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F A Q   Card Industry Glossary  
General General FAQ
Printing Terms Printing Terms
Glossary Card Industry Glossary


ABS - Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, plastic material formed through injection molding, used for some smart cards.

Chip - A piece of silicon etched with an electronic circuit.

Coercivity - A measure of the strength of a magnetic field. Fields are expressed as low or high by the terms LoCo and HiCo.

Combi-card - Holding both contact and contactless technology on one card.

Contact - A point of electrical connection between a smart card and its external interface device.

Contact Card - Any card where information is transferred to a reader via a series of contact points located on the card.

Contactless Card - Smart card which transfers data using radio frequency technology via a transmitter and receiver.

Degaussing - Magnetic stripe data erasure.

Digitizing - Conversion of non-textual data to digital form.

Electronic Purse - Smart card stored value program.

Embossing - Characters in relief on the front surface of a card.

Encoding - Recording electronic information on to a magnetic stripe.

Encryption - Transferring information based on a key to make it intelligible to unauthorized parties.

GSM - Global System for Mobile Communication, a widely used digital mobile phone standard.

Hologram - A flat optical image which looks three-dimensional to the naked eye.

Holographic foil - the foil used to carry embossed holographic images.

Initialization - Programming a smart card chip with data that is the same for a batch of cards.

ID Card - Card which identifies both the bearer and the issuer. All financial transaction cards are ID cards.

ISO - International Standards Organization, central body for formation and dissemination of industry standards for all national standards bodies.

Issuer - An individual or organization that issues identification cards to individual or corporate cardholders.

Lithography or Offset Printing - Most common process for plastic card printing based on the concept that oil and water are not compatible. The ink represents the oil and the alkaline fountain solution represents the water. These are the two main components which must interact during the printing process, allowing the ink to adhere to the image area of a printing plate while the fountain solution repels the ink from the non-image area.

Lamination - Using plates on a press to fuse the various layers of a plastic card together.

Magnetic Stripe - The strip of magnetic recording material on an ID card.

Multi-application Card - Smart card that can handle a variety of applications.

Oersted - The unit of magnetic coercive force used to define difficult of erasure of magnetic material.

Off-line - A transaction via paper or reader not connected to a central system.

On-line - A transaction on a terminal permanently connected to a network that is on-line to the card account.

Optical Card - Card with information recorded on an optical memory stripe, similar to compact disks.

Personalization - Printing, encoding and programming a card with data specific to an individual cardholder.

Prepaid Card - A card paid for at point of sale permitting the holder to buy goods and services up to the prepaid value.

Proximity Card - A contactless card whose presence and data can be sensed by an interface device not in physical contact with the card.

PVC - Polyvinyl chloride, the most widely used plastic material for ID cards.

Radio Frequency Card (RFID) - A proximity card in which the coupling between the card and the interface device is by radio.

Screen Printing - Method in which ink is forced through a design-bearing screen made of silk or other material onto the substrate being printed.

Signature Panel - The area of an ID card where the cardholder enters a signature.

SIM - Subscriber Identification Module: the smart card necessary for the operation of GSM phones.

Skimming - Copying the magnetic stripe encoding from one card to another.

Smart Card - (aka Chip Card, IC Card) - A plastic credit card sized card that contains one or more semiconductor chips. In the capability category, there are three types:

  • Memory Card - smart card that stores and retrieves serial "streams" of data that are sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.
  • Protected Memory Card - smart card that requires a secret code or PIN number to be entered before the data can be sent to or received from the semiconductor chip.
  • Microprocessor Card - contains a microprocessor chip with a microcode that defines a command structure, a data file structure and a security structure in the card.

SET - Secure Electronic Transaction, a MasterCard/Visa backed standard to allow safe Internet trading via encryption certification of all parties involved in a transaction.

Stored Value Card (aka cash card, electronic purse, prepaid card) - A financial card that is loaded with a certain amount of money with each purchase amount deducted from the card.

Substrate - Material upon which a plastic card is printed.

UV Printing - Printing with ink visible only under ultraviolet light.

Weigand Wire - Magnetic media embedded in cards for access control applications.

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