The use of hotel key cards can bring numerous benefits to both guests and the hotels, such as cost-effectiveness, enhanced security, improved efficiency, and convenience. Consequently, hotel room cards have become the primary unlock way in modern hotels. In this article, we will delve into the importance of hotel room cards, explore their types and mechanisms, provide a step-by-step guide on how to use key card in hotel, discuss why hotels prefer cards over traditional keys, and offer practical tips for protecting your hotel room key security measures.

Whether you are a hotel guest or simply interested in the hotel industry, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the world of hotel room cards.

A hotel key card is a small plastic card, and it is typically equipped with a magnetic stripe or an embedded RFID smart chip. It is a kind of access voucher, granting authorized individuals access to specific areas within a hotel. In hotels, a hotel key card is also named hotel room card, hotel card, access card, room key, etc. A key card in hotels has many functions and usages, please continue reading to get more details about hotel key cards.

Understanding the different types of hotel key cards

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Key card types vary, and the cards used most in hotels mainly have three, they are:

  • Magnetic Strip Cards: Magnetic stripe cards are one of the most common types of hotel key cards. They have a magnetic stripe on the back that contains encoded information. You need to insert it into the magnetic card reader to grant access to the corresponding room.
  • RFID Cards: RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) cards use radio waves to transmit data. They typically have a smart chip embedded in them, which communicates with RFID readers. When the card is brought close to the reader, the data is transmitted, and access is granted. RFID cards are more durable and convenient than magnetic stripe cards.
  • Proximity Cards: Proximity cards operate on radio frequency technology and do not require physical contact with the card reader. When the card is brought near the reader, it energizes the card, allowing data exchange. Proximity cards are convenient and provide quick access.

It’s important to note that the availability of different key card types can vary among hotels based on their specific needs and infrastructure.

The Working Principle of Hotel Key Cards

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Most hotel room cards utilize RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, which is a wireless form of object recognition. This system comprises an interrogator (or reader) and multiple responders (or tags). RFID technology has broad applications, including libraries, access control systems, and food safety traceability.

The fundamental principle of RFID technology is relatively straightforward: when a tag enters a magnetic field, it receives the radio frequency signal transmitted by the reader. Using the energy obtained from the induced current, the tag then transmits the stored product information (Passive Tag) or actively sends a signal of a specific frequency (Active Tag).

The reader reads and decodes the information, which is subsequently sent to the central information system for data processing purposes. When the data is matched, the door lock will be unlocked.

How to Use a Key Card in a Hotel?

Step 1: Check in and receive your hotel key card

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When you arrive at the hotel, the first thing you need to do is go to the hotel’s front desk to check in. You will need to provide the front desk staff with your relevant information, such as your name, phone number, and ID card.

Once the hotel staff has registered your information, they will arrange a room and create a keycard for you. Once you receive the keycard, you can start your stay.

Smart Card Tips:

Understanding the keycard: Take some time to familiarize yourself with the keycard. It typically contains the following information:

  • Room number: This is the specific number assigned to your hotel room.
  • Expiration date: Key cards are usually programmed to be valid for the duration of your stay, so they have an expiration date. Make sure your stay matches the card’s validity period.

Step 2: Use your key card to take the lift

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You will likely need to take the hotel elevator to reach your room, and your keycard will come into play here. In modern hotels, most hotel elevators are equipped with elevator access control systems to enhance security. You need to scan your keycard on the elevator reader to select the floor.

With advanced technology, some hotel elevator access control systems can automatically recognize the floor based on the room card, eliminating the need to manually select the floor. This enables a completely contactless check-in hotel experience, and modern hotel mobile check-in systems also continue to use this function.

Step 3: Swipe your card into the room

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Once you arrive at your designated room, you need to use the room card in your hand to open the door. First, you need to locate the hotel lock reader on the door, which is usually near the doorknob or integrated into it.

Next, you need to determine how your door lock reads the card. There are mainly two methods: insert card and swipe card.

  • Insert card: You must follow the card insertion instructions on your room card. If there are no instructions, pay attention to the guidance provided by the hotel staff during check-in.
  • Swipe card: Swiping the card makes the process much simpler. You just need to bring your card close to the card reader, and it will be recognized to unlock the door.

Once the card is properly recognized, wait for the green light to illuminate or listen for a beep, indicating that the door is unlocked. At this point, you can open the door and enter your room.

Step 4: Insert your card into the energy switch for room power

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In some hotels, the keycard is used to activate the power supply in the room. Insert the card into the hotel energy-saving switch near the door (usually on the wall inside the room, near the door), and it will turn on the lights and other electronic devices. This helps save energy when you leave the room because removing the card will deactivate the power.

Step 5: Check out and return your hotel key card

When you check out, return the key card to the front desk or place it in the designated key card drop box if available. The hotel staff will typically guide you through the check-out process. Remember to always take your key card with you whenever you leave the room.

