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HomeBusinessThe Versatility of Plastic Card Barcodes: A Comprehensive Overview

The Versatility of Plastic Card Barcodes: A Comprehensive Overview

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Have you ever wondered how those small, black and white lines on the back of your plastic card contain so much information? Those ingenious little lines are barcodes, and they play a vital role in various industries, from retail and logistics to healthcare and transportation.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at different types of plastic card barcodes and their applications in various sectors.

One of the most widely recognized plastic card barcode is the Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode. You’ve probably seen these barcodes on almost every consumer product you’ve purchased. They consist of a series of black bars and white spaces, encoding information such as the manufacturer, product type, and price. UPC barcodes are extensively used in the retail industry, enabling quick and accurate inventory management, price lookup, and point-of-sale transactions.

  • QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) codes take barcode functionality to a whole new level. QR codes, with their square matrix design, can store a significant amount of data, including alphanumeric text, URLs, and even images. Plastic cards with QR codes find applications in diverse industries. For instance, in the transportation sector, QR codes on boarding passes enable seamless ticket scanning and passenger identification. In marketing, QR codes on loyalty cards allow customers to access exclusive discounts and promotions by scanning the code with their smartphones.

  • Magnetic Stripe

Although not strictly a barcode, magnetic stripe technology is commonly used on the back of plastic cards, such as credit cards and identification cards. The magnetic stripe contains encoded information, such as the cardholder’s account number and expiration date. When swiped through a card reader, the magnetic stripe is read, allowing for secure and efficient transactions. Magnetic stripe cards are extensively used in the banking, hospitality, and access control industries. These are effective promotional tools as well; just add plastic card accessories like custom lanyards to an ID card for your employees.

  • RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has gained significant popularity in recent years due to its wireless and contactless nature. RFID-enabled plastic cards contain a small microchip and an antenna that communicate with RFID readers through radio waves. The readers can identify and track multiple cards simultaneously, making RFID an ideal choice for applications such as access control, inventory management, and asset tracking. In the healthcare industry, RFID-enabled patient cards enhance efficiency and accuracy in identifying and tracking patients, medical records, and medications.

  • Data Matrix

Similar to QR codes, Data Matrix codes consist of a square matrix of black and white cells. However, Data Matrix codes have a higher data capacity and can store information in a more compact form. They are commonly used in applications where space is limited, such as on medical equipment, laboratory specimens, and electronic components. Data Matrix codes are easily readable by specialized scanners and can store information such as batch numbers, serial numbers, and expiration dates, facilitating efficient tracking and traceability.

  • Code 39

Code 39 is a variable-length alphanumeric barcode commonly used for identification, inventory control, and asset tracking. It consists of a series of wide and narrow bars along with spaces. Code 39 barcodes can encode uppercase letters, numbers, and a few special characters. Plastic cards with Code 39 barcodes are often utilized in industries such as healthcare, where patient identification, specimen labeling, and medication tracking are critical. These are often used in combination with plastic card accessories like the Sunflower lanyard to denote certain medical conditions.

  • PDF417

PDF417 is a stacked linear barcode that can encode large amounts of data, including text, numbers, and binary data. The barcode comprises multiple rows of stacked bars and spaces. These plastic card barcodes find applications in various industries. In the logistics sector, PDF417 barcodes on shipping labels contain detailed information about the package contents, destination, and tracking numbers.

  • MaxiCode

MaxiCode is a two-dimensional barcode that is often used in the transportation and logistics industry. It consists of a pattern of hexagonal modules surrounding a central bullseye. MaxiCode barcodes can store a significant amount of data, including address information, tracking numbers, and other relevant details. These barcodes are commonly found on shipping labels, allowing for efficient tracking and management of packages throughout the supply chain.

  • EAN-13

The International Article Number (EAN-13) barcode is widely used in the retail industry, particularly for products sold in Europe. It is an extension of the UPC barcode system and consists of thirteen digits, including a country code, manufacturer code, and product code. EAN-13 barcodes are used on plastic cards for product identification, price lookup, and inventory management in supermarkets, grocery stores, and other retail establishments.

  • Code 128

Code 128 is a high-density barcode capable of encoding alphanumeric characters, making it versatile and widely used in various industries. It is often utilized for labeling and tracking purposes, such as on plastic cards used for shipping and logistics, asset management, and document tracking. Code 128 barcodes are known for their compact size and data density, allowing for efficient scanning and data capture.

  • Interleaved 2 of 5

Interleaved 2 of 5 (ITF) is a numeric-only barcode commonly used in the packaging and distribution industry. It consists of black bars and white spaces, with each character encoded using five bars, two of which are wide. ITF barcodes are known for their high density and are often used on plastic cards for labeling packages, tracking inventory, and managing stock levels.

  • Codabar

Codabar is another numeric-only barcode that is widely used in logistics and healthcare industries. It can encode a limited set of characters, including numbers, dollar signs, and a few special symbols. Codabar barcodes are commonly found on plastic cards used for asset tracking, laboratory specimen labeling, and blood bank management. They are known for their simplicity and ease of printing, making them suitable for various applications.


Plastic card barcodes are essential tools across different industries, facilitating efficient data capture, identification, and tracking. Each barcode type serves a specific purpose and contributes to streamlining processes, enhancing security, and improving overall productivity. Leverage the power of the plastic card barcode suitable for your domain to grow your business in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

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