Why you should always take a small magnet on holiday

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Forum topic by Brit posted 10-06-2010 01:18 PM 2238 views 0 times favorited 27 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6842 posts in 2418 days

10-06-2010 01:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip

I travel a fair amount on business, so I’m alway staying in hotels. Most hotels these days use plastic card keys to gain access to the room, but do you know what is contained on the magnetic strip of that card key?

1. Customer’s name
2. Partial home address
3. Room number
4. Check-in and check-out dates
5. Customer’s credit card number and expiry date

You are supposed to hand the card key back at the end of your stay, but I never do. Why? Because they don’t delete the details from it straight away. They just throw it in a drawer until they pick it out and overwrite it with another customer’s details. While your details are still on the card, they can be read by any member of the hotel staff who has access to the reader.

If you want to hand it back in, then you can totally erase your details from it by running a small magnet over the magnetic strip a couple of times. Alternatively, you can take it home with you and use it in the shop like I do. Here are some uses I’ve found:

1. They make great spreaders for glue or grain filler. You can cut them with a pair of scissors into custom shapes or file the edge to match the profile of a moulding.
2. Shims. Sometimes a card key or two is just the job to stop something wobbling on the workbench.

They can be washed and used again or simply discarded.

Can you think of any other ways that card keys could be used in the shop?

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

27 replies so far

View JJohnston's profile


1614 posts in 2866 days

#1 posted 10-06-2010 02:15 PM

Do they tack a replacement fee onto your bill?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Brit's profile (online now)


6842 posts in 2418 days

#2 posted 10-06-2010 02:18 PM

@JJohnston – No, no fee. In fact I’ve never even been asked for the card key when I check out. Sometimes there is a box that you are meant to drop them in, but I don’t.

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

View GMman's profile


3902 posts in 3272 days

#3 posted 10-06-2010 02:23 PM

Would that be steeling?
Well they steel you with thier price too LOL.

View Brit's profile (online now)


6842 posts in 2418 days

#4 posted 10-06-2010 02:34 PM

@GMman Technically yes. Do I loose any sleep over it? No.

Although it has never happened, if a hotel did insist I handed the card in, I would insist they deleted my details from it right there and then. Some people might think I’m being a bit paranoid, but you can’t be too careful.

Two weeks ago, my credit card company phoned me up to do a random security check. After confirming my identity, they asked me to confirm that I had made three purchases in the last week using my card. Two of the purchases were for about £1500 each and the third was around £700. Neither myself or my wife had used the card in the last 6 months and the cards were still in our possession. I have no idea how they stole my details.

Don’t think it won’t happen to you.

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 2413 days

#5 posted 10-06-2010 02:39 PM

The hotel I stayed in in Michigan last weekend had cards that read “keep this card- do not return this card after your stay.” So perhaps having the customer keep the cards, (thus assuming the liablity of ID theft) will become the industry standard?

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View CharlieM1958's profile


16258 posts in 3793 days

#6 posted 10-06-2010 02:55 PM

I think most hotels these days do not expect guests to return those cards.

Regardless, though, the fact of the matter is that whenever you use a credit card you run the risk of someone stealing your account number. I know people who are too paranoid to purchase anything online, but think nothing of using their credit card in a restaurant or mall where it is just as easy to have your number ripped off.

In the “good old days” that hotel would have just imprinted your card, and everyone on staff would still have had access to your information.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Brit's profile (online now)


6842 posts in 2418 days

#7 posted 10-06-2010 03:12 PM

@rivergirl That is an interesting development. I haven’t come across that yet.

@CharlieM1958 When I pay for a meal in a restaurant now, I either insist they bring the machine to me or I accompany them to the till. I never let the card out of my sight.

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

View Brad Hancock's profile

Brad Hancock

30 posts in 2817 days

#8 posted 10-06-2010 03:21 PM

While I generally keep the key card and use it suggested above (glue spreading, etc.) the notion of personal information being encoded is not correct. See for more information on this topic.

-- Brad Hancock

View Radu's profile


325 posts in 2618 days

#9 posted 10-06-2010 03:28 PM

The hotel has your info in the computer anyways. Isn’t that the way they transfer it to the key card?

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 2558 days

#10 posted 10-06-2010 03:35 PM

Can’t say I travel enough to collect card keys, although I do get those credit card offers in the mail where they send you a card hoping you’ll sign up. While I use them for all the things you’ve described I also use them to make plastic washers instead of buying the nylon washers. I’ve used them to make hangers for picture frames and other like objects. Bend them in half for finishing stands for small projects I’m spraying. I’ve even had an occasion to use them for making small parts templates.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View swirt's profile


2156 posts in 2547 days

#11 posted 10-06-2010 03:47 PM

None of the hotels I stay at in the States want the cards back. They do not reuse them. The stripes are too cheap and fragile. They don’t last long enough for repeated use. Card processor agreements will not allow credit card data to be recorded on them. Usually the only data recorded is a reservation id number and a card id number. All the rest of the customer data is stored on the terminal server for the hotel. It serves them no purpose to put all that data on the card and puts them at risk for data security fines if they did.

They also do not put the room number on the card in any form. That would be a personal security risk.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Brit's profile (online now)


6842 posts in 2418 days

#12 posted 10-06-2010 03:51 PM

@Brad Hancock Thank you for sharing that link. Here’s another one you might like to view. Scroll down and read the text under the heading ‘Seeing is Believing’.

I’m no expert on what gets stored and what doesn’t. If I am helping to spread misinformation, then I apologise, but will I stop collecting card keys? Absolutely not. a) I don’t trust hotels and b) They make great glue spreaders. :-)

@Gregn Thanks for adding to their uses. Picture frame hangers is a great one, I hadn’t thought of that.

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

View Abbott's profile


2570 posts in 2879 days

#13 posted 10-06-2010 04:01 PM

Thanks for the post (s) Brit. Good information. I also liked the way that they approached the Snopes stuff in the article.

Thanks all.

-- Ohh mann...pancakes and boobies...I'll bet that's what Heaven is like! ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣

View Paul2274's profile


330 posts in 2687 days

#14 posted 10-06-2010 04:17 PM

I’ve used mine to to “Jimmy” the door lock when I lock myself out of the house! ;-)


View Brit's profile (online now)


6842 posts in 2418 days

#15 posted 10-06-2010 04:19 PM

@Paul2274 LOL – Just don’t tell anyone where you live! :-)

-- Andy -- "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." (Michelangelo)

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