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Pittsburgh Embossing Services, Inc.

your plastic card personalization equipment, parts, supplies, service and card production headquarters    

Card Personalization Questions

Pittsburgh Embossing Services, Inc. is able to emboss, thermal print and/or encode your plastic cards.  Some of the usual questions that arise are as follows:


What is the difference between embossing and thermal printing?

Embossing is the raised character printing that you find on traditional credit cards for your account number, name, etc. Each letter and number are individually pressed into the plastic card with alphanumeric punches and dies. Character selection is either 10 characters per inch or 7 characters per inch.

Thermal printing is a flat type of printing similar in appearance to a laser printer's print on paper. Character size and font selection are variable. Various colors are available for the printed characters.


What is tipping/topping?

Tipping or topping is the process where embossed (raised) letters & numbers have a color applied to the top of the characters. A plastic card that has the characters tipped with color are easily read and provide a more attractive appearance helping to insure a greater sense of value to your customer. Colors most often used are gold, silver, black, white or blue. Other colors are available.


What is encoding?

Encoding is the process that places electronic information onto the magnetic stripe on the back of a plastic card. This allows the card to be swiped through a card reading device that is designed to retrieve the information on the magnetic stripe and then process some type of transaction such as a sale when a credit card is used. The encoded information is usually an account number or some other type of specific identification data for the user of the card.


What is LoCo and HiCo encoding?

LoCo & HiCo encoding relates to the intensity of the electronic process that encodes the magnetic stripe. This is called coercivity. LoCo (low coercivity) is calibrated at 300 oersted which is what has been the normal encoding for most magnetic stripe cards for many years. HiCo (high coercivity) is calibrated at 2750 oersted or 4000 oersted. The 2750 HiCo is becoming more common as many of the major credit card companies are now making their cards conform to these standards. A card with HiCo encoding is more stable and less likely to become corrupted by outside magnetic or electrical fields. Currently, card readers can read LoCo and HiCo cards.


What size plastic cards can I use?

The most common size plastic card is the CR-80 size. This card is 3.375" wide and 2.125" high with rounded corners (normal credit cards). Thickness will vary; however, the usual credit card such as a Visa or MasterCard is 0.030" (30 mil) thick. Most embossed cards are 0.030" or 0.024" thick. Thermal printed cards will range from 0.030" to 0.015" thick.

Another size is the CR-50 (3.5" wide and 1.75" high) with rounded corners. Thicknesses will vary as above.

Embossing and thermal printing equipment must be configured for a specific card size. Most of our equipment is configured for the CR-80 size cards (Standard Size).