Tenant scans their ID at a badge entry system.


Does your property need a robust access control system? A badge entry system may be the perfect solution.

Badge entry systems are a popular choice for residential, commercial, and industrial properties because they combine the need for both identification and entry credentials. As a modern key card and key fob system, badge systems are an easy replacement for traditional locks and keys.

In this guide, we review what badge entry systems are and how they work. Then, we cover the pros and cons of badge entry systems. Finally, we offer a simpler, more reliable alternative to badge entry systems.

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What is a badge entry system?

A badge entry system is an electronic building access control solution that authorizes access in and out of buildings using a person’s ID badge as the credential. So, the badge is used for both visual identification and access authorization. As such, this type of system is popular with commercial and industrial properties.

You’ve likely seen badge entry systems before. Plenty of visual media portrays secret agents swiping ID cards to gain access to restricted areas. But properties don’t need a top-secret entry security clearance to qualify for a badge entry system!

Properties like college campuses, hospitals, and office buildings commonly use badge entry systems for optimum security measures. Users simply swipe or scan their ID cards to gain access to a building and the rooms within.

Badge entry systems require three components:

  1. ID badge credential. Credentials for badge entry systems are ID cards with a built-in chip or magnetic stripe that transmits information to readers.
  2. Card reader. The tenant holds their ID badge up to an access reader. Then, the reader compares the received credentials with its database to verify the user’s identity and access permissions. Once their identity is verified, the card reader tells the door to unlock.
  3. Magnetic or electric door lock. Access control systems need a specialized door lock that magnetically or electrically unlocks when the reader approves entry.


Here’s how the ButterflyMX keypad works:


How much do badge entry systems cost?

Badge entry systems cost between $1,200 and $2,500 per entry point, whether that’s a front gate, the main property entrance, or interior doors.

So, the total cost depends on the number of entryways you need to secure, which may depend on the size of your property and the number of tenants in your building.

In an office or business setting, your badge entry system ultimately must cater to employees. So, you’ll have to purchase more ID cards as employees lose badges, need badge replacements, or leave the company. Also, the technology you choose to power your badge entry system will affect the final price.

Replacing an encrypted ID badge may cost as little as $10 if you outsource to a third party. However, if you choose to produce new badges in-house, the price for a printer and software quickly adds up. Employee ID printers and software range from $3,000 to $10,000.

Pro tip: Remember that the system cost doesn’t include installation fees. Make sure to hire a certified installer so that the system’s warranty remains valid.


Student ID cards can act as a credential for badge entry systems.


Types of badge credentials

While all badge entry systems rely on ID card credentials, not all badges work the same way. Each type of badge uses a different type of technology to communicate with the access reader.

Three examples of badge credentials are:

  1. Swipe badges
  2. RFID badges
  3. Scannable badges


Some badge entry system credentials rely on magnetized stripes.


1. Swipe badges

Swipe ID badges use magnetic technology. Each ID has a magnetized stripe with a unique pattern. When tenants swipe their ID badges through an access reader, the system tells the door to open if it recognizes the magnetic stripe.

What’s more, the magnetic stripe on these badges can be wiped and rewritten. So if an employee changes departments and needs their credentials changed, they can keep their original ID card. You just have to reprogram their badges to have the correct credentials. As a result, you negate the need for badge replacements.


2. RFID badges

ID cards with RFID (radio frequency identification) technology rely on radio waves embedded in the card. These cards are also called proximity cards, and they facilitate a contactless entry method. RFID card readers emit electromagnetic fields called excite fields, creating a reading range from 2.5 inches to 20 feet wide, depending on the model.

Most RFID models consist of a standalone reader to be installed next to the door. However, RFID door locks with built-in RFID readers on door handles are also an option.


3. Scannable badges

Scannable ID badges are the most common type of ID badge credential since they’re the most affordable to make en masse. To create a scannable badge, you simply print a QR code on the front of an employee ID badge. And to use it, employees hold their badge up to the access reader. If the QR code is authorized, they’re granted access.

However, because QR codes are easier to replicate than swipe or RFID badges, they pose a security risk. So, if your property requires strict security clearances, consider going with a more well-encrypted option.


How do badge entry systems work?

Using a badge entry system is as easy as 1-2-3!

