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When you are an owner of a small business, such as a store, coffee house, salon, or other, you may have wondered how the big companies are able to print plastic cards to generate loyalty cards, plastic gift cards, or plastic membership cards.

Wonder no more! The secret of printing plastic cards is: Credit card printers! These have been in use for as long as there are credit and debit cards.

The great news today is that such credit card printers are getting to be affordable. Sure, you can get used ones on eBay or Craigslist, but, not being familiar with the technology, perhaps this is not the best way to go for a first time user. What I mean is that the new credit card printers have gotten down in price to less than a thousand dollars. Some people are even using them to print plastic business cards!

Think about it. Just a short 15 years ago, the price of a decent black and white laser printer was five hundred dollars, easily. Today, you can get a low-end color plastic card printer for about twice as much.

The question remains, what type of card printer will be suitable for your intended use. We will briefly consider three types of uses that a small business owner might have for plastic card printing: Loyalty cards, Gift cards, and Membership cards.

Plastic loyalty card printers: These are usually cards with the store logo and a bar code imprinted on them. Great for building your brand. A single sided card printer will be sufficient for this. Optionally, you could opt for the magnetic stripe cards and would need to upgrade to a card printer with mag encoder built in, and the suitable software. Either way, you would then scan the bar code or the magnetic stripe at your POS, point of service, to give the appropriate discount.

Plastic gift cards: These are great brand builders, and spread the word about your company as they are often given to friends as presents. A plastic gift card printer with mag stripe encoder is a must here as you want the value of the card to be imprinted on the magnetic stripe, for added security.

Membership cards: Membership cards are suitable for gyms, ski resorts, and similar establishments. Typically, for identification purposes, plastic ID cards often display a bearers picture together with their name, address, and similar information. A simple single sided plastic ID card printer will be sufficient for this task. Just be sure that your software can connect to a digital camera, import the picture of the bearer, and place it onto the credit card design.

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