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Key card access systems or key fob entry systems are ideal for securing and managing entrances in any building or facility. By using a key card system, you can ensure that the right personnel have access at the right times while prohibiting unauthorized entry and limiting access to restricted areas. 

While key card access control systems are a great way to improve physical security, they can also be integrated with commercial CCTV systems or alarm systems for added security benefits. In other words, these access card systems are incredibly versatile and user-friendly, with various options depending on your needs.

However, choosing the right access card systems for your business can be challenging. In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about key card access control systems to make the best decision for your business.

Advantages of Avigilon card readers

  • Sleek, easy-to-install card readers for any entry

  • Backward compatible with legacy key cards and fobs

  • Fast, reliable card readers with remote unlock

  • Intuitive, cloud-native management software

  • Real-time alerts and detailed audit logs

What is a key card system for access control? 

A key card access solution is a combination of card credentials, door card readers and locks that limit access to a building or space. This door card access system operates by verifying the information stored on the key card through the security card reader. The key card door lock system will permit or deny access based on the access privileges assigned to the cardholder.

Components of card access control systems

Card access security systems consist of several different components:

  • Door key cards: These are security cards for doors with embedded chips that store information about the user’s identity.
  • Key card scanner: A card reader security device installed on doors and gates that reads the information stored on electronic card keys.
  • Controller: The main unit of the key card access system, the controller sends commands to open or close doors as needed by communicating with the user database.
  • Electronic key card door lock: Card key locks are mechanisms that lock or unlock the door when a valid key card is swiped. A card key door lock can be triggered manually or automatically, depending on the type of access card system for doors being used.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) devices: Some key card entry systems require users to enter a PIN code in addition to swiping their electronic card for added security. 
  • Access card systems software: Key card door access systems require software to store user data, manage access rights and monitor system activity.

How does a key card access solution work?

Today’s key card door entry security systems generally rely on RFID access or magnetic stripe technology, allowing users to tap, swipe or use proximity to a key card machine to access a secured area.

The key card is programmed with an individual’s details so key card readers can identify them. Then, when someone swipes or brings their card close enough to the scanner, it captures the information and sends it to the controller for verification.

The controller verifies the user’s identity against the database and grants access if they are allowed in that area. It can also trigger additional security measures, such as alarms or text alerts to security personnel.

If the door access card reader system requires additional security, it can be set up to use keypads. These devices enable the cardholder to enter a personal code in addition to presenting their card. Combining these two measures helps ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive areas.

Finally, the door access card system software ties everything together and allows businesses to track who has accessed which areas and when. It provides even more control over who is entering the premises.

Types of key card access control and door entry systems for business applications

Organizations that need to track the movement of personnel and secure areas with sensitive information may consider implementing key card door lock for business solutions. Having a reliable, customized physical security solution is critical to protecting company assets. Still, it can be challenging to determine which type of key card system best meets your organization’s needs.

Here are some types of key card door lock solutions along with their best applications:

Video Intercom Reader Pro

All-in-one reader with live video, two-way audio, call routing, a Virtual Directory feature and reliable touchless access.

Standard Smart Keypad Reader

An easy-to-use device that enables access for credentialed users and visitors with unique PIN codes and touchless entry.

Standard Smart Reader

A sleek and easy-to-install proximity reader that is compatible with mobile devices, cards, fobs, NFC, WiFi and Bluetooth.

Door access magnetic card reader systems

A magnetic or swipe card access system works with cards with magnetic stripes on the back that can be read by an electronic card reader installed at each entry point. They’re also called card swipe entry systems because they require the user to physically swipe the card.

Card swipe entry systems are relatively simple because no additional hardware is needed beyond the reader. The reader is connected directly to the key card door lock system. Swipe card door lock solutions are excellent for applications where access to specific areas needs to be limited, but advanced security features aren’t necessary.

Swipe card entry systems work well in apartment complexes, universities, schools and offices where attendance needs to be monitored and secure areas accessed. Swipe card door entry solutions are also a popular choice for smaller businesses looking for an easy and cost-effective way to control access to their premises. 

Magnetic card swipe door entry systems can also be used beyond entry points. For example, businesses and universities may choose to install swipe card systems to allow access to printers, and for enrollment or timekeeping purposes. 

