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Access Control Key Fobs & Card Systems

Gone are the days when you had to fumble through your pocket or purse to look for your keys and then pick the right one from a big bunch to unlock the door.

With access control systems, also known as keyless entry systems, you can bid adieu to keys for good and say hello to a more convenient and secure way to lock and unlock your doors.

Access control systems have gained much popularity over the years with many businesses and homeowners switching from the traditional lock and key system to the more technologically advanced locking mechanism.

They offer a higher level of control and can be especially beneficial in commercial settings such as offices that receive a lot of foot traffic making it necessary to monitor who enters and leaves the premises.

Restricting unauthorised access is one of the fundamentals of security and is crucial for not just the safety of the occupants of a building but also to keep property and assets secure from theft, burglary, and vandalism.

Access control system work using a variety of authentication methods, two of which are key fobs and access cards. Read on to find out how they work, where they are used, how much they cost, and how they add to the security of a property:


Key fobs and access cards are one of the most common authentication methods used by keyless access control systems. They work on doors using proximity readers that unlock them with just a swipe or a touch.

They provide a higher level of security than conventional locks and are more reliable than having to use a keypad to enter an access code, which can easily be forgotten.

Proximity credentials such as key fobs and access cards offer a great level of convenience and are both secure and reliable.

They can be used in a wide variety of applications including apartments, hotels, offices with several employees, and buildings with restricted areas such as storerooms, server rooms, laboratories, and vaults. They can also be used in places such as gyms, shared pool facilities, and by students on campus.

How do they work? By using programmed one-factor authentication. When the key fob or access card is within close proximity of the card reader, the system verifies the credentials and allows entry upon approval, or restricts entry upon rejection.

Each key fob and access card has a personal identification number that the system can be programmed to allow or block entry at any time. The doors will only be unlocked if the user has been given access permissions or else access will be denied and the doors will remain locked.

Key fobs

A key fob is a keyless remote device, similar to the ones used for cars, that allow entry into a building or a certain area inside it. Key fobs are portable coin-sized security tokens that you can easily keep in your pocket or on a key ring.

Access cards

Access cards are portable cards, usually the size of a credit card, with a magnetic strip that carries a unique code for each user. When an individual with an access card goes near the reader, the system verifies the credentials and unlocks the door. What’s great is that they can work even from inside the user’s pocket wallet, or purse.


There are various types of key fobs and cards available in the market. While they all perform similar functions of restricting unauthorised access, they work differently and provide varying levels of security.

Which one you choose depends on the number of doors you wish to secure, the number of users, and most importantly, the level of security required.

The two most common types of key cards and fobs for access control systems include:

Swipe key cards

Swipe access cards work similarly to the classic credit card that features a magnetic stripe along the edge of the card that holds important identification data.

To verify their credentials, users have to swipe the card through a magnetic reader which then authenticates and allows or rejects access based on their access permissions.

Although swipe cards have been used for quite some time and are also less expensive than proximity card reader systems, there are a few drawbacks associated with them.

They might not be the best choice for a crowded area where each individual would have to swipe the card in the system to gain access, resulting in bottlenecks and excessive waiting.

It also may be a challenge to use them in car parks where it would be difficult to swipe the card from inside the car.

Additionally, swipe access cards are also susceptible to more wear and tear and require more frequent maintenance and replacements.

Proximity cards, RFID cards, and RFID fobs

Some of the most commonly used authentication methods in access control systems, RFID fobs and cards use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to transmit data from the card to a reader on the system.

RFID enabled fobs and cards can operate on different frequency ranges with most proximity cards and RFID key fobs having to be very close to the system for the data to be transmitted.

Key fobs are a great option for keyless access control systems in larger buildings with a lot of users since they allow time restrictions and special permissions for individual users.

For added security, key fob entry systems also offer two-factor authentication where the users also have to enter a security code into a built-in keypad on the system.

Smart access cards are high-frequency RFID authentication methods that use Near-Field Communication (NFC) to transmit data to the system.

These cards are a better option with more storage capacity and include encryption for added security, as is with contactless payment systems.


There are many advantages of using key fobs and access cards which is why so many businesses are switching to the keyless form of access control. The top benefits include:


Anyone who has had to manage keys for a property, especially a big one with lots of users, knows how much of a hassle it can be and the level of inconvenience lost and stolen keys can cause.

Key fobs and access cards eliminate the need for keys and, with it, the responsibility of key management. Users can access multiple areas without having to keep track of their keys.

They are extremely customisable allowing the system administrators to allow or restrict access to several users based on time, days, and their position in the company.

Key fobs and access cards are also relatively inexpensive to replace if they are lost, stolen, or damaged. With keys, there’s always the risk of compromised security, forcing the property owners to rekey or replace the locks, which can be a serious nuisance every time the keys are lost, which is more often than one would like.

With keyless access control, granting and revoking access is extremely easy allowing the system administrators to remove access for any compromised fobs or cards with a simple click.

Access records

In addition to restricting unauthorised access into a property, key fobs and cards also offer a much higher level of control with the system automatically making a complete record of who accessed the system and when.

