employee using proximity card readers


Managing access to certain areas of a property can be difficult, especially with traditional keys. Fortunately, modern technologies like proximity card readers make access control easier and more convenient. Proximity card readers are a popular access control solution for many types of properties.

This guide will cover what proximity card readers are and how they work. You’ll also learn what you should consider before making a purchase and discover four of the most common card reader systems. Finally, you’ll learn which proximity card reader is best for your property.

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What are proximity card readers?

Proximity card readers are touchless devices that read the credentials of a key card when it enters a detection radius.

The reader doesn’t require users to swipe or tap their card. Instead, it scans the card’s stored data within a certain range. Then, if it reads an authorized credential, it will unlock the door or gate to allow entry.


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What is a proxy card used for?

Proxy cards, short for proximity cards, are used to gain entry to an area using proximity card readers. The PVC key card stores a small amount of data on a tag that readers pick up from a certain distance.

Depending on certain factors, proxy cards may not require you to pull them out of your pocket or bag. Of course, the reader detection radius varies from system to system, but proxy cards only need to get within a couple of feet from the reader for access to be granted.


What is the difference between a smart card reader and a proximity reader?

The difference between smart card readers and proximity readers is their capabilities.

Proximity cards are strictly limited to access control because of the small amount of data they can store.

Conversely, smart cards can store more data, giving them greater capabilities than proxy cards. Aside from access control, smart cards are used for secure printing, digital payments, network security, and more.


What is the difference between RFID and proximity cards?

The difference between RFID (radio frequency identification) and proximity cards is that RFID is a type of data transmission technology, while a prox card is the actual credential used to store data. However, most proximity card readers operate with RFID technology.

RFID encodes data from a tag and transfers it to a reader via radio waves. Some RFID cards require contact with a reader, while others have a strong enough signal for contactless entry, hence proximity cards.


RFID tag graphic rendering


How do proximity card readers work?

Proximity cards work with three components:

  1. Proxy card: The card contains an antenna and RFID or NFC (near-field communication) tag with stored data detailing the individual’s credentials.
  2. Proximity reader: The reader is installed near an entryway. From there, the reader emits an electromagnetic field to create a radius. Once the card enters that field, it absorbs some of the energy to convert it into electricity. Then, it has enough power to transfer the data stored on the tag.
  3. Access controller: Finally, the reader sends the data to the access controller, which determines if access should be granted. If the credentials are accepted, the access controller will release the door lock for entry.


Can proximity cards be demagnetized?

Yes, proximity cards can be demagnetized when closely exposed to a strong magnet.

This is a common problem for those who store their proxy cards in a bag or pocket where magnets may be present. To avoid this issue, consider using smart RFID cards because they’re not as easily influenced by their environment and store more data.


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Considerations for buying a proximity card reader

While many properties benefit from proximity card readers, they’re not right for every access point. Before installing a prox card system at your door or gate, consider a few key factors.

Consider the following:


Proximity card reader pricing

Generally, a proximity card reader costs between $100 to $500. You’ll also have to pay for every credential. Most fobs and cards are relatively cheap, costing only a few dollars apiece.

However, many factors will affect your system’s cost, such as:

Furthermore, you must consider the maintenance needed for such a system. Replacing lost or damaged proxy cards will increase operating costs. To benefit the most from your access control system, consider a solution that supports multiple entry methods.

For example, choose a system that lets tenants use a proximity card or smartphone to unlock doors. So, they can still gain entry if their card is lost or damaged.


Proximity card size

You don’t want your proximity card readers taking up a large amount of wall space. Rather, your card readers should seamlessly blend into the environment.

Not to mention, your readers should fit the area you need them to. Some proximity card readers can look bulky and outdated. By choosing a slimmer, modern design, you can ensure your readers fit well.


proximity card reader grant access to user


Proximity card reader installation

The installation process plays a major role in the cost of your access control system. Your building’s infrastructure will also impact how your system is installed.

With that said, a significant concern with upgrading to a new access control system is having to rip up floors or walls and replace any existing hardware or wiring.

For this reason, it’s best you choose a solution with as little wiring as needed. The best proximity card readers only need a power supply. In turn, installation is fast and minimally invasive.


Proximity card reader software

Lastly, you should consider an access control system with user-friendly proximity card reader software. The system’s software should allow you to easily grant and revoke user access remotely. With the best systems, you’ll have access to a proximity card reader app that allows you to easily edit permissions for individuals no matter where you are.


4 proximity card systems to consider

With numerous proximity card systems on the market, it can be hard to narrow down the best. So, we’ve compiled a list of four of the most common systems to help you choose.

Four common proximity card readers:

  1. ButterflyMX mullion reader
  2. Awid card reader
  3. Indala card reader
  4. Paxton card reader


1. ButterflyMX mullion reader

The ButterflyMX mullion reader is a proximity card reader that connects to the larger ButterflyMX access control system.

By keeping the information in one database, access control is made seamless. So, residents and guests alike experience easier property-wide access.

What’s more, if a tenant loses or forgets their credential, the mullion reader can unlock doors with the ButterflyMX mobile app with swipe-to-open!


2. Awid card reader

Awid, Applied Wireless IDentifications Group, Inc., is one of the leaders in RFID technologies. The company focuses its attention on RFID modules, tags, and readers.

Their line of proximity readers uses low-frequency technology, meaning their readers have a short range and may be slower than some high-frequency readers.


3. Indala card reader

Indala’s line of HID proximity cards uses RFID to provide wireless identification and authorization. Like a key fob, the Indala card reader allows tenants to open doors without looking for keys or going through a security check.

With Indala, you can choose between mid- and long-range frequency readers. However, the system is on the expensive side, with each programmed card costing $6.20 and a minimum purchase of 100 units required.


4. Paxton card reader

Paxton creates security solutions for buildings in the education, retail, healthcare, commercial, and leisure industries. Their proximity readers can read both token credentials and cards.

While Paxton card readers are a fine solution for many kinds of buildings, they’re limited to commercial spaces, rather than residential ones.


What is the best proximity card reader?

The best proximity card reader is the ButterflyMX mullion reader.

Here are some of the many benefits of the ButterflyMX mullion reader:

  • Accepts multiple forms of credentials, including key cards and fobs, Bluetooth, and the ButterflyMX mobile app
  • Capable of withstanding 95% humidity and temperatures ranging from -31 to 150° Fahrenheit
  • Built with tamper-resistant technology
  • Authorization is signaled by beeping and lighting
  • Connects to other ButterflyMX access control products for a seamless property access solution
  • Manage users remotely using the ButterflyMX OS



  • Proximity card readers are contactless devices that read a card’s data to grant or deny access to a user.
  • Proximity cards are part of an access control system that also includes a proximity card reader and an access controller.
  • Before purchasing a proximity card reader, you should consider the cost, size, installation, and software.
  • The best proximity card readers are the ButterflyMX mullion readers.


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Bryson Hile

I love learning about new technologies, especially within the real estate market. I currently reside in Fishers, Indiana.