Proximity card lock systems

Proximity door access cards use radio frequency identification (RFID technology) to communicate with security card reader systems. This type of card key door lock requires no physical contact between the card and the reader. Instead, the card just needs to be placed near the reader to transmit data.

A proximity card key entry system offers a higher level of security than a door swipe card entry system because the cards are harder to duplicate. Additionally, many cards can be programmed with different levels of access rights for added security.

A proximity card door access system will work well for organizations with high-traffic areas, like hospitals and factories, where it’s necessary to quickly allow or deny access to personnel.

Badge access systems

A badge entry system is a card key access system that uses a person’s ID badge or card to grant or deny access. Like any other key card door entry system, the ID badge contains a chip or RFID tag with information about the holder’s rights and access levels. However, it may also include a photo, department, title or other information to quickly identify them.

Badge locks are programmed to recognize badges that meet the necessary criteria and reject any unregistered badges. Depending on the solution, a badge access system may require additional authentication, such as a PIN code or fingerprint scan, for MFA security.

One major advantage of a badge door lock system is that it makes it easier to track who has accessed which areas and when. This is also a highly convenient card access security system because users don’t have to carry their badge and a separate key card.

Badge door lock systems are an excellent choice for organizations with a lot of personnel, such as hospitals or universities, where access needs to be limited and monitored. They’re also an excellent choice for businesses such as factories where many workers come into contact daily with hazardous materials or sensitive equipment and would benefit from having quick but secure ways into various parts of the facility without needing extra keys or complicated passcodes.

Discover the benefits of a key card door entry and lock system

Types of key card access control and door entry systems for business applications

There’s a reason access card systems are so prevalent in commercial property security. While not necessarily the most advanced tech on the market, key card locks for doors still offer a wide range of benefits.

  • Increased security: Key card access door locks provide a secure way to control who can enter buildings, parking lots and sensitive areas. Unique codes are programmed into key cards, which must be matched with the system for entry, preventing unauthorized access. Compared to traditional keys or shared PIN codes, card commercial access control systems offer greater security because each individual needs a unique credential to unlock the door. 
  • Improved tracking: A door access card system can provide data on who enters and exits a building, allowing businesses to identify security breaches and monitor activity in real time. The data can also be used for employee time tracking or visitor management, and provide crucial information for auditing or forensic investigations.
  • Increased convenience: A card key access system removes the hassle of carrying around physical keys. It grants access to workplaces and vulnerable areas quickly and securely, reducing time and effort for entry and exit processes. Plus, key card door locks are much easier to use. After all, with key card doors, it only takes a tap or a swipe to open them, and that’s much easier than fiddling with keys.
  • Flexibility: Card key systems can be easily updated and modified to reflect changes in personnel or access privileges, providing a flexible and scalable solution. Additionally, key cards can be programmed with expiration dates, so they automatically become inactive after a certain period.
  • Easy management: A card access door lock system can be centrally managed, making it easier to monitor and control access to multiple buildings or areas within a facility. As a result, with key card locks for doors, businesses can quickly update settings across all sites from one central location, saving time and money while ensuring consistent security protocols throughout the organization.
  • Cost-efficiency: Key card door entry systems are a cost-effective security solution as they require minimal installation costs and ongoing maintenance. Also, if someone loses a card, securing a door with card access simply requires revoking access and replacing the card. With a traditional lock, if someone loses their key, the lock has to be replaced and all keys recut, which can add up quickly, especially in businesses with high turnover.

Disadvantages of key card door lock system

Disadvantages of key card locks

Although card key locks provide enhanced security, convenience and flexibility, they also come with some drawbacks. Before investing in access card systems for your business, be sure to weigh these disadvantages with other security options.

Security risks of a card access control solution

While providing a level of security, key card locks for doors come with inherent security risks that should be considered.

  • Damage-prone: Door access card can be prone to damage, causing disruptions in access to a building. Sometimes, the security key card may become damaged and no longer function, requiring a replacement.
  • Easy to misplace or lose: Key cards are small and easily lost or misplaced, making it necessary to replace them, which can be time-consuming and costly. Not to mention, a missing security key card in the wrong hands is a huge risk for any business.
  • Varying wait times: The waiting time for a new card to be made can vary, leading to potential delays in access.
  • Easy to duplicate: Key cards, especially those used for a door swipe card entry system, are relatively easy to copy using cheap devices.

