keycard Reader mail: Why do my hotel keycards keep deactivating?

Reader Katie writes:

I have an persistent problem with my keycards for hotel rooms deactivating. The hotel chain does not matter -Starwood, Hyatt, Hilton-all the cards deactivate. My husband claims it because I store them in my wallet which I then put in my purse which also holds my blackberry. I say that although his theory for deactivation is possible, it is ridiculous that this happens. Where else would I supposed to store my room key except my wallet? So, my question(s) to you: do other people have this problem? Is the problem largely limited to women (or men) who carry purses which contain both their wallet and cellphone/blackberry? Can hotels fix this issue? And most importantly, is there anything I can do to prevent this-aluminum foil around the card or some other crazy hack?

This never would have happened with those hole-punched VingCards! (Ahh, memories!)

Your husband may be right, but it’s still not clear what the precise cause is, or why it happens so consistently.

Since the key card is really a magnetic strip attached to a piece of plastic, it can be affected by other things that have magnetic force. What kind of magnets are you carrying?! icon wink Reader mail: Why do my hotel keycards keep deactivating?

I thought a cellphone would be a good bet, especially if it’s a flip phone, since those are often held shut with magnets. (I recall that my Motorola came with a warning to keep credit cards away from the phone for just that reason.) But if it’s a Blackberry or other non-flip-phone, then that’s not it.

Other cards, such as credit cards, are magnetic, too, but rarely exert enough of a charge to disable key cards, unless you are directly rubbing magnetic stripes together. Especially so consistently! (I always carry my keycards in my wallet, right next to the credit cards. Never had a problem.)

So to be honest, I’m stumped. As a solution, though, I’d consider a small static sleeve. My bank gave me a mylar sleeve for my ATM card years ago, and hotels often give the keycards in a paper pouch. Maybe that might help.

I’ll throw it open to readers: Do others have similar trouble? Any theories? Suggestions for how to prevent deactivation? Hit the comments!

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pixel Reader mail: Why do my hotel keycards keep deactivating?
Categorized in: bizarre, hotels, reader mail

65 Responses to “Reader mail: Why do my hotel keycards keep deactivating?”

  1. mark Says:

    Actually, the standard hard plastic holster for most (perhaps all) Blackberries has a magnet at the bottom. (It’s the small silver disc visible on the clip side. The Berry uses it to sense when it’s holstered.)

    I don’t know whether the magnet is strong enough to affect card magstripes, though.

  2. Oliver Says:

    So where does Katie store her credit and ATM cards, if not in her wallet next to the key card? Does she have a problem with those getting “deactivated”?

  3. Katie Says:

    Katie here. The problem is limited to hotel keycards. ATM and credit cards work fine. Perhaps they made differently. Hotel key cards are definitely made for continual de-and re-activation.

    The blackberry holster definitely does have a strong magnet on it. I’ll have to experiment with keeping the Blackberry out of its holster (although that’s not an ideal solution as it lends itself toward getting the Blackberry scratched) and keeping the key in its sleeve.

    But any other solutions are welcome–Thanks all!

  4. Stephanie Says:

    It ALWAYS happens to me too. I just get two cards by default now, assuming one will be deactivated.

    The hotel has told me that my treo’s what’s deactivating the cards, but that’s always sounded weird to me.

    My ATM/credit cards are always fine too :)

  5. frustrated Says:

    75% of the time for me it is from human error during programming — the person working the desk created the card with the wrong departure date, but loves to use the “you must have deactivated it” excuse rather than admit his/her error.

  6. BK Says:

    I have the same problem. Carry both a color Blackberry and flip phone in my pocket…but have only noticed the problem since having the Blackberry.

    Now, one thing I heard on a trip to Portland, where cards at two separate hotels were deactivating, was that a bad batch of cards was made by the manufacturer, and that they’ve constantly had to issue replacements.

  7. sam Says:

    I travel a lot for work, and I’d say that at least half the time, it’s human error. I’ve actually watched the person “reprogram” my card and put in a departure date earlier than when I was scheduled to leave (I had to deal with this repeatedly at one point, as I kept having to extend my stay at a hotel from the original two weeks to ultimately six weeks). They would only program it for the next two-three days, even though I had extended my stay for at least a week.

    Also though, if you have an eelskin wallet, that can demagnetize cards. As my dad learned repeatedly. It only took him about 10 years of having to get my mom to go to the ATM for him to finally buy a non-eelskin wallet.

  8. Stu Says:

    The show Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel looked at eelskin to see if it could actually deactivate ATM cards. They pretty thoroughly proved that there is no possible way for eelskin to mess up mag-stripe cards.

