One of the most common questions we are asked regularly, is about the difference between LoCo vs HiCo magnetic stripes on plastic cards. In this article, we will discuss the differences between the two, with both a simple explanation, along with the technical details. The most simplified answer is that if you aren’t planning on reprogramming the mag stripe of a plastic card, HiCo (High Coercivity) is the best choice for your mag stripe encoding. Don’t take our word for it though. Read about the differences in magnetic stripes below, and the answer will be quite obvious. If you still have questions after reading this article, please reach out to us, as we would be more than happy to discuss your plastic card needs.

High Coercivity (HiCo) Magnetic Stripes Explained

HiCo mag stripes are encoded using 2750 Oersted magnetic encoding. The simple explanation is the higher the Oersted, the harder it is to erase the encoded information. In most cases, people only want to encode a card once, then swipe the card through their point of sale system to apply the code internally and an amount or value of the card.

When looking at the mag stripe of a card, a HiCo card will most likely have a color of dark black, but we are seeing custom colors of silver, gold and white as well. We can print cards with any color mag stripe available on the market.

Types of cards where HiCo magstripe encoding is used are Gift Cards, Loyalty Cards, Rewards Cards, VIP & Membership Cards, and we even see keytags using HiCo magnetic stripes in recent years.

Low Coercivity (LoCo) Magnetic Stripes Explained

LoCo mag stripes are encoded using 300 Oersted magnetic encoding. Using a lower magnetic coding is easier for the person encoding the card, but the information is also easier to erase. In some circumstances, a client may want or need to recode the card frequently, such as hotel key cards, so there is definitely a need for LoCo encoding.

On a Low Coercivity (LoCo) mag stripe card, the magnetic stripe is usually a medium brown color. We haven’t seen many options for color variations for LoCo magstripes, as the use of the card is more temporary, and is generally a utility feature, versus an aesthetic one.

Types of cards where LoCo magstripe is found includes Hotel Key Cards, Event Badges, and Employee ID Cards.

What is an Oersted Magnetic Field?

Well, the technical explanation is the Oersted Magnetic Field is part of the Gaussian Unit System. The stored energy in a magnet, called magnet performance or maximum energy product (often abbreviated BHmax), is typically measured in units of megagauss-oersteds (MGOe). One MGOe is approximately equal to 7957.74715 J/m. The Oersted unit was created in 1930, in honor of Danish physicist Hans Christian Orsted. What does that mean for the encoding of your cards? Absolutely nothing. The Oersted encoding system is the benchmark for mag stripe encoding.

What You May Hear From Our Competitors About LoCo vs HiCo Encoding

Statement- Most Cards are encoded on a LoCo mag stripe.

Truth- This is simply NOT true. When a plastic card printer makes this statement, their sales people have been instructed to sell through their over abundance of LoCo magnetic stripe card stock. This is a good indicator that you are talking to the wrong plastic printer about your card printing needs.

Statement- The difference between LoCo vs HiCo is the amount of times a card can be swiped.

Truth- Again, this ISN’T true. The difference between LoCo vs HiCo is the strength of the magnetic field applied to a card, making it less or more likely for the encoding to be erased.

If a plastic card printer is trying to steer you away from HiCo magnetic stripes, there is definitely an internal reason for it. Maybe they don’t have the ability to apply a HiCo magstripe. If they are working hard to convince you of a reason not do something that is an industry standard, it is most likely an indicator as to why you shouldn’t be entrusting them with a valuable marketing tool for your business. Besides, if they can’t encode your cards properly, why should you trust they will print your cards properly?

About Best Plastic Cards

Best Plastic Cards is dedicated to providing plastic cards and keytags of outstanding quality, in a timely manner, to the standards you expect. Our cards are printed in the United States, using American labor. Whether you need plastic gift cards, discount cards, VIP cards, business cards, rewards cards or keytags, we offer an outstanding finished card product, at an outstanding price.