Here’s how to use a badge entry system:

  1. Present credentials. First, tenants present their ID cards to the card reader. Typically, the card reader is installed next to the door. With swipe cards, tenants swipe their IDs through the reader. Meanwhile, tenants hold RFID and scannable cards near the reader.
  2. The card reader verifies credentials. Depending on the type of credential you install, there are several ways for card readers to verify credentials. For example, swipe card systems use magnetized wires to transmit credentials. Conversely, other types of card readers, such as RFID systems, use an electric field emitted by the access reader to verify credentials. In all cases, the reader cross-references the information from the card with its databases.
  3. The card reader signals the door to unlock. Once your tenant’s credentials are verified, the card access reader signals the door to unlock.


Traditional ID badge entry systems require guards to verify tenant identities.


Advantages & disadvantages of badge entry systems

We’ve covered what badge entry systems are and how they work. But what are the specific benefits and drawbacks of badge entry systems?

Although badge entry systems come with many benefits, there are some downsides you should be aware of before investing in one.


Advantages of badge entry systems

  • Increased security. Building staff can monitor which doors are opened and, more importantly, who opened that door. This greatly improves security. Additionally, RFID and swipe badges can be deactivated if lost.
  • Effective for multiple entry points. Most commercial and industrial buildings have multiple interior entrances with more restricted access than the main entrance. If installed throughout the whole property, a badge entry system prevents unauthorized visitors or tenants from entering restricted areas.
  • Simplified access. Instead of fumbling around for a key, your tenants can swipe or hold their cards up to the reader. What’s more, you save money by eliminating the need to pay a security guard to verify each ID card.


Disadvantages of badge entry systems

  • Unreliable. Because of their slim size and shape, ID cards are damage-prone. Additionally, interference from cell phones and magnets may damage swipe ID cards, making them nonfunctional.
  • Expensive to replace. Although a single ID card costs as little as $10, that cost adds up quickly. Further, property staff will waste valuable time deactivating lost badges and programming or ordering new ones.
  • Inconvenient for tenants. Unless tenants wear their ID cards as a part of their uniform, they’ll likely frequently forget to carry them every single time they leave the building.
  • No visitor management. With a badge entry system, tenants will need to meet visitors at your property entrance. Not only is this disruptive, but it also means there’s no way for tenants to remotely grant access to guests if they’re away from the building.


A better alternative to badge entry systems

It’s true that badge entry systems are more convenient and cost-effective than hiring security guards to check every tenant’s ID card. But relying on an ID badge entry system isn’t the best solution for property access. Instead, consider a mobile access control system that allows tenants to use their smartphones as credentials.

Smartphone-based entry systems maintain the same security as ID badge entry systems but present a more convenient entry method for tenants. Tenants can even grant visitors access remotely from a mobile app. Furthermore, building staff won’t waste time or money replacing or reprogramming ID badges. And tenants will be relieved that they don’t have to keep track of a small employee ID card for property access.

Invest in a mobile access control system consisting of:


A video intercom is a more robust alternative to badge entry systems.


Video intercom for your property entrance

Integrating an IP video intercom into your access control system allows tenants to gain property access via their smartphones. The best video intercoms offer features like virtual keys that give visitors an easy way to access the building.

Additionally, look for a video intercom that provides an audit trail — with date- and time-stamped photos — of every door release to ensure top-notch security. This way, property staff can address unauthorized entries and other suspicious activities in real-time.


Keypads for interior doors

Don’t make your tenants carry a large set of keys or wait for maintenance personnel to unlock doors to restricted areas! Instead, replace the physical lock with a keypad at each interior door.

Modern keypads empower tenants to enter rooms using a unique PIN code or a swipe-to-open feature on the system’s mobile app. They also take photos of every entry activity, ensuring only authorized tenants enter restricted areas.



  • Badge entry systems are a great alternative to traditional lock and key systems.
  • However, the system still relies on a finicky, damage-prone, and easily lost ID card credential.
  • Nowadays, smartphone-based access control systems negate the need for physical credentials.
  • With a mobile-based access control system, tenants gain access without compromising security.


try butterflymx access control system

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Katie Kistler

I’m a real estate fanatic based in Texas who loves discovering and writing about innovations in property technology.

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