  9. S A Says:

    Is it made of electric eel?

  10. Jim C. Says:

    Cases and flip-phone closures aren’t the only part of mobile phones with magnets… the earpiece speaker has one, too. (and if there’s an external speaker for speakerphone features, it will have one as well).

    It’s a fairly strong magnet at that: many mobile phones are now using neodymium rare earth magnets which are extraordinarily strong for their size. The reason is that you need a good magnet to operate the speaker (and get quality audio), and neodymium magnets allow phone manufacturers to keep the size small. It’s easily possible that the magnet present in the Blackberry’s earpiece is the source of magnetic deactivation.

    Couple that earpiece with a mag stripe on the hotel card which is designed for continuous alteration (as opposed to the stripe on ATM/Credit Cards which is set only once), and you’ve got a good recipe for futzing up the card.

  11. S A Says:

    Thanks for that. It makes a lot of sense, but isn’t something I ever thought about before.

  12. S A Says:

    By the way, have you read the fine print on the photo of the key card? Hilarious. “Our front desk personnel have eyes like hawks.” hahahaha! Sure they do.

    Nice photo pick.

  13. Patrick Says:

    IIRC, hotel key cards are usually low-coercivity cards, which means they’re much less resilient when it comes to magnetic fields. Credit cards and atm cards, on the other hand, are high-coercivity cards, which means that it takes a much stronger field to wipe them.

    Honestly, I’ve never actually had a key card be wiped accidentally. But if you stick them around too many magnets, it is possible for them to be damaged.

    As for people seeing mistakes made during the programming, don’t most major chains tie the encoders directly to their software these days? –I know that all major card systems have APIs (I’ve had the “fun” of working with a couple of them).

  14. Katie Says:

    Patrick, thank you for the most convincing explanation. I agree with you on the human error aspect–I can usually figure when those instances occur. For instance, when I try to take advantage of Starwood’s 4 pm Platinum checkout time.

    Unfortunately, the solution remains unsatisfactory or unavailable: it appears I either need two purses or need to wear my blackberry on my belt. Both of these present obvious fashion problems.

    Diagnosis: Blackberry magnet. Solution: Unsatisfactory or unavailable. Alas.

  15. Tommy Says:

    A phone’s vibrating “ring” can create a stronger magnetic field than the speaker. You could test this quite easily by switching the vibrating ringer off when it’s next to one of these cards. Then try it again with the vibrating ringer on.

  16. Alan Says:

    I carry a magnetic money clip. If I put ANY magnetic card in the same pocket as the money clip, it is useless when next used–even a few minutes later. So, there must be a magnet culprit somewhere here!

  17. Amber Says:

    I work in a hotel, and it’s NOT 75% human error! If you extend your stay, your card will deactivate on your originaly departure date unless you ask it to be reprogrammed. I have personally, CORRECTLY programmed many cards. They do deactivate next to credit cards and cells phones because the key cards carry a very low power magnetic strip, so that they do not deactivate your credit cards, which gives your credit cards power to deactivate them. We (front desk workers) know it’s annoying, and trust me, we wish it didn’t happen. So keep that in mind the next time you frustrated travelers decide to ream us for something we have little control over.

  18. Terry Says:

    I work for a company that makes magnetic key
    systems for hotels. Several years ago we tried
    exposing cards to magnetic fields of varying strengths and found it took a very strong field to damage the data. I can also tell you however that if I put a card in the same pocket as my cell phone it won’t work five
    minutes later. I always get two cards when I go to a hotel and put them in my wallet, but then after using one will unthinkingly place it in my pocket with my cellphone. If I try to use it a few minutes later it won’t work.
    The second key which has remained in my wallet still works fine. This is definitely
    not operator error.

  19. Carole Says:

    My story: have a purse with several magnets to latch down the pockets for over a year now, got a blackberry in the second week of April. Now, for the first time (note all was well with the magnet purse and blackberry for several weeks) on the following, in the second week of June, while on family vacation, I kept deactivating hotel cards and daily cards for the subway system. Upon my return, discovered I’d also deactivated my parking lot gate entry key at work. My car clicker has gone nuts – have to bury it in the house to avoid my car locking and unlocking regularly, and my husband’s car locks by itself when I walk by. Any my internet token device is starting to go nuts – not displaying all LED characters randomly. Coincidence or have aliens abducted me in the last few weeks and put in an implant? Seriously (and I’m not kidding about any of the above issues or timing), whatever causes it is of interest to me, but more importantly, how do I solve this problem? New purse and sleeves for all weaker keycards?

