Coming soon: Contactless PennCards

As the upcoming fall semester approaches, the University will begin rolling out PennCards with an updated design—the first new look for the PennCard since 2003.

The redesign, however, is more than just aesthetic. The new PennCards will feature “contactless” technology—an embedded chip and antenna that will allow users to tap or hold their card within inches of card readers to gain access to University buildings and amenities.

Following the success of a contactless pilot system in the Singh Center for Nanotechnology and Gregory College House, a new contactless PennCard system for all Penn faculty, staff, and students is set to be launched University-wide in early August.

“Right now, we use a magnetic stripe similar to those found on credit cards,” says Chris Sapp, director of the PennCard Center. “The chip, however, is more secure and positions us well to offer other services through the PennCard in the future.”

David Kern, associate director of security technology in the Division of Public Safety, says the first phase of the transition to the new technology will be the installation of dual readers—with both magnetic stripe- and contactless-reading capabilities—at all external perimeter entrances to University buildings, as well as some interior locks.

“That will take place over the next few months,” he says.

Current University employees and students will not immediately need to replace their magnetic PennCards, as both technologies will co-exist throughout the transition period. The updated PennCards will be issued to new employees and students, and to current PennCard holders whose cards have been lost or expired.

“Part of the reason we’re taking a few years to transition is so that everyone doesn’t have to make the change and get a new PennCard overnight, as both old and new cards will work in all campus systems,” says Angela Goldston, associate director of the PennCard Center. 

PennCards will continue to be distributed to new students, faculty, and staff at no cost. The fee for replacement cards will increase by $5 due to the increase in cost of manufacturing the new cards.

For more information about the new PennCards, visit the PennCard website.