Designer Hotel Key Cards Say "Open Sesame" With Style

The hotel key card is a branding vehicle, a billboard, and a collectible.

Las Vegas
Rooms from
$149 per night

The Time
New York

Hotel Monaco

Los Angeles
Universal City, California

Peachtree Plaza

Langham Place
Kowloon, Hong Kong

NH City & Tower
Buenos Aires

The Ritz-Carlton
Dearborn, Michigan

Aloft Austin
At The Domain

At Sea
11-night cruises
start at $900

Four Seasons
Resort Aviara
Carlsbad, California

Best Western
Executive Suites
Pickerington, Ohio


Admit it: You've taken key cards from hotels. Sure, sometimes you forget to give them back, but other times, it's just a great memento. But you probably don't have more than Steve Rushmore, founder of the hospitality-consulting firm HVS, who has collected them for 30 years. When he started, "most hotels still used real keys with tags. I've collected more than 15,000 key tags," he says. "Today, you don't see that very often, so I've moved on to key cards — I'm up to about 1,000."

Norway's VingCard Elsafe introduced the first recodable lock just over 30 years ago, and the first hotel to install one was the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta. The original cards had patterns of holes punched in them. Since then, they've incorporated magnetic stripes, RFID, and even wireless technology. VingCard, which still dominates the market, now secures more than 6 million hotel rooms worldwide.

The cards also serve as 2-inch-by-3-inch canvases for the corporate art of branding. Lately, they've doubled as ad space for everything from films to local restaurants. But the hotel logo is still the most popular art, says VingCard marketing director Ivan Aramayo. Check out a few of our favorites.

Related Link: Open Sesame (Hotel Key Cards)

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