This valuable information can be extremely beneficial in tracking employee and visitor data, as well as providing valuable insight in case of an incident such as a burglary where the records can be used to check who was present at the time of the incident and help get hold of the culprit.


Every property has areas where only authorised individuals are allowed to enter. These might be the main entry points of a property or certain areas inside it such as a particular room.

Key fobs and cards help restrict unauthorised access that consequently reduce instances of intrusions, theft, damages, and more.

Multi-location access

For businesses with multiple locations, key fobs and cards make it extremely easy for managers and employees to move back and forth without having to worry about multiple physical keys for each location.

The keyless access control systems allow system administrators to assign access permissions for various doors and locations for each user, enabling them to access multiple doors at multiple locations, all with a centralised administration.

Remote access

With the help of cloud technology, access control systems allow system administrators to manage, control, monitor, and change key fob and card access permissions from absolutely anywhere in the world. All they need is a smart device and a good internet connection.

This is a very useful feature for managers responsible for overseeing multi-location facilities, allowing them to manage the system from home, or even while on vacation.


In addition to key fobs and cards, various other types of authentication methods can be used to control and monitor access using keyless entry systems.

Some of the most secure ones include:


Biometric access control systems use unique biological identifiers such as fingerprints, retina scans, and facial recognition to grant or deny access through a door.

They are one of the most secure authentication methods and are becoming more common nowadays with the most widespread use being that of the smartphone unlock feature using fingerprints.

The unique credentials entered into the system are checked with an earlier saved version of the data which, if they match, are approved and the user is allowed to enter. If the data doesn’t match, the entry points remain locked and access is denied.

Biometric access control systems may also auto-disable when a certain number of incorrect attempts are made and be configured to alert the relevant authorities in case of tampering.

Smart locks

Smart locks are keyless electronic or mechanical locks that let you lock and unlock the door wirelessly using either an app on your smartphone or various other authentication methods.

They also allow notifications and updates to be sent to your phone for when a door is opened, locked, or unlocked, along with restricting access to certain times of the day.

In addition to that, smart locks give system administrators the ability to control the locks from a remote location allowing them to change the user credentials within seconds, and can also be integrated with other smart devices such as Google Assistant or Alexa for a more comprehensive smart experience.


The cost of an access control system is influenced by a few major factors such as the type and size of the system, the authentication methods used, the brand, and the level of complexity.

The bigger, more complex a system is, the costlier it is bound to be. Authentication methods also play a huge part in their overall cost with basic keypad systems being way cheaper than modern biometric systems and smart locks.

Access control systems include a few crucial parts and components and each one contributes to the overall cost of the system. They are the locking hardware, door reader, door controller, sensors, software, professional installation, maintenance, and repair.

The average starting cost for an access control security system is around £500 to £800 per door. The cost of installing the system starts at £300. A typical maintenance visit would cost you around £75 to £125 and it would cost you on average £92 to have your access control system repaired.

These costs aren’t definitive and may vary depending on the number of doors and the type and complexity of the security system.


If you’re looking to maximise security on your property and minimise unauthorised access with an added convenience and control that traditional keys could never offer, a keyless access control system is the best solution for you.

When choosing the best access control system for your property, there are a few things that you need to consider. For starters, you need to run a security risk assessment and determine which doors need access control.

Once that is figured out, you need to know the type of hardware you need along with the authentication methods best suited for your needs.

For low-risk and low traffic areas, you may opt for the basic keypad access control system, but for high-risk properties with a lot of users, it is best to opt for more secure authentication methods such as proximity fobs and cards, biometrics, and smart locks.

Access control systems are available in a variety of brands all over the UK and choosing the best one for your needs may be quite a challenge if you are uninformed. Read this guide on the best access control system brands for your business to give you a better idea of what the market has to offer.

The systems also come packed with great additional features that make it easy for you to control and manage access through your property. Some of the best access control system features to look out for include:

  • Real-time data and notifications,
  • Detailed reports and audit trails,
  • Remote management,
  • Integrations with other security systems,
  • Lockdown during emergencies, and
  • Contactless access – which can be an extremely useful feature in the post-pandemic world.


Calder Security provides a complete solution for access control systems which includes professional installation, maintenance, and repair services.

We’ve been working in the security industry since 1976 and partner with only the best brands. Our MLA approved locksmiths can advise on the best type of access control system for your property based on your individual needs and requirements.

We are SSAIB approved installers and offer all types of access control systems including intercom, proximity fob, card swipe, keypad, and biometric systems that work with fingerprints or retina scans.

We are experienced with creating sophisticated access control systems for residential properties, large scale commercial enterprises, as well as smaller businesses.

Proper maintenance of an access control system is just as important as its correct installation, which is why we offer annual servicing where we check the function and operation of the system and prevent any potential issues from manifesting.

Our SSAIB approved contractors can work on a wide variety of access control systems, even systems not originally installed by us, and can configure them in various ways to make them fit your changing needs.

A faulty access control system can put your entire property at risk, which is why all issues need to be fixed ASAP.

We operate a 24-hour emergency service run by qualified security specialist engineers who know the systems inside out and can, therefore, resolve issues efficiently and effectively.

Contact us here or call us on 0800 612 9799 for a quick consultation with our security experts right away!

Photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki) on Unsplash