  20. Dane Says:

    Carole – the same aliens must have gotten to me as well. I’m on 90% travel and am plagued by the demagnetizing key issue. Doesn’t matter which hotel, which city/state/country, which purse, or which BlackBerry or cell phone. It happens even when I put the key directly in my pocket, in it’s sleeve, and never expose it to phone/BB/wallet/credit cards. It’s become almost comical. I’m beginning to think I have some electromagnetic field that interferes with my room keys… Come to think of it, I also have trouble with light bulbs burning out… Should I consult an exorcist or a physicist? Or perhaps a psychiatrist?

  21. Josh Says:

    Business 101 THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!!

    DON’T BLAME THE CUSTOMER FOR THE PROBLEM EVEN IF THE CUSTOMER IS WRONG. JUST SAY SORRY AND FIX THE CARD !!!!

  22. hemant Says:

    As manufacturers of both bank Atm cards as well as key cards
    http://www.plasticcards-india.com
    http://www.hotel-keycards.com

    I can say with conviction that the only reason why this happens is that hotel key cards are Loco that is 300 oersted, whereas bank cards are Hico 2750 Oersted. This means that it need a magnetic field of 9 times strength to erase a bank card. In comparison a hotel key can get erased by all the items like cellphone,blackberry etc etc.It is time the hotel industry also migrates to the Hico format.For your information the cost differnce is not more than 2 cents.

  23. Martinja Says:

    I have the problem of demagnetisation with some of my bank cards. I keep my wallet in the same bag as my Blackberry 8700g which has a holster that closes with a magnet. I requested a new bank card a couple of weeks ago and it has demagnetised again! I am quite sure that it must be the Blackberry or its holster. It is not the vibration mechanism because I don´t use that. From now on, no more holster near my bank cards.

  24. avejoe Says:

    customers are not always right. but they are still the customer. hotel keys suck! Most of the time its not the clerks fault. I would NEVER blame the guest. I would blame the key card manufacture. MAKE KEYS THAT WORKS WITH TODAYS TRAVELERS. I know that we (front desk clerks)get crap all the time about this. We get yelled at and keys thrown at us. Remember that we clean your rooms and cook your food and know were you live.

  25. Alex Says:

    I’m calling shenanigans on “frustrated”‘s comment as follows:

    “75% of the time for me it is from human error during programming — the person working the desk created the card with the wrong departure date, but loves to use the “you must have deactivated it” excuse rather than admit his/her error”

    As a hotel employee I have often made this error – but I only make it about 15 percent of the time – the reason you overestimate it to 75% is because some people choose to extend their stay while they’re at the hotel – they need to recut their keys but they often don’t at the time. The other reason people have miscut keys is because the keys are made prior to their arrival and then they change the date for later as well or sometimes arrive before their normal checkin time and have to switch keys with a room that was already set aside with precut keys for another guest

  26. Alex Says:

    Actually – I’d say I cut the keys 95% correct if not 100%. It really is deactived by almost any phone magnet – I’d even say it might be deactivated by the frequency when the atomic clock updates a phone – I have zero scientific proof of this, but I just know many guests come to me with keys entirely deactivated – and when they come with a deactivated key I always try to “read” the card first to verify the guests room. When they show up blank, which they do 95% of the time – it means it was deactivated by something, not cut incorrectly – for if it was cut incorrectly it would still be able to be read.

  27. Alex Says:

    Sure we know all that stuff, but thats not the attitude to have – cut the crap on your terroristic threats – just deal with it. I hope we never cross paths – I would never hire an employee that thinks like you do. You get keys thrown at you because you probably have this expectation that they will and thats why it happens – you’re bouncing negative attitudes off onto others.

  28. John Says:

    Whoa! Avejoe was being humorous. Get a grip and get a life. I can put a hotel key in any pocket, shirt, pants, put it in my wallet, etc. Does not matter. It will be deactivated by time I go to my room later in the day. Nothing magnetic on me. I have a flip phone but never get them together. Even leave it behind and the thing will demagnetize. I can’t carry one. Have to let my wife use hers. Hers always works unless I carry it.

  29. Oli Says:

    Yes, I have an issue with my bank card getting deactivated, I do keep it with other cards all in one pocket in my wallet, this is my third card. It is crazy, but I do not understand why?? I hope this new card will not give me any problems.

  30. Bee Says:

    I agree, I work at a hotel front desk and I also have people come up to me all the time saying that their keys don’t work. 94% of the time when I try to read the card, it says the card is blank, therefore it must have been demagnetized. 3% of the time, they’ve changed their stay and not had the cards updated. 1% of the time its operator error(putting the cards in upside down, etc.), or the cards are encoded wrong by the front desk. Less often, a lock will mess up and need reprogrammed.