The inefficiency of a security card lock system

While key card locks for doors provide some degree of security, they also come with inefficiencies that can impact a business.

  • Bottlenecks in access: A door lock with key card can end up causing a bottleneck if someone cannot find their card or if the system malfunctions, leading to delays in accessing the building. Card swipe door entry systems are especially prone to requiring multiple unlock attempts.
  • Time-consuming administration: Registering and revoking key cards can be time-consuming, which can impact a business’s operations. The best door access control system should have the ability to issue or revoke credentials instantly, keeping the property secure as turnover occurs.
  • Personal issuance required: Key cards must be given to employees in person or mailed out, adding a step to the onboarding process.
  • Unreliable card key access: Proximity technology is more advanced than swipe card access systems, but can cause unreliability if the read range is not configured properly.

Challenges in scaling card key door lock solutions

As a business grows, the key entry system may become increasingly difficult to manage.

  • Lack of centralized management: Legacy key card systems may not offer centralized management, making it challenging for businesses with multiple sites to manage the system effectively. Keyless entry systems can simplify access management it across several different locations.
  • Onboarding delays: Delays in issuing key cards can result in longer onboarding processes and lost revenue.
  • Changes requiring re-issuance: Changes to the system may require re-issuing everyone’s key cards, adding a layer of complexity and cost.
  • Multiple cards required: Personnel with access to more than one location might have to carry around multiple key cards, which can be inconvenient and potentially increase the administrative burden on the business.

Alternatives to key card entry systems

While access card systems may be a viable solution for your business, there are other keyless options available that may better suit your security needs and provide a more convenient access method for users. 

Keypad access control

Although not touchless, access control keypad systems are a viable alternative to key card entry systems. It requires the credentialed user to input a unique PIN code on a keypad to gain access. Businesses can change the PIN code to manage the security of their premises and more advanced systems enable organizations to provide a unique PIN code to each user. 

Mobile access control

Mobile or app-based access control systems allow credentialed users and visitors to gain access by presenting their smartphone, smartwatch or tablet near a proximity reader. Mobile access control is highly secure as users are more unlikely to lose their mobile device compared to a keycard or share a PIN code, as could be the case with keypad access control. Mobile devices are also often secured by passcodes or biometric identification such as Face ID.

QR code access control

With this solution, the user’s credentials are stored in the form of a unique QR code. This code is scanned by the reader to grant access. Ideal for visitor management, this keyless access control option allows organizations to share QR codes with visitors through an app or via email and can be programmed to active and expire at specific dates and times. 

Biometric access control

Biometric access control technology grants access using the user’s unique physical features, such as fingerprints or iris scans. As biometrics are unique to each user, this access control solution provides the highest level of security. Therefore, it is often used in high-security environments, such as bank vaults or government facilities.

Factors influencing the cost of installing a key card access system

At first, investing in a key card system might not seem all that expensive because the key card door lock price is usually quite low in comparison to other security systems. However, there are quite a few factors that influence the overall key card system cost that can impact your budget. 

Building size and layout

The size and layout of the building that requires a key card entry system will significantly influence the cost because it will determine the number of key card scanners, key card door locks and wiring needed to install the system. Complex or multistory building layouts can add complexity and additional costs. For example, a multi-tenant complex with public and private offices, or an entrance gate card access security system with entrances for vehicles and pedestrians will require more wiring and key card readers than a simple single-story building with only one main entrance.

Type of door access card reader

The type of card reader used can also affect the cost of a key card door lock system. Some key card readers will have more features and security capabilities than others, such as support for multiple credential types or built-in video IP security cameras, which can add to the cost. Depending on the security level required, prices can vary greatly.

Number of key cards required

Another factor influencing the key card door entry system cost is the number of key cards needed for personnel and any third parties who require regular access. The cost of the physical cards and the administrative costs associated with their issuance will need to be factored into the system’s overall operation budget.

Software requirements of key card entry solution

When installing a key card entry system, software requirements should be considered. Newer systems require different software than legacy systems, which often necessitates upgrades that can get expensive when setting up a hybrid solution. Even when installing a completely new key card access system, the software needs to be sourced and set up, which can add to the cost.

Intuitive software with remote or cloud-based access control management can increase operational flexibility for key card door lock systems, allowing teams to sync users, adjust permissions, change door schedules and more, without being physically on-site. 

