Everything you need to know about MIFARE cards

Everything you need to know about MIFARE cards

by Mike Boehm on February 10, 2023

What are MIFARE Cards?

MIFARE cards are a type of contactless smart RFID card used for various applications such as public transportation, access control, and event ticketing. Developed by NXP Semiconductors, MIFARE cards use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to communicate with card readers. They are based on the ISO 14443 standard, which defines the communication protocol and parameters for contactless smart cards. MIFARE contactless smart cards work at the 13.56 MHz frequency.


Benefits of MIFARE Cards

MIFARE cards offer several benefits over traditional magnetic stripe cards. First and foremost, they are contactless, which means they can be read and written to without the need for physical contact. This eliminates the need for swiping or inserting the card into a reader, making the process more convenient and less prone to wear and tear. 

Additionally, MIFARE cards offer a high level of security, as they use mutual authentication and encryption to protect against unauthorized access. No data is transferred between the MIFARE card and reader until the authentication has occurred. They also have a large memory capacity, which allows for storing more data than traditional magnetic stripe cards.


Here’s a list of MIFARE benefits for quick reference:

  • High data storage capacity – MIFARE cards can store up to 32 KB of data, which allows for multiple applications to be stored on a single card. 
  • Data transfer speed – Data transfer between a MIFARE card and a reader is fast, which allows for quick and efficient transactions. 
  • Premium security – MIFARE cards use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption to protect stored data from unauthorized access. 
  • Long-lasting durability – MIFARE cards are made of PVC or PET, which makes them durable and resistant to damage. 
  • Compatibility – MIFARE cards are compatible with a wide range of readers and systems, making them a versatile solution for different applications. 
  • Multi-application support – MIFARE cards support multiple applications, such as access control, time and attendance tracking, and public transportation payment systems. 
  • Reliability – The MIFARE cards are used extensively worldwide and have been proven to be reliable and efficient in a variety of settings.

MIFARE Card Use Cases

MIFARE cards are used in a wide variety of applications throughout many different industries, including: 

  • Public transportation – Many cities around the world use MIFARE cards for their public transportation systems. The cards can be used for both fare payments and as a season ticket. 
  • Access control – MIFARE cards are used in building access control systems to grant or deny access to specific areas. 
  • Event ticketing – MIFARE cards can be used as event tickets, storing information such as the event's date, time, and location. 
  • Loyalty programs and prepaid cards – Many businesses use MIFARE cards to keep track of rewards points or to provide customers with a prepaid card. 


What types of MIFARE Cards are available?

There are several different types of MIFARE cards available, each with its own unique features and capabilities:

 Mifare RFID card and hotel door reader

MIFARE Classic

This is the original MIFARE card and is the most widely used type. It has a memory capacity of 1KB and is used in a wide variety of applications. The MIFARE Classic is a popular contactless smart card technology that is widely used in many applications, such as public transportation, access control, and event ticketing. This is the original MIFARE card and is the most widely used type. The technology was developed by Mikron and later purchased by NXP Semiconductors and was first introduced in 1994. The MIFARE Classic card operates at a frequency of 13.56 MHz and uses the ISO 14443A standard for communication.  

The MIFARE Classic card is divided into several areas, including the user memory and the key memory. The user memory is used to store data such as the cardholder's information and the card's usage history. The key memory is used to store the cryptographic keys used for authentication and encryption. 

The MIFARE Classic card uses a proprietary authentication protocol called the CRYPTO1 algorithm. This algorithm uses a 48-bit secret key for authentication and a 40-bit session key for encryption. The CRYPTO1 algorithm has been widely adopted in many different applications and is considered to be secure. 

One of the most significant advantages of the MIFARE Classic card is its compatibility with a wide range of card readers. The card can be read by many different card readers that support the ISO 14443A standard, making it easy to integrate into existing systems.

 However, the MIFARE Classic card has been subject to several security vulnerabilities over the years. In 2008, researchers demonstrated a technique for cracking the CRYPTO1 algorithm, making it possible to clone the card's contents. NXP has since released a newer version of the card, the MIFARE Plus, which features enhanced security features to address these vulnerabilities.



The MIFARE DESFire is a highly secure and versatile contactless smart card technology that is widely used in various applications such as public transportation, access control, and payment systems. This card was designed for more demanding applications and offers a higher level of security and larger memory capacity than the MIFARE Classic. 

The MIFARE DESFire is based on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm and uses a 128-bit key to ensure the highest level of transaction security. The card also has a unique serial number that is used to identify it and prevent counterfeiting or cloning.

 One of the main features of the MIFARE DESFire is its high data storage capacity, with a maximum of 28KB per card. This allows for multiple applications to be stored on a single card, making it an efficient solution for multi-purpose use. 

The MIFARE DESFire also has a multi-application support feature, allowing multiple service providers to access the card's data and perform transactions. This feature is particularly useful for transportation systems where a single card can be used for different types of transportation, such as buses, trains, and subway systems.


In addition to its security and data storage capabilities, the MIFARE DESFire also has a fast data transfer rate of up to 848 kbps, making transactions quick and efficient.


MIFARE Ultralight

The MIFARE Ultralight is a cost-effective solution for simple applications such as ticketing, access control, and loyalty program. It has a smaller memory capacity (64 bytes) than the other MIFARE cards. This memory capacity is divided into 16 pages of 4 bytes each. It also has a 7-byte unique identification number (UID), which makes it easy to identify and track the card. 

The MIFARE Ultralight uses the ISO/IEC 14443A standard for communication, which allows it to communicate with a reader at a distance of up to 10 cm. The card has a built-in anti-collision feature, which prevents multiple cards from being read at the same time. This ensures that only the intended card is read and processed by the system. 

One of the major advantages of the MIFARE Ultralight is its low cost, making it an ideal solution for large-scale deployment in areas such as public transportation, event ticketing, and loyalty programs. The card is also lightweight and durable, making it easy to carry around. 

The card also has built-in security features, such as a one-time programmable (OTP) area, which allows for the storing of sensitive information, such as access codes. The card also has a write-protect feature, which prevents unauthorized changes to the data stored on the card.



MIFARE Plus is a newer version of the MIFARE card and offers improved security and performance over the MIFARE Classic. It has a memory capacity of 2KB and is available in both contactless and contact versions. The MIFARE Plus technology is used in a wide range of applications, such as transportation, access control, and e-payment systems. It is also used in government-issued identification cards and passports.

One of the major advantages of the MIFARE Plus technology is that it is backward compatible with MIFARE Classic cards. This means that existing MIFARE Classic systems can easily be upgraded to the MIFARE Plus technology without the need for extensive changes to the infrastructure.

The MIFARE Plus offers several improvements in terms of security compared to the MIFARE Classic:

  • Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for data encryption makes it much more difficult to intercept and decrypt compared to the MIFARE Classic.
  • Authenticated access mechanism that ensures only authorized users can access the data stored on the card.
  • A tamper-resistant feature that can detect attempts to physically modify the card.
  • A more robust security protocol that prevents replay attacks.
  • Dynamic challenge-response mechanism makes it difficult for an attacker to perform a replay attack. 

One of the main security enhancements of the MIFARE Plus is the use of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for data encryption. Unlike the MIFARE Classic, which uses a proprietary encryption algorithm, the MIFARE Plus uses AES, which is considered to be a more secure encryption standard. This means that data stored on the MIFARE Plus is much more difficult to intercept and decrypt compared to the MIFARE Classic.

Come explore AuthorizID's vast selection of NFC RFID cards and Key fobs that are compatible with Mifare card readers.