    I’ve heard that if you sit them on a tv or keep them near your cell phone it will wipe them. I had one guest who needed her keys reactivated several times during the week. She said it was her, so I was assuming either her phone did it or she had some sort of metal plate that was magnetized on her person somewhere. Either way i didnt ask lol.

    It happens a lot though, employee cards get demagnetized all the time as well, and I am forever revalidating them.

  31. Bee Says:

    You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Did he ever say he was rude with his guests? He can have issues with things that happen without being discourteous, so don’t shout at him something everyone who’s ever worked in customer service knows. I highly doubt he says “oh well this is your fault but I’ll fix it.” This is a website and hes every right to voice a frustration. he said “We (front desk workers) know it’s annoying, and trust me, we wish it didn’t happen.”
    He didn’t say “my guests are stupid.”

  32. Matthew Says:

    Also having problems with Hotel key cards and certain ATM cards (I am on my 10th in 5 month). It seems to coincide with my company issuing me with a Blackberry – however I previously had my own personal Blackberry and never had any problems. The difference? This new Blackberry came with a magnetic holster. Having read the previous chain I think it is time to bin the holster.

  33. Band Geek Says:

    on a band trip this year, we stayed at a beautiful hotel in Baltimore. all the kids kept storing their keys in the cracks of their cell phones and the key would deactivate. the hotel had to make a bazillion extra keys for us.

    yes, cellphones and most likely bkackberries deactivate keys!

  34. Mike Says:

    I really have problems with hotel key card failures when traveling in third world countries. Even after the hotel changes the lock battery the card may only work 50% of the time. Is there preventive mainteance that must be done to these locks?

  35. Zach Says:

    I have found that the problem with most hotel keycards (and other cheap cards) is that they use what is know in the card business as “Lo-Co” or Low Coercivity mag stripes. LO-CO mags take less energy to encode and therefore do not hold up well. Most ATM/Debit and Credit Cards now use HI-CO (High Coercivity) mags on their plastics. I am in the card business and have run a number of magnetic tests on bankcards with very few problems. A simple way to check the mag’s coercivity is by the color. HI-CO mages tend to be very dark, almost black in color while LO-CO is more of a brown color. Although this is not always the case, its usually an easy way to tell. One exception to this is colored mag stripes. I have to run them thru an analyzer to check if the vendor does not supply me the information. Of course this isn’t going to help you from wiping out the mag, at least you have a better understanding of how they work. I was always having a problem with one of my gas cards getting fouled up and wiping out the mag so I lookied at the card and found out the mag on it was a LO-CO. I took the card into my office, copied the mag data and re-wrote it onto a blank white card that had a HI-CO mag then I wrote the name of the gas card on the front with a sharpie and have been using it for “pay at the pump” for a long time with no problems. Nice to be able to do this without having to call the bank every couple of months to get a replacement card.

  36. Mike Says:

    I can confirm that the small magnet at the bottom of a BlackBerry slip case is death to hotel key cards and parking exit tickets. As I tend to put these in a top shirt pocket with my phone it’s a damn nuisance remembering to put the key/ticket elsewhere

  37. dpak Says:

    Eel wallets do not damage cards, period.
    in fact, they are not even eels most of the times.

    it is the magnets.

    On the phones and hotel cards, the stripe on those cards does not hold a magnetic “pattern” as well as others cards, due to them being erased all the time.

    It is not the magnet in the phone, it is the magnetic fields being created when the phone transmits or receives….which it does ALL the time (updating your mail, checking for coverage, etc.) regardless if you are using it or not. That is why the battery is used when not talking.

    Also, it is not the proximity to a magnet, it is also the motion of the card compared to the magnet…i.e. the moving of the card in/out/across the magnetic field.

  38. kasey Says:

    Many people do not realize that many money clips are magnets, put the biggest problem are the magnets that are in ladies wallets and purses that keep the flap closed.

  39. Days Inn & Suites Manager Says:

    First off, I wasn’t aware that Front Desk Clerks cook and clean @ the hotel?!

    Secondly as a former Front Desk Clerk now Manager, when a guest stays 1 night the key works till the next day 11am which is check out time. When you key the card it cycles through pre set times/dates i.e. you only hit enter a few times if keying one card for one night! So there is no room for human error on that part.

    I carry my Visa Check Card, DL, College ID all in my cellphone pouch (had a magnetic clasp) which holds an AT&T Tilt and they have never deactivated. Now I did have a Walmart gift card in that same pouch and it seems to not work anymore though I know I have some money on there.

