Choosing Proximity Cards or Smart Cards for My Security System

Choosing Proximity Cards or Smart Cards for My Security System

by Mike Boehm on January 27, 2023

Companies worldwide are upgrading their security systems to protect their customers, assets, and profit margins. Before spending thousands on creating your security system, it’s essential to understand the different products and features to ensure you’re protected. 

Companies with physical sites like warehouses, retail stores, and office buildings typically use a form of ID to control who can access specific areas. Proximity cards, or access control cards, have been used for decades to provide customized access to various individuals. However, new tools like Smart Cards offer unique features that some businesses may find valuable. 

Before choosing whether proximity cards or smart cards for your security system, let’s review the basics so you can determine the best product for your business.


The Basics

Proximity cards and smart cards provide the same function for security systems. Each product can be customized to grant individuals access to various areas. With access control cards, companies can control who can access which areas, track data, and analyze results to improve security systems.


Proximity Cards

Companies worldwide use access control cards because they’re cost-effective and reliable solutions to improve any security system. 

Proximity cards are small plastic cards designed to fit into most wallets and card holders. Also known as access control cards, these cards house a metallic antenna coil where the cardholder’s data can be stored. 

Unlike other security cards and credit cards, proximity cards don’t need to be swiped or inserted into access control points. Users simply hold the proximity card close to the card reader to authenticate the security clearance and gain access to an area.


Proximity Card Technology 

Proximity cards use radio frequency technology to communicate with security systems. The microchip in proximity cards stores a numerical code that grants or denies access to various areas. When users place their proximity cards in the access control panel, the card transmits the numerical code with low-range radio frequencies. 

Once the access control system, or card reader, verifies the numerical code, access is granted, and the data is recorded to the security system.


Smart Cards 

Smart cards are the upgraded version of proximity cards. Smart cards have better functionality, faster speed, improved frequency, and larger storage capacity. Smart cards can be made from plastic or metal and customized to the user or business. 

Smart cards are used in more than just security systems. These products can be used for telecommunication, e-commerce, digital payments, network security, and more. The same smart card can be used for multiple uses because of its large storage capacity and rewritable memory.


Smart Card Technology 

Similar to proximity cards, smart cards come with an embedded microchip that stores user information. Users will need to place their smart cards close to access control systems to verify user and record user data. 

Unlike proximity cards, smart cards communicate through high-range radio frequencies. This type of communication makes smart cards faster and more reliable than proximity cards.  

Because smart cards have increased storage capacity, they can store more user data and be customized for more purposes.


Proximity Cards vs. Smart Cards 

While smartphone culture has taught us that the newest technology is always better, the same logic may not apply to your security system. Proximity cards and smart cards offer similar levels of protection and functionality. However, depending on your security needs, the extra investment in smart cards may not be worth it.  


Technological Differences 

Both proximity cards and smart cards rely on the same radio technology to communicate data to card readers. 

Proximity cards are built to store simple numerical data that is communicated through low-range radio frequencies. 

Compared to proximity cards, smart cards can store more than simple numerical data. The modern technology in smart cards allows them to store complex data that can help in authentication, personal information, and storing values. 

Because of the size and complexity of smart card data, they use high-range radio frequencies to communicate with card readers, giving them faster, more reliable connections.



Smart cards have larger memory capacities compared to access control cards. With increased memory storage, smart cards have a rewritable memory that can easily be customized.


Comparatively, proximity cards only store simple numerical data. With non-rewritable memories, proximity cards have less functionality and customizability than smart cards.



Many security experts prefer smart cards over proximity cards because they are more secure. 

While proximity cards are widely used, they contain several flaws and vulnerabilities that can expose businesses. Hackers have perfected the art of stealing numerical data from proximity cards. Because card readers create an electromagnetic field to read proximity card data, criminals can create a similar electromagnetic field to steal proximity card data. 

Smart cards use authentication and encryption technology to prevent this type of attack. Before smart cards communicate data to a card reader, it will first authenticate that the card reader can be trusted. Once the card reader is authenticated, the data is transferred in its encrypted form that only the card reader can understand.



While smart cards are the clear winner in security and functionality, not all companies can justify their cost. Smart cards are significantly more expensive than proximity cards due to their extra space, fast speed, and encryption technology. However, the more customization and storage you need, the costlier they will be. 

Proximity cards are a budget-friendly option that still provides basic levels of security. While they’re not as secure or fast as smart cards, they are a durable and customizable product that will deter most security threats.


Creating Your Security System 

Proximity cards and smart cards are used in security systems worldwide because they’re reliable, affordable, and easy to use. 

Companies that provide numerous proximity cards to employees, customers, and guests may not need the additional layers of security from smart cards. However, companies that grant secure access to sensitive areas may want to invest in more secure smart cards. 

Still not sure what’s the best product for your security system? Check out our website Authoriz-ID or connect with one of our security specialists to learn which products are best for protecting your business.