At a minimum, the standards define the physical dimensions of the card and the geometry of the terminals which read those cards (for example, the slot in an ATM). Then, depending on the reading technology, the standards define how the card “couples” with the card terminal and thereby communicates with the underlying application (for example, motorized mag strip readers in ATMs, magnetic stripe swipe readers in Point-of-Sale terminals, slot readers in hotel card key locks).

  • At their most basic level, standards maintain interoperability between cards and the card readers that read them. For a closed system or national implementation, interoperability is important so that components, such as the cards or the chips on smart cards sourced on the open market from various manufacturers, will interoperate with a high degree of confidence with card readers sourced from different manufacturers.
  • For international interoperability, standards maintain interoperability for cards issued by different organizations all over the world. Interoperability ensures that cardholders can access applications to which they are entitled, offered by all manner of service operators anywhere else in the world, simply by inserting their card in an appropriate card reader/terminal.
  • Two of the most sophisticated technologies involve microprocessors embedded in the card, so-called smart cards. These are “cards with contacts” and “contactless cards”. Contactless cards use radio frequency coupling to enable “touch and go for rapid transit ticket gates and “wave and pay” to make low value purchases in retail outlets such as fast food restaurants.


International acceptance of standard card schemes allows anyone to use a credit or debit card to pay for goods and services anywhere in the world; or to draw cash from automated teller machines (ATMs) in the local currency. Equally as important is denying access to applications and services to which the proffered card is not entitled.

Mass transit authorities around the globe issue smart cards that speed up access to the local metro/subway/tube/bus for our daily commutes.

One hundred countries around the world have issued about 350 million of the new ePassports.


Virtually everyone is a potential user: the general public for payment cards, mass transit ticketing, access control.