    The Mystery continues on why/what deactivates hotel key cards…

  40. michael King Says:

    As manager of Security at our property I can attest to the fact that keycard demagnetizations occur quite regularly and I have asked guests whether they carry a blackberry or cell phone with them with their cards. I estimate that 70-80& of the responses are positove for blackberry and cellphones.
    I would also have to agree that there must be a connection between the frequency of certain cards being demagnetized and the fact that some cards are Lo-Co and others Hi-co . I would have to submit that there is likely a great probability that many hotel keycards are mode with Lo-Co from a cost perspective as hotels go through thousands of these a week and purchase in very large quantities from suppliers that I would suggest use the lower cost card mag stripes. It looks like this is one issue that will continue to be an issue for many hotels.ON a connected but different note I have to say that hearing all this makes me even more concerned for young children today who use cell phones because if the phones and blackberry’s can do this to a credit card mag strip, what the heck can they be doing to the fragile tissues of the young brain !! I think we may well have a major health problem on our hands in 20- 30 years which is why most European countries have begun to give severe health warnings to the public about the use of cellhones by young children and youth.

  41. Brandi Says:

    I work at a hotel in the downtown DC area and we have a huge problem with keys deactivating. Our key machine is directly connected to the property management system so if a reservation is for three nights, the key will be programed for three nights. Still we get a huge number of guests that complain about deactivated keys. One thing that we find is that many of these people have been into the museums and buildings with high levels of security screening and this frequently deactivates the keys. We have also started rotating the use of the keys so the same keys aren’t being programed every day. Apparently they can only be programed a certain number of times. This seems to have helped.

  42. Gene Hafermann Says:

    I have often had my hotel room electronic room keys get deactivated. And it does appear to be connected to putting them in a pocket with my cell phone (in my case, an HTC smart phone). I am currently researching a similar issue with a secure building access card which also seems to be deactivated by this cell phone. And I echo the concern someone else posted related to the damage these phones may be causing to our brain cells.

    As of now the only solution I have access to is somehow keeping the cell phone and the magnetic card apart. I assume there must be some type of sleeve for the cards that would protect them, but I haven’t started to look for one of those yet.

  43. yvrrich (YvrRich) Says:

    Twitter Comment


    Why hotel keys demagnatize [link to post] read Patrick’s & Terry’s comments. Cell phones contain magnets to make the speaker run.

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  44. Amy Says:

    I work at a hotel and yes ANYTHING with a magnant can deactivat your room key

  45. 2RILL Says:

    I WORK AT A HOTEL 2…ALIENS???? PLEASE PEOPLE!!!! HAVENT YOU EVER HEARD OF THE TERM MAN MADE???? I PERSONALLY PROGRAM CARDS AND ACTUALLY SET THEM TO DEACTIVATE A DAY AFTER THE GUEST’S DEPARTURE JUST BECAUSE OF THIS REASON.GUESS WHAT?…I STILL HAVE THE SAME PROBLEM.I HAVE “FRUSTRATED” GUESTS CHEWIN MY ASS OFF ALL THE TIME FOR SOMETHING THAT ISNT EVEN MY FAULT.ITS VERY FUNNY HOW PEOPLE CAN ACT SO RUDE AND INCONSIDERATE (VERY SPOILED CHILD LIKE).IM GOING TO PRINT THIS AND SAVE COPIES JUST FOR GUESTS LIKE YOU THAT ACTUALLY HAVE THE NERVE TO TALK YOUR SH!T!!!! HAHAHAHA

  46. Patrick Says:

    We get keys thrown at us because people need a scapegoat when they travel, and often times it does land on the clerk at the front desk, the keys I cut are usually fine and they are demagnetized by something, however there are definetely times when it was completely my fault for making them for the wrong date and/or number of nights, and I have no problem admitting that to guests. The only reason I will tell a guest that it was not our fault is when I politely inform them that the key appears to have been demagnetized, and if they keep it separate from cell phones and or other magnetic items, they should work just fine for their whole stay.

  47. Bob Says:

    The keycards stop working when placed next cellphones because all cellphones have magnets in the speakers.

  48. Lee Says:

    I always have the same problem. I can use the key once, put it all alone in my back pocket, a jacket pocket, my purse, my wallet, in a pouch in my purse or pack–doesn’t matter. They ALWAYS become demagnetized.

