reader. This solution is, for example, popular in hospitals, where nurses move around between computers with sensitive information. It is also a very cheap choice,” says Thorn.

4. Is the card only used for one single application?

“If, for example, the card, is used only to open the front door to the office, the demands on the card holder are much fewer, and you can choose a really simple and cheap card holder,” says Thorn.

5. Is the card fitted with a magnetic stripe?

“If so, you will want a card holder that allows the user to push the card out from the holder to swipe it,” says Thorn.

6. Is the card used for visual identification?

If that is the case, you will want the user to carry the card such that it is visible at all times.

“A lanyard is often a good choice for this scenario. But make sure that the lanyard has a safety function that makes it snap open under pressure – otherwise it might harm the user. Keep in mind that lanyards are not a good choice for some occupations, such as craftsmen, since a dangling card can interfere with their work,” says Thorn.

Alternatives to a lanyard include a card holder fastened on the arm or a clip that lets the user fasten the card onto their shirt.

7. Do you want to strengthen the visual identification?

““If, for example, you give consultants and visitors lanyards in a different color than employees, you strengthen the visual identification the card offers. You might also want your company logotype or some other symbol on the lanyard,” says Thorn.

8. Does the card have to be presented often?

“If so, a yoyo can be a great choice. It can be fastened to the user’s trousers and keeps the card out of the way until the user needs it. When the card is needed, the user just drags out the yoyo line and presents the card,” says Thorn.

9. Does the card need to be protected from skimming?

“If the user comes into contact with people that you suspect might want to steal card information, you will want to use a shielded card holder to protect the card,” says Thorn.

10. How is the card designed?

“Make sure that the card holder does not conceal important elements of the card. And conversely, you might want the card holder to hide the back of the card,” says Thorn.

11. What size does the card have?

“There is a standard size that the vast majority of access cards and photo ID badges have, but there is also a bigger size that is sometimes used for events, for example,” says Thorn.

Read our guide How to choose the right access card and key fob acquisition method