3 min read

Exploring Access Control Credential Options

Access control systems are an essential part of your organization’s physical security. These systems allow you to define and control who can gain access to certain spaces in your building. Access control systems utilize credentials to confirm the identity of individuals, which provides them customized facility access based on roles and rules defined by system administrators.

The days of using a simple brass key as an access control credential are long gone, as keys are easy to duplicate. Today, electronic access control systems that are part of an organization’s security efforts use more advanced forms of credentialing to control access to different areas of the building. Here are just a few of the most common access control credentials used today.

PIN Number or Password

Keypads, which require a PIN number or password, were among the first widely used electronic control systems. Keypads are still used today as a form of access control in a variety of industries. The credentials for keypads are typically PIN numbers or passwords that need to be entered on the pad in order to gain access.

In most cases, each individual has their own unique password or PIN number, which helps organizations track who has been in what areas of the facility. To keep the building secure, individuals should not share their PIN number or password with others. If this credential has been forgotten or compromised, it is fairly easy for the company to delete the old PIN number or password and issue a new one

While this type of credential is the most affordable option for organizations, it can be difficult to audit and control. Since individuals can easily share the PIN number or password with another person, there is the risk of unauthorized users gaining access to areas they shouldn’t enter.

Key Cards

Another common type of access control is the key card entry system, which requires a physical access control credential—the key card. The most basic type of card has a magnetic stripe that the user must swipe in a card reader to gain access. Proximity cards are another type of card that must be within proximity of the reader to grant access. 

Smart cards are another type of key card that have a few key differences from the proximity card. The smart card and its reader have to authenticate one another, which provides an additional layer of security. Proximity card data, however, isn’t secure; therefore, there is no encryption validation. Smart cards can also store more data and are difficult to hack.

Door Fobs

The door fob is very similar to the key card. Individuals can gain fob access by swiping their door fob next to the reader. Just like with a proximity card, the user has to be within a certain proximity of the reader to gain access. And the data on the door fob isn’t secure, so there is no encryption validation as there is with the smart card. 

As with any other type of physical access control credential, the door fob can be lost by the user. However, unlike the brass key, door fobs are easy to deactivate and reissue if users lose them. So even if an unauthorized user were to find the door fob, they wouldn’t be able to gain access.


The biometric reader is a type of access control system that uses human characteristics as its credentials. One example of this would be a fingerprint access control door lock that requires the individual to place their finger on the biometric reader in order to gain access to rooms or areas of the building. Biometrics that can be used as access control credentials also include handprints, voice recognition, and facial recognition.

Biometrics is the newest access control credential, and it is not yet widely used in the market. However, biometrics is also known as one of the most secure access control credentials because it is near impossible for unauthorized users to duplicate. As biometric technology continues to advance and become more affordable, we will start to see more access control systems implement this type of credential.


Smartphone-based access control credentials are convenient for most organizations, as many staff members carry their mobile devices with them everywhere. This type of credential requires users to download an access control app to their smartphone and sign in with their user account. Then, they can either select which door to open in the app or hold their “key” up to the sensor to gain access into a room or area of the building.

Mobile credentials not only are more convenient for the user but can also be more convenient for the organization, as it is able to use smartphone applications for more than just physical access control. This type of access control can also be less costly, given that individuals are using their own mobile devices and don’t need to be issued a physical credential from the company.

Explore Your Access Control Credential Options with DSC

Not sure which access control credential options are right for you? Choosing the right access control system and deciding on the most effective credentials for your business will depend on a number of factors. The best way to ensure that you are getting the most out of your access control is to consult with an experienced security systems provider who can help you design and implement the ideal solution.

With over 40 years in the security industry, DSC has worked with organizations across the education, government, small business, and enterprise sectors to help them find the right access control solutions for their security systems. Now, we are ready to help you.Contact us to learn more.

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