A Guide to Badging System Accessories

Badging systems have become an integral part of today's security conscious world and are commonly seen across a wide range of venues. Corporations of all sizes, medical and educational facilities, government and public buildings and sports centers are just some of the locations where badging identification is being used and often in conjunction with a building's access control system. In addition, badging systems are available for use in visitor management systems or on a one-time basis at conferences or events.

New developments in technology have provided security and facility managers with a variety of choices in badging systems that range from basic computer-printed and laminated paper badges to plastic cards with magnetic stripes to the newer, all-in-one smart cards. Whatever the choice though, badging systems are not complete without some type of badge holder with accompanying attachment device in order to allow the prominent visibility of, and easy access to, the identification. After all, part of the value of a badge or combined access card/badge is that other employees and security personnel can visually verify a person's identity and right to be in a secured area.

Smart Badge Holders Make the Scene

A new and innovative badge holder designed to prevent unauthorized data skimming of embedded information provides a shield against unauthorized access to contactless information stored on PIV cards, CAC cards, and other contactless smart card applications. The new secure rigid plastic badge holder allows the wearer to display his/her ID while affording privacy protection by providing a barrier to unknown or unauthorized wireless communications through the smart cards' contactless interface and allows card reading without the need to remove the card. When the activation tabs are squeezed, the card is able to communicate with a reader. As soon as the tabs are released the smart card is shielded again. The wearer controls who reads the card and when it is read without having to remove the smart card. This new badge holder virtually eliminates the need to worry about combating identification theft, significantly improving security across industries for users including government employees, consumers, business executives and security professionals.

Making It Easier to Wear an ID Badge

There are almost as many, if not more, choices of badge holders and related attachment accessories (i.e., lanyards, reels, clips, etc.) as there are choices of badging systems. Selection of the appropriate holder and accessory can help diminish the "nuisance" factor of having to wear and prominently display the identification or to easily access it for use with a card reader. Depending on the application, budget or access control system, an assortment of off the shelf options is available, as well as customized solutions.

Attachment accessories are normally categorized into lanyards, reels and clips and card holders are typically divided by application into three basic categories - corporate/employee IDs, visitor IDs and event IDs. Holders can also be divided by style into three basic categories - semi-rigid card holders, wallet-type card holders and rigid card holders.

Determining the best style with the most appropriate attachment accessory can help to ease the implementation of a badging system policy and the following guidelines can offer some assistance in making that choice.

Semi-Rigid Card Holders
Application: Corporate/Employee IDs, Visitor IDs, Event IDs
Suggested Venues: Office Buildings, Financial Institutions, Sales Meetings
Pro: Reasonably priced
Con: Easily marred with general wear and tear

This category of badge holders consists of vinyl enclosures designed to protect and accommodate a wide selection of card sizes, shapes and materials. Available in a variety of thicknesses, most common are the heavy-duty clear vinyl holders with slot and chain holes and/or clips at the top for use with a variety of accessories.

Open Vinyl Card Holders -- Cards stored in these holders can easily be removed for use with access control card swipe systems. For identification purposes when worn on the person, the see through vinyl allows for a clearly visible display of the credentials. The vinyl card holders are available with a wide range of choices, including color frames, top color bars and all weather re-sealable holders.

The quality of these card holders depends on the grade and thickness of the vinyl and the higher the grade, the more durable and expensive the cost. They are most frequently used to hold corporate/employee ID and access cards and in general are an all-round excellent choice for a basic card holder. Based on quantities of 100, prices for vinyl card holders can start at less than 25 cents per piece.

Closed Vinyl Card Holders -- Proximity cards are also stored in vinyl enclosures with the difference being that the enclosure is sealed to prevent loss of these more expensive cards. As well, because it is a sealed enclosure, lint, crumbs or dirt particles cannot become embedded in the enclosure and affect the quality of the reading. Like the open vinyl card holders, quality and cost of the closed holders are based on the grade of the vinyl as well as quantities ordered. Based on quantities of 100, prices for proximity card holders generally start at less than 60 cents per piece.

Open Acetate Card Holders -- While vinyl card holders, either open or sealed, are used primarily for corporate/employee IDs, the similar but less expensive acetate card holder is used primarily for visitor IDs and event or conference IDs. The typically folded clip-on holders are made of extra heavy clear PVC vinyl and usually have open ends for insertion of computer printed or hand written paper badges.

The acetate card holders are considered part of the semi-rigid category and are available from various badging suppliers as well as at the retail level. These are among the least expensive, and based on quantities of 100, prices for acetate card holders can start at around 12 cents per piece.

Badges which are used solely for employee identification purposes (i.e. laminated paper badges with photograph) generally do not require a holder as the lamination provides a rigid and protective covering.