  49. Sally Says:

    I know the cards will have problems. The only issue I have is having to stand in line forever to get a new one. All hotels should have a quick way of replacing these cards and then people wouldn’t be so upset. A designinated clerk maybe? I realize the hotel clerks are not to blame but, on the customer’s side, it is very tiresome to have to replace the keys all the time. We are not at your establishment to stand in line to replace keys.

  50. Heather Says:

    Josh: That is not business 101. Business 101: The customer always THINKS they are right.

    We do not say its the customers fault that the key demagnatizes (even though it probably is). I can see whether or not it is a programming error (hotel) or a demagnization issue (guest), and thats with a programmer from the 90′s. I tell the guest what the issue is, whether it is us or not. If its a programming error I say so, apologize to the guest, and let them know I will go over key programming with the representative who made their keys. If its a demagnization issue I inform the guest of this and let them know the most common reasons so that they can avoid similar problems in the future. If a guest is continuously putting the key next to their phone and demanatizing it, wouldn’t it be better it I informed them that this is why their keys don’t work rather than just say sorry and reprogram the key?

    And the keys need to be easily demagnatized so that they can do important things like EXPIRE, and be reusable. How much money and plastic do you want wasted so that you never have to go down and get new keys?

  51. Crazy Over Dead Keys Says:

    I have been a front desk clerk for years and I am soo tired of re-keying cards, I have racked my brain to figure this out. I remember once when I was a child my grandfather took this hugh magnet and magnatized a paper clip and he told me this takes away from the large magnet’s magnatism. I work in a town that has a lot of construction and most of the people that say here are on oil refineries all day there is all kinds of magnatism everywhere and I think that this may be causeing (some) of they keys to become permanently demagnatized. So I stopped thinking of the keys as Key Cards and started thinking of them as magnets if a magnet will not stick to another magnet then it is not a magnet RIGHT???

    So if you get two keys and you put them togeather and with the strips facing down and then hold on to only the top one, see if they are magnatized enough to stick togeather. If you can not get the keys to stick togeather then they are no longer magnatized and it does not matter how many times you re-key the card because it is not going to re-magnatize that card enough to work again.

    If we were able to do that then banks would just swipe your debit card and remagnatize it instead of wasting millions on new keys. The swipe only encodes the card with information to make it work temporarally, but if it has no magnatism it will not hold that data.

  52. Birky Says:

    Why don’t they build a better card. If these are so cheap it would save everyone a great deal of frustration if they were made better! Some people travel all the time and are under alot of stress because the travel is for work not play!! Who ever said they clean our rooms and know where we live needs to get another job! Try Burger King.I heard they are hiring! That way when your lack of people skills kick in you can spit on there burger!
    Explain how both of our cards quit working when one was in my briefcase and one in my wallet. The one let me in hours before but neither would work two hours later. That’s an error on the front desks part. Just make a better card!

  53. Patrick Says:

    Anything with a magnetic field will deactivate the key card. People don’t realize how many magnetic fields we encounter every day.

    Cell phones, magnetic clasps in purses or wallets, money clips, key remotes for cars, bluetooth devices, laptops.

    If you pass through a metal detector or a security gate at your office or business, it will erase the card as well.

    There are even some PEOPLE that carry their own magnetic fields and can erase a hotel key card by just touching them.

    The front desk does make some errors but I don’t believe that it would account for 75% of the problems.

  54. Bruce Says:

    Every cell phone -regardless od make and model- has magnets in the speaker componets. Hotel key cards are embedded very ‘lightly’ because they need to be programmed and reprogrammed many time over. ATM and credit cards arte not programmed in teh same way, they have a much ‘deeper’ embedding in the magnetic strip. The magnet from any cellphone speaker will indeed wipe clean the room information embedded on a hotel key card.

  55. MICHAEL Says:

    Hello All,

    I stay at the Hilton a lot and some other hotels, I have never had any problems with any hotel keycard ever except at the Hilton last time I stayed I requested at late checkout but the lady didn’t put it on the computer and at 12.00pm the card Auto-deactivated.

    After reading all the messages before my last. I tried and tried everything to make my keycard room key to deactivate. I am sorry to report nothing I tried made this occur. I have a Blackberry as well and my wife has a iPhone.

    I stored it in my wallet with 2 credit cards plus other keycards, I ran it along the blackberry case magnet along the strip. My wheelchair has magnets on it even that did not work.

    I also put it on on the computer screen.

    This comment is not true, Well not when we tested it out!

    Bruce stated the following on the Sept. 7 2010 at 11:29pm

    “The magnet from any cellphone speaker will indeed wipe clean the room information embedded on a hotel key card.”

    We had a business meeting we all use blackberry and Radio’s for communications both VHF & UHF none of the phones or Radios effected my room key.