Additional security features

For higher levels of security, additional features such as integrated video surveillance or motion sensors may be required. These features can add to the cost of the key card door entry system, but can significantly improve security posturing.

For example, investing in a key card access control system with built-in video can give your teams visual verification of users swiping in. Similarly, key card gate access systems might be more effective if they incorporate license plate recognition technology. 

Installation fees

Installation costs will depend on the complexity of the job and the type of system being installed. Professional installation is usually recommended for larger key card access control systems, adding to the overall cost but improving the reliability and durability of your security.

Maintenance fees

Finally, ongoing maintenance is necessary to keep up with operational demands; additional expenses will need to be factored into any card door access system. Maintenance costs will depend on the type of card access system, the features it offers, and any software or hardware upgrades that might be needed.

Integrating key card entry solutions with existing security systems

Integrating key card access systems with other security systems can bring significant benefits in improved safety, convenience and return on investment. By combining multiple layers of security technology, businesses can ensure their premises remain safe and protected.

Many types of integrations can be deployed with a key card access solution, giving companies the flexibility to customize their security strategies:

  • Intercom systems: Business intercom systems can be integrated with key card access control, allowing staff to communicate with visitors before granting access. Some key card door entry systems combine an intercom and card reader into a single device. 
  • Video surveillance: Installing video cameras with motion sensors alongside your card access door lock system can give businesses a real-time view of the premises to verify any access activity.
  • Alarm systems: Integrating a key card system with alarms can trigger the alarm if an unauthorized person attempts to gain access to a restricted area, helping deter unwanted visitors and keeping security personnel informed of any incidents.
  • Visitor management: Your access card system can integrate with visitor tools to automatically create visitor permissions for meetings, and issue custom key cards when guests check in at your building.
  • Biometrics: Installing biometric control systems, such as face recognition or fingerprint scanners, can offer increased levels of security as an MFA method. 
  • Lockdown solutions: Many key card access systems are also compatible with lockdown solutions, allowing staff or first responders to easily activate a door lock with key card credentials in the event of an emergency. This can facilitate a rapid evacuation of the premises and minimize losses.

Questions to consider when planning a key card access and door lock system

Business owners and commercial property managers must consider various factors when selecting a key card or door badge system. Security, efficiency, scalability, user experience, integration, support and cost will play a role in the decision-making process. Use the following key card access system checklist to help plan successful implementation for your business:


  • How secure is the key card door lock system? Does it have encryption and other security features in place?
  • What happens if a key card is lost or stolen? Can access be easily revoked?
  • Is there any monitoring in place to alert of potential vulnerabilities or failures?


  • How easy is it to issue and revoke access to door locks with key cards?
  • Do employees experience any delays when entering or exiting with their door key cards?
  • How long does setup take, and what are the ongoing maintenance requirements?


  • How easy is it to add new users or change access levels with the door key card system?
  • Will the card lock system have to be replaced if the organization grows or its needs change?
  • Does the door access card reader system support any other credential types?

User experience

  • How intuitive and user-friendly is the access card system?
  • Does it provide a good experience for users when they enter or exit with their door key cards?
  • Are there any features that help facilitate employees’ use of the system, such as helpful tips or prompts?


  • Can the key card door entry system be easily integrated with other systems, such as video surveillance and alarms?
  • Does the vendor offer support for integrating with existing IT architecture?
  • Is the key card access door lock system compatible with popular operating systems, browsers and mobile devices?


  • What are the upfront costs for installation and key card access door locks hardware?
  • Are there any ongoing costs for maintenance and upgrades?
  • How does the cost compare with other similar products on the market?


  • Are technical support services available 24/7 if needed?
  • Does the vendor help troubleshoot or train users to use the access card system correctly?
  • Does the company have a good track record regarding customer service and satisfaction?

Investing in a key card access and entry system for businesses and buildings 

Key card access systems provide businesses with a practical, versatile, and cost-efficient way to monitor and control access to a building or area. With the right planning, businesses can ensure that they make the right choice when selecting a door key card system for their needs.

By considering the security, efficiency, scalability, user experience, integration, support and cost questions outlined above, businesses can decide which key card door lock system best suits their needs. With an advanced, futureproof card door access security solution in place, organizations can enjoy peace of mind knowing that their premises are safe and secure.

Have questions? We can help

Our video security experts can help you implement the right security system for your business.