Wallet-Type Card Holders
Application: Corporate/Employee IDs, Event IDs
Suggested Venues: Casinos, Sports Stadiums, Convention Halls, R&D Centers
Pro: Easy visibility
Con: Bulky

Nylon Neck Wallet Card Holders -- There are several styles of the wallet type card holders but probably the most familiar is the large neck wallet card holder seen at trade shows and conferences. The all-in-one nylon device is ideal for an attendee as it features a clear vinyl pocket in front to hold a name badge or event pass; a back pocket to hold maps, meal coupons or seminar passes; and a zippered pocket for currency.

These neck wallets are commonly used as advertising/marketing tools and often bear the logo of a conference vendor or organizer. They are available in quantities of 100 for approximately $2.00 per piece.

Vinyl Neck Wallet Card Holders -- Neck wallets are also available for corporate use in a more professional looking version. For instance, security personnel at gaming facilities or venues hosting professional league sports often require a larger card holder for displaying multiple pieces of identification including a photograph as well as levels of security clearance and/or time and date restrictions. The neck wallet allows the individual to display all of the information and most importantly, keep their hands free.

Magnetic Wallet Card Holders -- Magnetic wallet-type pocket badge holders may scream "nerd" around the office but the concept has been in use by law enforcement officers for quite some time and are becoming more popular in general. The magnetic holders simply fold over pockets or lapels and do not damage clothing with pins or clips; however, one should be cautious to not let the magnet come in contact with magnetic strips found on credit cards and some access control cards. Magnetic wallet card holders are more expensive than standard vinyl sleeves, and prices gnerally start around $1.20 per piece for quantities of 100.

Rigid Card Holders
Application: Corporate/Employee IDs
Suggested Venues: Medical/Research Facilities, Warehouses, Manufacturing
Pro: Provides most protection
Con: Limited sizes

These molded plastic card holders offer the most rigid and sturdy protection for cards as they will not tear or fold and can be conveniently used on a daily basis with minimal wear and tear. They usually have chain holes or slots for use with lanyards or badge clips and are available in vertical or horizontal formats as well as in a choice of colors. Various styles are available including those with rails on all four sides keep the card in place and those with thumb notches to more easily allow access to the card. As well, most models can hold more than one card.

Rigid card holders with rails are best used for visibly displaying and storing badges and those with thumb notches are best for cards used regularly with access control systems. Also, most rigid card holders are designed for used with ISO credit card size measurements and will not accommodate cards of other sizes. Depending on quantities ordered, costs of rigid card holders can be upwards of $1.00 each.


Lanyards are a kind of neck cord and are available in several different kinds of materials, including polyester, elastic, plastic, nylon and even in a reflective material for use when visibility is a concern such as for emergency personnel or traffic controllers. They can be ordered in a wide range of styles such as flat in various widths or round - woven, braided, or with an inner filling and in varying lengths.

Lanyard Attachments -- Lanyards also come with a wide variety of attachments which can make the access process substantially more convenient for the wearer and help to maintain security procedures. For instance, badge reels make it easy to scan or swipe a badge without having to unclip it from one's person or remove it entirely. The badge stays attached to the lanyard instead of being shoved into a pocket following a scan or identification procedure.

Multi-use lanyards feature two end fittings to attach a variety of ID credentials, access cards, keys, etc. They are also available with plastic hooks, nickel-plated steel swivel hooks, bulldog clips, pull-apart key rings, eyeglass holders, snap buckles, carabineers or whistles.

Special Features -- Lanyards can be ordered plain or imprinted with a company name, logo, etc. and are fully customizable on both the attachments and the lanyard. In addition to their versatility, neck lanyards are popular because they do not damage clothing in the way that pins and clips can and the new, no-flip versions keep badges from turning over, making identification badges easier to see and read.

Neck Chain Lanyards -- Similar in concept to neck lanyards, neck chains offer the same functionality. They are available in varying kinds and sizes of beads and with a limited number of strap attachments.


Badge reels are ideal for smart card and access control applications because of their ease of use in swiping a badge. The retractable cords are available in different lengths and thicknesses and the attachments (i.e. clips) can be located on the back of the reel or at the end of the cord. Heavy duty badge reels differ in that the cord is made of nylon or steel wire. Attachment options may include bulldog clips, swivel hooks, slide type belt clip, locking bar pin, reinforced vinyl strap clip, key ring, wire cord or flexible plastic hook with a snap closure.


Badge clips may seem like a trivial afterthought once all is said and done in selecting a badging system but they are indispensable for keeping badges and card holders where they are supposed to be. Varieties include spring-loaded alligator-type clips, brooch pin and safety pin clips, plastic straps with steel or plastic clips and magnetic disc clips.

Card holders and lanyards usually come complete with clips of some sort but they can also be ordered as a stand-alone item.

About the author: Bill Kieckhafer is general manager of Brady People ID, a Brady business. The company offers a wide array of badging and access control card accessories.