Access Control Guides Product Information

An Introduction to MIFARE® Cards (Updated 2022)

MIFARE card guide

Are you looking for more information on MIFARE® cards?

With so many different options available, it can be difficult to decide which cards are best for your needs. You will need to consider factors like your security requirements, quantity of cards and the memory capacity you require for stored data.

But don’t worry – we’re here to help. To make it as easy as possible, we’ve put together this in-depth guide that includes all you need to know about the 2022 MIFARE range.

Before we dive in, let’s take a look at what exactly a MIFARE card is.

1. What are MIFARE cards?

MIFARE is a contactless card technology that was introduced in 1994. It was primarily used for transport passes, but its technological capabilities quickly made it one of the most popular smart cards for storing data and providing access control.

All MIFARE cards comply with the ISO14443A industry-standard requirement and, like other contactless cards, use an internal antenna and chip that reacts once a card is within the magnetic field of a reader. All MIFARE cards operate at a 13.56MHz frequency and are made by NXP Semiconductors – part of Phillips Electronics.

Below is a timeline showcasing how MIFARE cards and technology have revolutionised the way we live.

2. What are the key benefits of a MIFARE card?

The beauty of MIFARE technology is that it allows for multiple application uses that other cards do not. Other benefits include:

  • Enhanced security encryption that is difficult to clone
  • The technology isn’t limited to cards and is available in key fobs and smartphone application form, too
  • The cards do not need to be physically inserted into a reader; they only need to be placed close within range of a card reader
  • Each individual MIFARE product has its own serial number

3. What can MIFARE cards be used for?

These benefits mean the uses of MIFARE technology cards are practically endless. Uses include:

  • Automated fare collection system
  • Staff ID cards
  • Access control management
  • Contactless/cashless payment
  • Parking payment
  • Campus/student cards
  • Loyalty cards
  • Tourist cards
  • Transport ticketing
  • Event ticketing
  • Mobile ticketing
  • Library cards
  • Fuel cards
  • Hotel key cards
  • Taxi cards
  • Product authentication
  • Production control
  • Car rental cards
  • Car fleet management
  • Fuel cards
  • Interactive lottery cards
  • Social welfare cards
  • Waste management

4. The MIFARE family: What are the different types of MIFARE cards?

  • MIFARE Classic
  • MIFARE Ultralight
  • MIFARE Plus

There are several distinct types of MIFARE technologies available. We’re discussing the main options to help you decide which type of MIFARE card is right for you.

MIFARE Classic type of MIFARE card

MIFARE Classic®

Once a trailblazer in the industry, MIFARE Classic cards were created for those seeking a multi-use technology card. Compliant with ISO/IEC 14443 and available with 1KB or 4KB of memory, these cards still offer an excellent entry-level option for ticketing, event entry and public transport payment systems. The most popular choice of MIFARE Classic card is the MIFARE Classic 1K EV1 card.

However, it’s worth noting that developments in technology mean it’s no longer recommended to use MIFARE Classic cards to host sensitive data or for access control.

The main target applications for MIFARE Classic cards are:

  • Public transport payment systems
  • Electric toll collection
  • Event ticketing
  • Loyalty cards
  • Car parking
  • Legacy access control systems

MIFARE Classic technology is also available in key fob and sticker form.



MIFARE DESFire cards best serve those seeking a card that quickly and securely transmits data. Updated MIFARE DESFire EV2 IC actually encompasses more than 30 different applications. To date, there are more than 10 billion cards and 260 million DESFire readers issued, with our most popular DESFire cards being the MIFARE DESFire 4K EV2 cards.

DESFire EV2 offers a high level of security and we consider it a fantastic product for access control solutions. For those using MIFARE Classic legacy products, moving to DESFire can be seen as a sensible and natural upgrade in terms of security and usability.

The main target applications for MIFARE DESFire EV2 are:

  • Access control/access management
  • On-site/staff identity cards
  • Campus/student identity cards
  • Proof of identity


types of MIFARE cards

Launched in June 2020, MIFARE DESFire EV3 is the newest addition to the DESFire range and takes things to the next level. DESFire EV3 offers NFC compatibility and has a large focus on mobile credentials. The technology is also used in cards, with the DESFire 8K EV3 cards being the most popular.

NFC-enabled smartphones and wearables such as wristbands are considered to be the future of access control and contactless payments. This is due to their high levels of encryption and ability to protect against “relay” hacking attempts.

Target applications of MIFARE DESFire EV3 include:

  • Access management
  • Closed-loop micropayment
  • Student identification
  • Proof of identity
  • Mobile cloud payment services
  • Smartphone compatibility

The focus on smartphone compatibility also means they work with NXP’s MIFARE 2G0 cloud service. Alongside this, DESFire EV3 has been specifically engineered to work with other older EV2 and EV1 products for an easy transition when upgrading.

You can read more about this MIFARE product here, or check out NXP’d in-depth video above to see the benefits and new capabilities in full.

MIFARE Ultralight®

MIFARE Ultralight cards are a card option with significantly less memory than the Classic and DESFire. Ultralight cards are designed as low-cost, low-security cards that can be produced quickly and efficiently.

That said, Ultralight cards include an anti-counterfeit production system that minimises the risk of card cloning. Their reduced cost makes them perfect for low-risk contactless solutions and our most popular choice of Ultralight card is the MIFARE Ultralight EV1 card.

The main target applications of MIFARE Ultralight cards include:

  • Disposable ticketing
  • Sporting event entry
  • Exhibition entry
  • Public transport tickets
  • Loyalty cards



MIFARE Plus cards have been developed to bring benchmark security to all mainstream contactless card applications. A key benefit to the Plus is that it is the only mainstream IC compatible which offers an upgrade path for existing infrastructure and services.

There are several versions, but the latest iteration is MIFARE Plus EV2 which you can learn more about in the video above. The MIFARE Plus S is the standard version that allows for straight forward migration from MIFARE Classic systems and the most popular is the MIFARE Plus S 2K cards.

Key target applications for MIFARE Plus include:

  • Transport ticketing
  • Access control
  • Road tolling
  • Car parking

5. Additional MIFARE® options

Once you’ve decided which MIFARE option is the most suitable for you, there are a few add-ons that you will also need to consider.


A card’s memory capacity is important because it will define the applications you’ll be able to use the card for. Simply put, the greater the complexity of the end product, the higher the storage capacity you will require. This is reflected in the MIFARE DESFire range, where greater memory options are available.

Equally, cards such as the MIFARE Ultralight don’t have a lot of storage to start with because they are designed to be disposable; 4K of memory would be overkill for a single-use card.

Magnetic stripe

Although the MIFARE family is completely contactless by nature, both Classic and DESFire cards can be ordered with magstripe options. This can help you integrate your MIFARE cards with existing, older systems that still require a magnetic stripe reader to function.


For a combination of applications that don’t require the high security offered by MIFARE DESFire, the Classic family can be ordered as a 3-in-1 fob solution. This is a great option for low-risk access control, loyalty and cashless catering and a great alternative to traditional cards.

6. Ready to buy?

And there we have it – an in-depth look at the main MIFARE card types, what they do and what to consider wheh choosing your ideal MIFARE cards. We hope you have found the information you need to make the right purchase.

Don’t forget, as official NXP MIFARE® partners, we stock the complete range of MIFARE cards which you can browse here. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of our expert team by giving us a call on 0800 988 2095.

MIFARE is a registered trademark of NXP B.V. and is used under license