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Printed plastic cards - Terminology

Printed Plastic Cards - Terminology Explained

Plastic card printing might seem simple (and mostly it is) but there are a few bits of terminology that you might not be familiar with. How many microns? Magentic strip,  Hi-Co or Lo-Co? uncoded or encoded?

We do our best to guide you through your order by asking our customers what they want their cards to do. But here's a guide to the terminology you might come across when you're ordering printed plastic cards:


Unlike paper cards which are measured by weight in gsm(grams per square metre), the thickness of printed plastic cards is measured in microns. The higher the microns, the thicker and better quality the card is - a micron is one tenth of a milimetre so 760micron is 0.76mm.

Most cards you have in your wallet, like a  standard credit card measure 760 microns. Some cards like discount cards or business cards can be thinner, E-printing offers  600 or 450 microns, as well as this we offer an economical 380 micron product.

Do you need a magnetic strip?

Magnetic strips are often found on Membership cards, loyalty cards and ID cards.

Most people are familiar with swiping a card to activate the turnstyle in a gym, take out library books or to gather loyalty points. Special hardware reads the information held on the magnetic strip on the back of your card , feeds it into the computer system which in turn recognises you.

Whether or not you need a magnetic stripe on your printed plastic cards depends on the technology you use. If you order uncoded magstripe plastic cards, they will be sent for you to programme with your Epos system. Or they can be supplied ready encoded, if you provide the relevant information to the card supplier.

HiCo or LoCo?

If you are using magnetic strips youll need to know whether you need Hi-Co (High-coercivity) or Lo-Co (Low-coercivity) magnetic strip.

Hi-Co are typically black, whereas LoCo are typically brown. The difference lies in the level of security and data retention. 

Hi-Co magstripes are more secure and stable. They are commonly used in where cards are frequently swiped or need higher security (for example accessing a building).

LoCo magstripes are fine in situations where security is less important, and the need for the card to hold information is temporary, for example on gift cards or hotel key cards. As you'd expect, LoCo magstripes on printed plastic cards tend to be cheaper than HiCo ones. 

Which is best suited to you will depend on what you need the card to do and how long you need it to last.  If durability and security is key, go with HiCo. If the cards are single use or are needed only temporarily, LoCo will be fine.

Other card options

You can also customise most printed plastic cards by including a signature panel, bar code or QR code, depending on what you want the card to do.

One other thing – check the inner core

Don’t just assume that the plastic cards are 100% plastic. Some printed plastic cards have a cardboard inner core, which results in a much lower quality card.  It impacts on colour definition and vibrancy and they aren’t as durable.

All Plastic cards from E-printing are solid PVC

If you need any help on ordering printed plastic cards, our friendly team are happy to answer any questions. Simply tell us what you want the cards to do and we’ll advise you.


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