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Selecting a Material

Selecting a smart card material

At Universal Smart Cards, we take pride in the fact that we have a vast amount of knowledge in the smart card industry, meaning we can help you with all your smart card needs. At the core of any smart card is the material you choose – it defines the strength, durability and sustainability of your cards. Historically smart cards have been manufactured using a range of plastic materials such as PVC, PET, PETG, PC and ABS, but the push towards more eco-friendly choices has seen us introduce a wide range of eco-friendly materials to our range – giving you more choices than ever before.

Our wide range of smart card materials each have their own unique benefits, are available in a wide range of smart card technologies and Below you’ll find our range of available smart card materials, as well as the benefits that each of these bring.

Smart Card Materials


Our range of plastic materials each offer their own unique benefits, from cost-effective PVC that has been widely used in card manufacture for decades, to ABS that is heat and chemical-resistant, and everything else in between. This allows you to tailor the cards material to the exact requirements of your organisation.


PVC is the most common material used for card bodies; it is the least expensive and can be used for both contact and contactless cards. However, PVC can have a shorter life expectancy than other materials due to a lower resistance to heat, UV and bending stress which can cause your card to lose its quality finish over time; this is because the lamination and finishing layers can begin to peel away.


PC stands for polycarbonate and this material offers a more rigid card body with a high resistance to damage from heat, flexing and UV. However, as a knowledgeable organization, we feel you should know that PC cards have a tendency toward breakability due to continuous automated handling which can create shatter cracks.


PET and PETG are unique polyester plastics that are highly durable. They have been designed and developed to enhance the physical durability of your cards for your applications. One of the key developments of these materials is that they can reduce the incidence of antenna connection breaks and contact plate separation caused by everyday use, flexing and bending of the card. Polyester cards are suitable for long-life applications or where cards are required to withstand a certain amount of duress, such as ID Cards for education environments, military credentials, construction access, passports and more.


ABS cards are resistant to impact, heat and chemicals although they can become flammable, as it is possible for the material to reach a boiling point and burst into flames when exposed to high temperatures.. ABS cards have a high print quality making them the ideal material for graphic-heavy card applications such as branded access cards and ID cards for universities and high end organizations. When personalizing these cards, a re-transfer printer is required as ABS cards are not compatible with standard direct printers.

Eco-Friendly and Alternative Materials

In addition to the standard card materials above we also offer a range of other materials, that allow you to showcase your commitment to a more sustainable environment or add a touch of luxury to your brand. These are:

Recycled PVC

Recycled PVC offers our customers the ability to replace their standard PVC cards with recycled PVC, with only a fractional cost difference. These cards use recycled PVC rather than virgin PVC, so great are ideal for organizations that require plastic cards but want to reduce plastic waste from polluting the environment and take a stand for sustainability. To ensure that these cards meet our highest standards, we have conducted extensive testing for strength, endurance in lamination and surface tension, ensuring they meet the standards set by their virgin PVC counterparts. Recycled PVC cards are available in the same technologies as our virgin PVC cards. These include contact and contactless chips that we embed from leading silicon vendors such as NXP, Atmel, Infineon, EM Microelectronic and Fudan. To find out more about recycled PVC cards, head over to our eco-friendly page.


Wooden cards are a great way to not only reflect your business’ style and class, but also communicate your brands’ commitment to reducing the use of plastic. They provide an incredible canvas for designs and ultimately create a durable and aesthetically pleasing asset. Wooden cards are a fantastic alternative to PVC for businesses conscious of their plastic use because, most importantly, our wood is all from FSC-approved sources and is fully biodegradable. The most effective way to customize wooden cards is with the use of laser engraving. This is where your design is ‘etched’ into the wood which gives a classy look and feel to the cards. However, artwork dependant, we can also customize wooden cards with colored print. More information on wooden cards can be found here.


At Universal Smart Cards we are always working hard to grow our range of recycled and environmentally friendly card bodies. As part of our offering, we have recently introduced the PPH Bio Card. PPH Bio is a 100% biodegradable wood pulp fiber material for projects that do not require the sturdiness of PVC cards. The raw materials are procured in-line with the stringent FSC standards and we have full FSC accreditation. This card body provides a plastics-free alternative that is not only biodegradable but, due to the compressed fiber manufacturing process, provides a much stronger and more durable alternative to disposable paper cards. PPH Bio cards are both 100% biodegradable and 100% recyclable.


Metal cards are designed to give your brand a high-end, luxurious look and feel. We provide the highest quality custom metal cards with options including lazer engraving, personalization and special print effects. Various metal card body options are available with specialized printing options. Metal cards are often used as VIP membership cards as the weight of the card gives them a unique high-end look and feel. In addition to adding luxury to your brand metal cards are also highly durable and long-lasting, therefore reducing card replacement due to wear and tear and making them a more eco-friendly option to PVC. Metal cards are available in a range of contact and contactless technologies. Contact us today to discover more about the metal card options we have available.

Discover more…

Our team of smart card specialists are here to help with all of your smart card requirements, from choosing a material to selecting the right smart card technology and personalization options. From your first contact with us to having your cards in hand, we’re here to guide you through the full process. To find out more about any of the materials mentioned here, the technologies they are available with and how they could benefit your organisation contact us today by submitting an enquiry.

You can also contact us by phoning 1-800-810-4959 or emailing for further information.

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