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Key Fob and Key Card Entry Systems: Guide for Commercial Buildings

Our electronic access control systems experts have put up the best tips to manage access controls of your facilities for you. Read more in this article!

Key Fob and Key Card Entry Systems: Guide for Commercial Buildings

Locks and keys are outdated; electronic access control systems are a more convenient way to manage access for any type of business. Fob access or key card entry systems are more secure than the traditional lock and key system.

They have advantages and disadvantages, and we will examine them thoroughly to guide you on which to choose. In Chicago, electronic access control systems experts are ready to help you find the best way to manage access controls of your facilities.

What Are Key Card and Key Fob Systems?

Card access systems are keyless access control systems that use a key card or a key fob to unlock electrically powered doors. They are typically used in hotels, apartment buildings, office buildings, hospitals, and other commercial facilities.

A key card entry system uses a card that is either tapped onto a reader or swiped through a reader to authenticate the credentials and allow access.

A key fob system works much like a key card system, but it uses wireless technology to communicate information to a reader in a touchless way to grant access.

How Do Key Fob and Card Access Systems Work?

Key card and fob access control systems promote convenience and safety, whether they are being used for apartments, offices, hospitals, or any other type of property that requires a certain level of privacy.

Key card access systems work simply:

  • Access request: a user will tap his card or swipe the card onto an access control reader.
  • Access reader: it will process the credentials from the card that was either swiped or tapped and authenticate the person’s credentials.
  • Access control lock: the electronic or magnetic lock will receive the reader's data and either grant or deny access according to the user’s credentials.

Key fob systems work much in the same way. Still, they are touchless systems that use RFID (radio frequency identification) and wireless technology to communicate the information from the card to the reader. A key fob entry system is a short-range key that sends signals to a reader within short distances.

Types of Key Cards and Key Fobs

Electronic key fob

Different key cards and fob entry systems use different technology to communicate the data from the user’s card to a reader that processes the credentials before granting access.

Wiegand Key Cards

Wiegand technology refers to a card reader and sensor technology frequently used in bank card numbers, credit card numbers, and access control cards. This system is a wired interface between a card reader and encoded data in binary code.

When a user swipes their card through a reader, a magnetic field reads the data and sends it to the reader through wires. The reader will then process the information and verify the credentials before granting access. This technology was introduced in the 1970s and still plays a key role in the access control industry.

Magnetic Stripe Cards or Swipe Key Cards

A magnetic stripe card works differently from a Wiegand key card because it does not use any wires. These two cards are encoded differently, and a swipe card can be easily rewritten, as is not the case with a Wiegand card. Swipe cards have a black stripe that runs on one side of the card, which needs to be swiped through the reader to either request access or complete a transaction.

Other popular magnetic swipe cards are credit cards, bank cards, employee cards, gift cards, public transit cards, and hotel cards. They are becoming more popular in the card access control industry because they can be rewritten and repurposed easily.

Proximity Cards and RFID Key Fobs and Cards

Proximity card door entry systems and key fobs use wireless technology to communicate the data from the card to a reader. This is a touchless and contactless reader and is becoming increasingly popular.

This door access reader uses radio wave frequency identification to read a user’s credentials. Proximity card readers can come in two types: active or passive readers.

Benefits of Key Card Door Entry Systems for Your Business

Numerous benefits can be attributed to commercial key card entry systems. Most people commonly think of security as the only advantage, but many more advantages are indispensable to business owners of all types.

Key Cards Increase Commercial Security

As mentioned above, the safety of your employees, your customers, and the security of your property are key factors in every business. A key card entry system allows you to keep intruders outside your facility. It can even allow you to restrict areas within your building to specifically authorized personnel only. This offers your business 24/7 protection against theft, vandalism, and other types of intrusion that may leave your business vulnerable.

Key Fobs Make Control Easier

A commercial key fob door lock system allows a business owner to control access to different areas within the building uniquely. It also provides for tracking since key fobs use wireless technology, adding a security layer. With the monitoring of any employee or guest who has entered the building, this access control system will also allow you to keep time-stamped records for better facility control.

Key Fob Systems Deliver High Efficiency

Key fob access also offers convenience and efficiency. The key fob can be coin-sized, or the fob can be attached to an ID card. Key fobs are easily reprogrammed, so if a key fob is misplaced or an employee has left the company, they are easily transferred to a different employee or guest. They make unlocking a building fast and easy.

Key Card Entry Systems are Affordable

Card access system

Traditional keys can get lost, and they can be duplicated and vandalized. A key card access system allows for a safer and much more affordable security option for any business. Many key card entry systems are affordable and hassle-free, and in the long run, key card entry systems are a far superior choice when it comes down to cost.

Limitations of Key Fob Systems

While card access systems and key fob security systems are an affordable and sound choice for any commercial property, they are not without imperfections or flaws that you must be aware of.

  • Swipe cards use a magnetic strip to transfer data to a reader. These magnetic strips can get damaged and therefore make the card unreadable.
  • Key cards and fobs can easily get lost, we can drop them, lose them, or they can be stolen. This could leave the facility at risk.
  • The process for registering or programming, or even reprogramming cards can take time, and managers often don’t have time to manage a facility and manage employees’ cards simultaneously.
  • Key cards and fobs are not a hands-free system, and using these cards during the morning rush can cause a lobby to get overcrowded quickly.

These drawbacks must not deter you from getting a key card access system or fob, but you must consider them. Another solution can also be two-factor or multi-factor authentications which would add security and give you options if the cards or fobs are not available.

How Much Does the Key Fob System Cost?

Key fob entry systems can average between $1,500 to $2,700 to install a key fob system for one door. Depending on how many doors or entryways you will need to secure with this type of system, there can be a variation in the price. These systems require a professional installation, so it’s important to contact a security specialist to get a more specific quote.

A key fob per employee can run anywhere from $50 to $400, depending on the make and model of the key fob. Their price derives from the hardware the fobs are made and from the software that needs to be programmed on a new key fob or reprogrammed.


Commercial key card entry systems and key fob entry systems are unique tools to protect your building and staff. Coupled with a sound security system, a key card entry system or fob entry system can be all the protection your commercial property requires. Do not hesitate to call our professional team from Forbel for access control solutions in Chicago. Contact us today.

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