Card reader door locks offer a smoother alternative to brass keys.


Improving security at your property requires the right tools. With so many solutions available — from traditional key card entry systems to robust mobile access control systems — how do you narrow down your options? The card reader door lock is one solution that might be right for you. But every building’s security needs are different, so it’s important to know exactly how a card reader door lock can improve your building.

In this post, we go over what a card reader door lock is, how it works, and how much commercial card reader door lock systems cost. Then, we go over the pros and cons of card reader door locks. Finally, we offer a more robust alternative to card reader door locks.

This post covers:


What is a card reader door lock?

A card reader door lock is a credential reading door lock that can be opened with a key card. At this time, there are both electronic card reader door locks and magnetic card reader door lock options. Because they’re quick to install with easy-to-program credentials, they’re one of the most popular keyless entry systems. However, they’re most commonly found in commercial properties such as hotels.

Card reader door locks can be installed in places such as:

  • Building entryways
  • Staff-only areas
  • Laundry rooms
  • Fitness centers and recreation rooms
  • Package rooms
  • Residential units
  • Hotel rooms

Pro tip: You can order numerous cards for your building’s staff and residents, then easily program them to match only specific card readers. So, if you have multiple card readers throughout your building, they grant access to only certain groups of people. For example, staff-only areas will have card reader door locks that only respond to staff member credentials.


How does a card reader door lock work?

Card reader door locks use RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to enable communication between the card reader door lock and a key card. In this case, the card reader identifies the key card by its magnetic stripe or PIN. Next, the RFID card reader door lock verifies this information. Then, if the card’s credentials match, the card reader releases the door locking mechanism.


A resident uses a card reader door lock with ease.


Unlocking a door with a card reader is as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. A user swipes their card through the reader or holds their card against the reader’s scanner.
  2. The reader processes the magnetic stripe along the back of the card or its RFID tag to verify the credentials.
  3. The electronic lock is released, and the door can be opened.


What are the different types of card reader door locks?

As has been noted, card reader door locks can be magnetic or electronic. While they’re both technically electronic, one relies on magnetic plates and the other on electric strikes.

Magnetic card reader door locks use a magnetic plate to keep the door locked. They’re commonly found in glass doors or gates that can’t support transfer wires through hinges or strike plates.

Conversely, electronic card reader door locks use electric strikes that latch the door in place with a hinged piece of metal. When the lock receives an electrical signal from the card reader, it moves the metal piece, allowing the door to open.


Components of card reader door locks

  • Key card. The access credentials that replace the common key.
  • Electronic door lock. The component that utilizes RIFD technology to electronically lock the door.
  • Card reader. The exterior device attached to the door that scans the key card and approves the release of the electronic door lock.


How much do card reader door locks cost?

Card reader door lock prices range from $300 and $1,200. Compared to similar commercial door locks, this puts them in the mid-price range.


Tapping a card against a card reader door lock


Pros and cons of card reader door locks

Card reader door locks can have a wide variety of uses at your property. But before you purchase one for your property, consider its pros and cons.


  • Compared to traditional keys, key cards and fobs can more easily be replaced.
  • Key cards are much less of a burden to carry than physical keys — users can even carry key cards in their wallets.
  • Key card door lock installation is quick and easy.
  • Hours of use can be programmed into the card reader, keeping people out of restricted areas after hours.
  • Missing key cards can be remotely deactivated.
  • Swipe key cards can be tracked. That way, you know exactly who entered through each card reader door lock at a certain time.


  • Criminals can steal key cards and use them.
  • Although they’re easier to track than traditional keys, residents can still forget or lose their key cards.
  • Key cards don’t entirely replace traditional lock-and-key systems, and still require users to carry and care for a physical key.
  • Like all battery-operated door locks, frequent maintenance is required, primarily the battery’s replacement. So, if you don’t proactively check and change the door lock batteries, residents and guests will encounter dead batteries.


Check out how the ButterflyMX keypad works:


A better alternative to card reader door locks

We can safely conclude that card reader door locks are much more robust than your typical lock-and-key system. But they are far from the only commercial door lock system that may work for your building.

Commercial smart locks are a more tech-savvy alternative to card reader door locks.

Smart locks are electromechanical locking systems that can be opened with a smartphone. Users download an app and gain entry with just a tap of their finger. Alternatively, they can enter via a unique PIN code from their phone.


Benefits of smart locks

  • Security. Specific people are permitted access to certain rooms. Further, individual user credentials and entry times can be tracked.
  • Keyless entry. Residents don’t have to worry about carrying anything other than their phones.
  • WiFi connectivity enables automatic software updates and other virtual maintenance.
  • Easy guest access. Guests can be given unique PIN codes to access a smart lock.



  • Card reader door locks use RIFD technology to scan key cards and electronically open door locks. They scan information stored on key cards and open if the credentials are authorized.
  • Advantages of card reader door locks include user-friendliness, lenience towards lost or forgotten cards, and easy installation.
  • The disadvantages of card reader door locks are that users still have to carry key cards, they’re susceptible to fraud, and key cards can be easily lost.
  • Overall, card reader door locks are an effective security system for your building. However, smart locks are a better alternative.
  • Smart locks are completely keyless, often allow remote access, and can be accessed through smartphones.


ButterflyMX can help simplify access at your commercial building

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Nick Manzolillo

I'm a Rhode Island-based writer fascinated with real estate development, the inner workings of the real estate industry, and how real estate and technology blend together.

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