About once a year, rumors start flying on the Internet about hotels storing personal information, like your credit card, on those plastic card keys with magnetic strips. It's like one of those urban myths. Let's set the record straight as far as Marriott is concerned.
I remember when you checked in at a hotel they gave you a key to your room that looked a lot like the key for your front door at home. Our guests would lose their keys, or they'd even take them home with them by mistake. Replacing all that hardware was expensive and time consuming. Then along came new technology, and hotels introduced card keys. Just like metal keys, they are reusable, but much quicker to replace, and they are a lot safer for our guests.
The technology is simple. Our front desk associate punches your room number into the computer system. Then the associate slides a blank card key into a device. The device encodes the card key with a random selection of numbers and your checkout date.
The numerical code only lets you open your own door. The card key also lets you into locked areas which are shared by all hotels guests, like the fitness center, or the concierge lounge for elite Marriott Rewards members.
The reason we encode the checkout date is so the card will stop working when you leave. These days, many guests bypass the front desk. They check out using kiosks or by accessing the hotel's computer system through their guest room televisions. Then, when a new guest checks in to your old room, the process starts over with a new randomly selected code of numbers.
Even though I've shared this information with everyone who reads or listens to my posts, I still imagine a year from now, I'll be hearing the same story about hotel card keys. I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.