I Didn’t Know You Could Even Do That With A Room Key

by joeheg

During your stay at a hotel, it’s likely that you’ll be provided with an RFID key for your room. The traditional physical and magnetic strip keys have gradually given way to tap-to-enter technology. RFID locks not only offer the convenience of using a key card but also enable guests to use their mobile phones to unlock their rooms, eliminating the need for a physical key altogether. However, despite the advancements, not everyone is inclined or equipped to use their phones as room keys. Consequently, a physical key with an embedded RFID chip remains the most common method for guests to access their hotel rooms.

a group of business cardsWhat to do with your key when you leave the hotel?

Many hotels will gladly accept your key when you leave. Some even have a basket at the desk or a drop box where you can leave your key if you’ve checked out online or on the in-room television. That’s because RFID keys can be erased, sanitized, and reused for another guest. And if you’re concerned about personal information embedded into your room key, this is the info they hold, and it’s only for the length of your stay.

Some hotels will strongly suggest you return your key upon checkout, like when I stayed at Portmeirion.

We have re-usable contactless key-cards that contain a microchip which make them more expensive than other key-cards. We kindly request that guest hand in their key-cards on departure, to be sanitized and then re-used.

Meanwhile, I was a dolt and left the hotel with my key. Realizing my mistake, I gave my key to my taxi driver, who said he visits the property daily and would return it to the staff for me.

What else can hotels do to make environmentally friendly keys?

Marriott started making keys from recyclable materials in 2008. While this is one step, it’s not the best way to be environmentally friendly. A key made from recycled plastic might not be recyclable because of the RFID chip inside. So, if you can’t make recyclable cards, why not use biodegradable materials?

That’s exactly what we found during our stay at the Intercontinental Miami, which provided a wood room key. The key was provided by a company that provides, ta-da!, wooden key cards. Unlike plastic cards, wooden key cards decompose when put into a landfill. The RFID chip gets left behind, but at this point I suppose that’s better than billions of plastic cards.

a group of business cards on a log

Where are we going?

While I dislike the idea of using my phone as a room key, many are already accustomed to using their phones as keys if they own a Tesla.  Hotels will need to offer physical keys as an option, and while they do, they’ll have to find a way to make the process as environmentally friendly as possible.

Hotels will eventually find a way to make room keys more environmentally friendly, whether by encouraging guests to recycle keys, charging a key deposit, or providing a biodegradable key.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


DaninMCI July 9, 2024 - 5:22 am

All good stuff but I was expecting an answer to the question in the headline of this post. I thought I would learn you could do something special with the RFID or something.

David July 9, 2024 - 4:31 pm

Some places allow you to create a digital key, using your phone. No physical key needed.


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