    The room key was also dropped in a heated Swimming Pool (this was a accident) but still in working order.

    Here is the truth behind ALL Deactivations. If you get told it’s your fault you know they are covering up the below truth

    frustrated Says:
    March 27th, 2007 at 9:09 am
    75% of the time for me it is from human error during programming — the person working the desk created the card with the wrong departure date, but loves to use the “you must have deactivated it” excuse rather than admit his/her error.

    The cards also get deactivated automatically at a pre-set checkout time like 11am with Hilton unless the desk clerk codes it for a later time.

  56. Jason Says:

    I have had problems with keycards whether they were exposed to a magnet or not. During a 2 week stay at a certain hotel I had to replace my card daily. I made every effort to keep the card safe but the problem continued. Then I began to notice that my card was fine until after housekeeping had been in my room. I asked for 2 cards and after checking that they both worked I left one in the room with a friend and took the other with me. When housekeeping opened the door they would see it was occupied and move on. I then tried my card and as usual it was dead. my friend would let me in and the card I had left in the room was also tried and found to be useless also. I performed this experiment 3 times and every time both cards failed to work after housekeeping used their card. Weeks later during a stay at a different hotel my card failed and was reprogrammed for me. I put the card on an empty table and sat down to watch tv. A few minutes later a maintenance man entered the room. He told me he had been in the room earlier to replace the 2 filters in the rooms climate control set up. He had left because he didnt have the right filter with him. I immediatley tried my keycard and…..it failed.
    SO…why are my cards needing to be reset ? Also, arent the door locks activated by battery powered electro magnets or am I wrong? if so the magnet theory kinda loses some credibility. The mystery continues.

  57. Jo Says:

    Patrick Says:
    August 4th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    There are even some PEOPLE that carry their own magnetic fields and can erase a hotel key card by just touching them.

    I managed to demagnetize or wipe my hotel key twice on the way from the reception to the hotel room, two different cards, same problem.
    Note that I did not have any cellphones or cards on me.The receptionist thought that there could be a problem with the lock itself, but it was fine when she tried to open the door with her card.

  58. Seberina Says:

    Actually, it doesn’t have to be a flip phone to have a magnet, if you take your phone and put a magnet on the back of it or a piece of metal it will stick, by my ear piece there is a magnetic area on my LG smartphone and it’s a touch screen with no flip part.

  59. Seberina Says:

    The keys can absolutely be demagnetized by being near a cell phone. I manage a hotel, it’s also not usually a ploy to “BLAME” the guest as much as to inform them that this is what could have possibly happened as to try to avoid it in the future, trust me, as annoying/frustrating as it is to you it is just as much so for us to have to stop what we are doing to reprogram keys all day long. Anyone who isn’t making the keys for the proper time frame of the stay is a glutton for punishment as it troubles us just as much as it does you.

  60. EricN Says:

    I am sitting at the front desk of my hotel as we speak. I have worked at hotels for over 7 years and I manage two of them, one of which I own. They are lower-end name brand hotels and as the general manager I always have to work the front desk. To address a few things… I often hire maids to work the front desk. It’s hard to find people to work for minimum wage at a job they will be threatened at, attacked, and verbally assaulted, on a regular basis. So yes, there is a good chance that the person at the front desk also cleans rooms. Also, the night clerk and my shift (manager) both have to cook in the hotel I work at that has eggs / waffles / etc. So yes, your front desk clerks cook and clean pretty often.

    The customer is never right. The trick is to pretend that they aren’t completely stupid. I never mess up making a key card. It just doesn’t happen. The key making machine tells you if the card is on the wrong end, if it failed, if you lifted too early, if you moved too slow, etc. The reason the keys are so cheap is not because we BUY cheap cards, it’s because our keys are purchased FOR us as advertising or provided for us by the franchise. Example, all of the key cards at any hotel I’ve ever been to has an advertisement on it… guess who gave us and purchased those cards? Of course they’re going to pick the absolute cheapest, even if it’s 2 cents a card. We simply don’t purchase these cards.
    Throwing your key at the front desk clerk is never acceptable.

    The biggest cause for a key not working in the lock that I’ve noticed is human error… the guest’s human error. They try to run the key backwards, upside down, or in the wrong door frequently. When a customer has trouble with a lock I follow them to their room and pointedly use their own key to open the door. I don’t insult them but you can bet they feel pretty stupid.

  61. Steve Jobs Says:

    Get an iPhone?

