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Variable Data & Encoding Specifications

Some cards manufactured by Plastek Cards require variable data and/or magnetic stripe encoding. These include: gift cards, discount cards, membership cards, loyalty cards, and other card types.

What is Variable Data?

Variable data printing enables each card to be printed with unique information. For example, an association may want to print membership cards that include each member’s unique member number. We also recommend that gift cards utilizing magnetic stripes or barcodes to access encoded account information also print this information onto the card’s surface using variable data printing. We call this a “human readable number.” This ensures that if there is an issue reading the card data, the customer’s account can be accessed manually by inputting the numbers printed on the card.

What is Encoding

Encoding is the process of inputting a number onto a magnetic stripe or barcode that can be read by a decoding device, such as a barcode scanner or magnetic stripe reader. More information on magnetic stripe encoding, including how encoded data interfaces with a point of sales system, can be found on our Magnetic Stripes page.

Data Specifications

When submitting data to Plastek Cards for variable data printing or encoding, please ensure the following guidelines are followed:

  • Acceptable File Types: Comma separated values (CSV), Excel (Format as text to prevent leading zeros from being eliminated)
  • Layout: Record data should be formatted in columns (see example)
  • Labeling: Columns should be clearly labeled indicating the type of data the column contains (see example)
  • Format: Track 1 – Alphanumeric. Upper case only; Track 2 – Numbers only
  • Record Count: Please ensure that the number of records contained in your data file matches the number of cards ordered or specified for encoding or variable data printing

Data Example

This file contains data for 10 records with magnetic stripe encoding on track 1 and track 2, as well as a human readable number printed on the card.

variable data example

Please contact us if you have additional questions.

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