contactless smart card is a contactless credential whose dimensions are credit-card size (CR80). Its embedded integrated circuits can store (and sometimes process) data and communicate with a terminal via NFC. Commonplace uses include transit tickets, bank cards and passports.

There are two broad categories of contactless smart cards. Memory cards contain non-volatile memory storage components, and perhaps some specific security logic such as MIFARE. Contactless smart cards contain read-only RFID called CSN (Card Serial Number) or UID, and a re-writeable smart card microchip that can be transcribed via radio waves.

A contactless smart card is characterized as follows:

  • Dimensions are normally credit card size. The ID-1 of ISO/IEC 7810 standard defines them as 85.60 × 53.98 × 0.76 mm (3.370 × 2.125 × 0.030 in).
  • Contains a security system with tamper-resistant properties (e.g. a secure cryptoprocessor, secure file system, human-readable features) and is capable of providing security services (e.g. confidentiality of information in the memory).
  • Assets managed by way of a central administration systems, or applications, which receive or interchange information with the card, such as card hotlisting and updates for application data.
  • Card data is transferred via radio waves to the central administration system through card read-write devices, such as point of sales devices, doorway access control readers, ticket readers, ATMs, USB-connected desktop card readers, etc.

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