  62. Brian Says:

    Yes, your cell phone absolutely will demagnetize a hotel key card. As a hotel employee I actually had to attend a training seminar on key card safety concerning hotel guests. Hotel key cards are designed to be automatically demagnetized after a set period of time. When you are talking on your cell phone, the phone creates an electromagnetic field that can extend up to a 3ft radius all around your body, depending on the type of phone you have. If you have your hotel key card in your pocket, or in a purse(that is usually held close to the body), then your hotel key card will most likely be demagnetized. :-)

  63. Ob la di ob la da Says:

    Guest: Hi my key card stopped working.

    Me: I’m sorry to hear that let me read the card to see what happened. I read the card and find out it is blank. *Politely* I’m sorry sir/mam it appears that your key has been demagnetized. If the key is near a magnet the information on the card can be erased. Let me reprogram it for you. Here you go. If there’s anything else please let me know.

    Guest: Thank you for your information and time.

    This is how a usual key confrontation goes. No yelling or belittling on either side. Occasionally I get the one bad apple but in my 6 years they are few and far between.

    I’d like to take a minute to say yes, magnets do erase the key information. I got some of this information from a website where a guy debunked the myth of personal information on hotel keys. Very interesting material. I can’t find the website at the moment but when I do I’ll repost.

    So here is how a key programming works.

    1. Clerk enters their unique password
    2. Clerk selects one of 3 options:
    a. New Guest
    i. A completely new key is made voiding all other keys assigned to that room.
    ii. At my hotel up to 6 keys are allowed per room.
    b. Copy Guest
    i. A copy key is made which allows all previous keys to still work
    ii. At my hotel up to 6 keys are allowed per room.
    c. Read card
    i. The card is read.
    3. Let’s just go with New Guest for now.
    a. The clerk enters the Room number and hits enter.
    b. The clerk enters the number of nights and hits enter.
    c. The date of departure is displayed at which time the clerk verifies with the guest.
    d. The clerk enters the key and a beep goes off ensure proper coding. The clerk can then press enter for an additional key. **If the clerk puts the key in too slow or backwards or what have you the machine knows and will tell clerk to retry***

    So that takes care of the clerk’s responsibilities. Now here is what is going on when the machine is coding your key.

    1. When the key is inserted into the machine a magnetic head changes the polarity of the magnetic strip at the bottom of the card. If you look closely you can see where the scraping occurs. It is only an inch long and about 2 millimeters wide.
    2. The change of polarity creates a pattern which is used as binary code. I’m not sure which is which but for illustrative purposes think positive equals 0 and negative equals 1. A line that has 3 positives facing up and 4 negatives facing up would read 0001111. Picture a barcode. Your key card obviously contains far more 0’s and 1’s.
    3. This binary code simply has your room number and departure date on it. Contrary to popular myth, your credit card, address and name are not on this card at all.
    4. You put the key in the door which has been programmed to correspond with the data on the master unit. Bear in mind that your doors locks are running on 4 AA batteries. The door recognizes the code and allows for entry into the room. If the date is wrong or the code has been altered in some way the lock will reject the key.

    Now picture you have a sand box that is one foot by one foot. Draw a bunch of parallel lines in this sand box. You have created a pleasant and orderly design. Now take your hand and smack the center of this sand box.

    Everything is completely messed up and in disarray. Basically when your key gets programmed the machine does the same thing as the sand box analogy and when you press a magnet against the card it acts as your hand smacking the sand box.

    I have used my magnetic name tag to test this out and and really does demagnetize the key. However, it only messes up the key if it touches the small one inch area where the information is stored. If I touch the top of the magnetic strip or the middle of the strip nothing happens.

    In short, magnets will mess up the card. Magnets are literally every where. Whether or not the small magnets in cell phones wipe out the information is unknown. I’ve tried it and nothing happens but who knows. There are a ton of different phones out there for me to experiment with and I don’t have the time or resources.

    Next time just be courteous to the front desk people. We don’t make a lot of money and frankly, we live in an imperfect and chaotic world which human beings are trying to make sense of.

    I hope this helps clear up some confusion.

  64. Bob Gutman Says:

    I have kept my room card next to my Cellphone all day. Never had a problem. I manage a Hotel and it is Human Error. For example; check out dates are incorrect, if duplicate keys are made for a room and one of the guests come down because they are locked out a clerk will make a new card instead of copying it. Thus making the other card innactive. Now you have the cycle of keys not working.

  65. David Says:

    I work in a hotel and get this a lot. What I can’t understand is my employee vingcard NEVER deactivates regardless of where I keep it. It’s been next to my phone all the time when I travel to work. very strange that the guest key cards (exactly the same cards) don’t work!

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