Difference Between MIFARE Card and UHF RFID Card

Issue / Question

What is the difference between MIFARE Card and RFID Card?

Applicable To

Zebra Card Printers

Resolution / Answer

A Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) device serves the same purpose as a barcode or magnetic strip on the back of a card. It identifies the object based on a unique identifier for that object. It is used for the identification of objects or people and inventory management.

MIFARE is a technology for smart cards. There are two criteria to define smart cards; one is the method of writing and reading card data, and the second is the type of chip within the card and its capabilities.

A contactless smart chip-based device includes an embedded secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence, internal memory and a small antenna and communicates with a reader through a contactless RF interface. The contactless interface provides users with the convenience of allowing the contactless device to be read at short distances with fast data transfer. A MIFARE card has a much larger memory than an RFID card and is widely used in hotels as payment cards and for identification purposes.

MIFARE family available for smartcard solutions are MIFARE Classic, MIFARE Plus, MIFARE Desire and MIFARE Ultralight. Possible applications are limited use tickets in public transport, event ticketing, access management, employee cards, school cards, citizen cards and car parking.

What’s the difference between HF, LF and UHF?

Low-Frequency RFID Tags

In the radio wave spectrum, the range of frequencies between 30 kHz to 300 kHz is defined as the Low-frequency band. As such, Low-frequency RFID tags are those that typically operate at 125 kHz. These low-frequency tags have a slower data reading rate compared to a higher frequency. LF tags provide uniform transmission in every direction up to 10 cm. LF tags are a great benefit because they are less susceptible to electromagnetic interference or noise. These tags are often used for access control applications. LF RFID tags can also transmit through thin metal layers as well.

High-Frequency RFID Tags

The High-frequency band consists of frequencies from 3 MHz to 30 MHZ. Accordingly, major High-frequency RFID cards operate at 13.56 MHZ. Compared to Low-frequency, High-frequency systems face a moderate level of radio-wave interference. There are a plethora of applications running on High-frequency applications. Accordingly, there are many standards and compliances for High-frequency applications. These standards include ISO 15693, ISO/IEC 14443A, and ISO/IEC 14443 for the MIFARE card range. Many smart cards, proximity technology, and NFC tags fall under High-frequency RFID applications.

Ultra-High Frequency RFID Tags

A band of frequencies between 300 MHz to 3 GHz is defined as the Ultra-high frequency band. Primarily, the UHF systems operate at 900 MHZ to 915 MHz frequencies. Such higher frequencies would allow a superior transmission range, up to 12 meters or 40 feet. Ultra-high frequency tags have the highest data transmission rate against LF or HF. However, UHF is most susceptible to EMI and radio wave noise. Also, these tags are relatively easy to manufacture, and they are cheaper than LF and HF tags. UHF is growing fast in all industries with different applications.


There are needs to know where each type of RFID card is a better fit for the specific application. However, UHF tags are the most popular for new developments in the RFID market. A more extended range of UHF cards makes it suitable for various industrial applications. LF and HF will always have a scope where a particular transmission range is essential. Intelligent system architects know that the complex system should instead implement a combination of these technologies rather than relying on a single choice.

The growing demand for contactless and effortless technologies will bring more focus to RFID technologies. As such, there will be room for developments where multiple RFID devices will accompany users. Observing how these technologies can overcome challenges such as metal barriers, human health concerns, data security, and data transmission interference will be essential.

This blog is contributed by Zebra Technologies.

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