Magnetic Stripe Readers and Magnetic Stripe Encoders Information

Magnetic stripe readerMagnetic stripe readers and magnetic stripe encoders are devices that read and encode magnetic stripe cards such as driver’s licenses, employee badges, and credit cards. A magnetic stripe card is capable of storing data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic material on the card. The magnetic stripe, sometimes called a magstripe, is read by physical contact and swiping past a reading head. There are two types of magstripes: high-coercivity and low-coercivity. A magnetic stripe reader can read either type of magstripe. A high-coercivity magnetic stripe writer may write to only high-coercivity cards. A low-coercivity magnetic stripe writer may write to only low-coercivity cards. Most modern magnetic stripe card readers and encoders support the bi-directional reading of single, dual, and triple track magnetic cards.


Features include:

  • magnetic stripe encoders
  • magnetic stripe readers
  • magnetic stripe reader writers
  • point of sale (POS) systems

Magnetic stripe encoders transform or encode data into a format that can be read by magnetic stripe readers. Typically, a magnetic stripe encoder uses a programmed algorithm. A magnetic stripe reader reads the data from the magstripes by analyzing the electronic signals. A magnetic stripe writer is used to write the encoded data in the magstripes. A magnetic stripe reader writer is a device that performs both reading and writing of magnetic stripe cards. A PC cash drawer is a point of sale (POS) system designed around a standard personal computer that uses magnetic stripe card readers and encoders. A point of sale (POS) system can handle sales, manage an inventory database, run a barcode scanner, and allow the querying of inventory and sales database in a flexible way.


Specifications for magnetic stripe card readers and encoders include:

  • coercivity type
  • writing standard
  • type of track
  • thickness of card
  • data density of card
  • magnetic head life
  • interface


Magnetic stripe readers and magnetic stripe encoders are designed and manufactured to meet industry specifications. They are used in many applications. Some magnetic stripe readers and encoders are used to read and write retail customer loyalty cards, membership cards, time and attendance cards, or debit and credit cards. Other products are used to produce drivers’ licenses.

Related Information

IEEE Spectrum—The Long Life and Imminent Death of the Mag-Stripe Card

IEEE Spectrum—Goodbye MagStripe, Hello Chip Cards?

IEEE Spectrum—The Biometric Wallet

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