Step 6: Unlocking additional amenities and features with your key card

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Additionally, the key card has many functions and uses that vary depending on the services provided by the hotel. Furthermore, key cards can be customized, allowing hotels to set card permissions based on the services booked by guests.

For example, if a guest has booked a room and selected a buffet package, the hotel staff can configure the card to access the room and the hotel restaurant. The guest simply needs to swipe the room card to enter the restaurant and enjoy the hotel’s dining services.

Exploring why hotels prefer key cards over keys

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Firstly, cost. For businesses, the cost is not limited to just the mechanical keys and keycards. From a hotel security standpoint, in the event of a lost mechanical key, the hotel is obligated to relocate the guest to a different room until the door lock is substituted.

For hotel guests, the price they need to compensate for is not just the key itself, but also the cost of replacing the entire lock.

And for hotels, replacing locks is not only a very troublesome task but also results in a decrease in revenue due to rooms being unavailable for accommodation.

On the other hand, when a keycard is lost, guests only need to inform the front desk of the lost card. The front desk simply needs to cancel the old card and issue a new keycard on the hotel door lock system, without worrying about any security issues if someone finds the lost card.

Secondly, security. Compared to traditional mechanical keys, keycards are more secure. This is reflected in the fact that keycards use data transmission to open doors, and all door-opening records can be found in the system. No matter the time, the room number, the lock, or the keycard used to open it, everything can be traced, which is something mechanical keys cannot achieve.

Thirdly, efficiency. By using keycards, hotels can proactively control the rooms, making hotel management more efficient. With a single system backend, all door locks can be monitored, and the hotel can delete and create card access rights through the system at any time. Even if guests fail to return their keycards to the front desk, it does not affect the check-in of the next guest.

Fourthly, convenience. Keycard usage provides convenience for all users of the hotel. For guests, swiping a card to open the door eliminates the cumbersome process of turning a key, enabling one-second unlocking. For hotels, keycards can be easily produced, making hotel management simpler and user-friendly.

For example, with just one master key, all room doors can be opened, whether it’s hotel maintenance personnel or hotel housekeeping staff. Only one keycard is needed when maintaining room facilities.

Lost Your Hotel Key Card? Here’s What to Do

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Losing a hotel room key card can be an inconvenience, but hotels are prepared to handle such situations. If you find yourself in this predicament, here’s what you should do:

  1. Remain calm: Losing a key card is not uncommon, and hotel staff are accustomed to assisting guests in these situations. Stay calm, and don’t panic.
  2. Notify the hotel staff: Contact the hotel front desk or hotel reception immediately and inform them that you have misplaced your room card. Provide them with your name, room number, and any other relevant information they may request.
  3. Follow hotel procedures: Each hotel may have its own policies and procedures for handling lost key cards. The staff will guide you through the necessary steps to resolve the issue.
  4. Verify your identity: The hotel may require you to show identification, such as a passport or ID card, to confirm your identity. This is a security measure to protect guests and ensure that unauthorized individuals do not gain access to your room.
  5. Obtain a replacement key card: Once your identity is verified, the hotel staff will provide you with a replacement key card. This hotel key card programming process may include canceling the lost card and reissuing a new card. In some cases, there may be a fee associated with replacing a lost key card, so be prepared for that possibility.
  6. Secure your belongings: If you had personal belongings in your room, the hotel staff may accompany you to ensure that everything is in order and that no unauthorized access occurred while the key card was missing. If any items are missing or if you notice any signs of tampering, report them to the hotel immediately.

How best to keep your hotel key card?

Although hotel door key cards are designed to be slim and portable, just like most keys, they can also be easily lost. To ensure a pleasant and secure stay, please keep them safe. Here are some tips for storing your key cards:

1. Protect your key card: Treat your key card like any other valuable item. Keep it in a secure place, such as your wallet, purse, or a designated pocket. Avoid leaving it unattended or in easily accessible locations.

2. Do not share your key card: Hotel key cards are typically issued to individual guests. Avoid lending your key card to others or sharing it, even with travel companions or acquaintances. This helps maintain accountability and reduces the risk of unauthorized access.

3. Handle your key card with care: Most keycards are made of plastic, which makes them portable but also prone to damage. Especially with magnetic cards, card breakage, demagnetization, and wear can cause the key card to become ineffective. Therefore, please store them properly

If, unfortunately, your keycard stops working, YGS smart lock solution can help you make your keycard work again. For more details, please visit:

How to make a key card work again? – Comprehensive Analysis

With the flow of hotel personnel, the keycard is also circulated among the hotel guests and hotel staff, so the keycard is vulnerable to different degrees of wear and tear. A keycard issue will cause inconvenience for guests, not only…


Hotel key cards have revolutionized the hospitality industry, providing numerous benefits to both guests and hotels. They offer cost-effectiveness, enhanced security, improved efficiency, and convenience. Understanding the types of key cards and their mechanisms is essential for using them effectively. By following a simple step-by-step guide, guests can easily navigate the process of using key cards in hotels. If you have any further questions about hotel key cards, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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