Type of Payment Cards

We have two types of cards, Magnetic-Stripe cards and Chip Cards, not including the hybrid combination of both into a single card. Cards are made and issued as per ISO standards else, they become unusable on all types of terminals. Many ISO/IEC standards exist that define the physical attributes of Payment Cards and their contents. We have standards for:
  • Magnetic-stripes
  • Chip types
  • Encoding data
  • Embossing data
  • Card numbers
  • Card security
Standards defining the Physical Attributes of cards: For our present context, cards can be defined as identification cards, since they are used only to identify card users. ISO/IEC 7810:2003 is one of a series of standards describing the characteristics of identification cards. The purpose of ISO/IEC 7810:2003 is to provide criteria to which cards shall perform and to specify the requirements for such cards used for international interchange. It takes into consideration both human & machine aspects and states minimum requirements & standards for such physical characteristics as:
  • Bending stiffness
  • Flammability
  • Toxicity
  • Resistance to chemicals
  • Card dimensional stability and warpage with temperature and humidity
  • Resistance to deterioration from exposure to light and heat
    • Durability
    • Peel strength
    • Surface distortions
  1. ISO/IEC 7810:2003 specifies four different sizes of identification cards with a nominal thickness of 0.76 mm and dimensions of:
S.NoSize IDCard DimensionUsage
AID-185.60 x 53.98 mmMost banking cards and ID-cards
BID-2105 x 74 mmGerman ID cards issued prior to Nov 2010
CID-3125 x 88 mmPassport and visas
DID-00025 x 15 mmSIM cards
    1. ID-1

As we can see in the above table, cards used for financial transactions fall under ID-1 category. It is commonly used for banking cards (ATM cards, credit cards, debit cards etc.,). Today it is also used for driving licenses in many countries. This format is also used for personal identity cards in some countries.

      1. ISO/IEC 7811 defines traditional techniques for recording data on ID-1 identification cards, namely embossed characters and several different magnetic recording formats.
        • ISO/IEC 7811-1 – Embossing
        • ISO/IEC 7811-2 – Magnetic stripe – low coercivity
        • ISO/IEC 7811-3 – Location of embossed characters
        • ISO/IEC 7811-4 – Location of tracks 1 and 2
        • ISO/IEC 7811-5 – Location of track 3
        • ISO/IEC 7811-6 – Magnetic stripe – high coercivity

Notice that ISO/IEC 7811-2 defines low coercivity magnetic stripe standards while ISO/IEC 7811-6 defines that of high coercivity. Coercivity is a measure of the ability of a ferromagnetic material to withstand an external magnetic field without becoming demagnetized. With high coercivity, the card would withstand lot more swipes but would be costlier. But low coercivity itself could endure sufficient number of swipes until reissue by the issuing Institution. Decision on the relevance of coercivity of the magnetic stripes is in the Banking domain. The card issuing Institution decides on what is good under the circumstances.

      1. ISO/IEC 7813 defines additional characteristics of ID-1 plastic banking cards; for example a thickness of 0.76 mm and corners rounded with a radius of 3.18 mm.
    1. ID-2 is not discussed here
    2. ID-3 is not discussed here
    3. ID-000 size defined SIM cards are part of ID-1 size cards.
      1. ISO/IEC 7810 Annex B (informative) ID-000 size card as part of ID-1 size card describes how an ID-000 sized card may be included in an ID-1 size card for processing (e.g. in an ID-1 reader), but with “relief areas around the perimeter of the ID-000 size card to allow it to be removed from the ID-1 size card without punching tools“.
      2. An ID-1 size card containing an ID-000 size card is denoted as ID-1/000.
ISO/IEC 7816 defines ID-1 identification cards with an embedded chip (smartcard) and contact surfaces for power, clock, reset and serial-data signals. Here are some more standards for contactless cards
      • ISO/IEC 10536 – Contactless integrated circuit(s) cards — Close-coupled cards
      • ISO/IEC 14443 – Contactless integrated circuit(s) cards — Proximity cards
      • ISO/IEC 15693 – Contactless integrated circuit(s) cards — Vicinity cards
      • ISO/IEC 11695 – Holograph on cards
Refer https://www.iso.org/committee/45144/x/catalogue/ for all standards. Why are there so many standards? Cards are to be used internationally on different ATM and PoS terminals over a considerable time period. If standards are not followed, within a small number of usages, cards kept inside our purse would start warping, magnetic stripe contents could become unreadable after few swipes, some would get bent and stuck inside some ATMs and so on. Here is a sample of what the standards try to achieve. We look at a part of ISO/IEC 10373-3 & 6 standards.
9.4 Static electricity
9.4.1 Contact IC cards

The card shall not be damaged in normal use by a person charged with static electricity. The performance of the card shall not be degraded by exposure to a static discharge in accordance with the test methods described in ISO/IEC 10373-3 between any contact and ground of a voltage of 2 kV through a resistance of 1 500 ohm from a capacitor of 100 pF.

9.4.2 Contactless IC cards

The card shall continue to operate as intended after testing in accordance with the static electricity test methods described in ISO/IEC 10373-6 and ISO/IEC 10373-7 with a test voltage of 6 kV. Have you gotten an idea on the need and various kinds of Card standards?

Some of the standards would cite some other standard as its “normative reference”. For example the above ISO-10373 has normative reference to ISO 7810:2003. ISO/IEC Directives, Part two, Section 6.2.2, defines the inclusion of a normative reference as, “This conditional element shall give a list of the referenced documents… in such a way as to make them indispensable for the application of the document.” In other words, by citing ISO 7810:2003 as a normative reference, it is considered as indispensable when developing or revising our ISO 10373 implementation to include ISO 7810:2003 standards alongside. This is just an outline on the physical characteristics of Payment Cards. What data go into those cards and what standards control them, we would present in our next issue.

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