It's Not in the Cards

April 18, 2007

Marriott Hotels and Resorts Key Card 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.

Its Not in the Cards

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It is disconcerting that although I held a card in my hand two weeks ago for an executive suite I was not considered a guest and was treated like garbage just because my name wasn't the signature for the room. When I contacted the hotel to tell them I received no sleep that night due to a faulty ventilation system with a lloud slamming part, I was treated extremely poorly. I have since had another conversation with the MPLS supposed top person at the hotel who repeated the same thing. If the only customer is the one signing for the room, please make that clear up front, only room signers are treated like customers.

I find this so funny. I work at a hotel and this morning I had some guests refuse to give back their key cards at check out. They told me to do my research and that all their information was programmed into this card! It is so silly. For one, the system that makes the keys and the computer are not even connected and two, when you make a key it's, room number, how many nights and how many keys you want made. Also, when we make a key the staff members authorization code shows as well.
As for your comment 'slg', the reason your old key would have still worked in that rm is because 1) your key was charged for your full length of stay in your original room and 2) probably no one else stayed in that rm, therefore there was no other key made to over-ride your key. So, I have a question for you, why would you try and get into your old rm if it was not yours anymore? That's the thing people need to worry about when old keys aren't turned in, not their personal information that doesn't even exist on there.
Anyway, I just think this whole thing is so blown out of shape. Anyone who has ever worked in a hotel knows how it works. Maybe we need more people to speak out about it.

As manufacturers of keycards and suppliers to hotels for several years we can say that there is no need to have any personal info on the card. All hotels are well networked and once a key filed is indexed all other info can be stored in a central database.

If that is true, why is it that when we had to change rooms late at night, the next day the old keys still worked in the old rooms. Guess no one had ck'd in there yet. Anyone could have just used that room for whatever purpose if they had that key.

Bill is right. The cards are disposable. If you took the time to research hotel key cards or had ever worked as a front desk associate at a hotel, you would know that the key cards do not hold any personal information of the guests. Not everything in America is a conspiracy.

Mr. Marriott, The St Pete Beach is poised for a top end resort property. This is what Ft. Lauderdale beach was 5 years ago!
Thank you for your reveiw
Tom McDermott

Here's an idea that's for free, for what it's worth: How about if Marriott would issue Platinum key cards. As a guest that I spend 100-150 nights/year in Marriott hotels, I'd love a key the hotel would activate when I check in, and deactivate when I leave. It could be the same card as my Platinum card, or different. It could even have my name, and all my information (height, eye color, and maybe my pillow preference: none).
Here's the benefits: It might save you a few pennies, it may make me more loyal, as I'd keep it next to my credit cards, like a second-home key, and it might even be faster to check-in/out.
Anyways, just a thought. Keep up the good work.

If you are interested in seeing some very nice keycards, have a look at the following web-site ( showing an extensive collection of hotel keycards, including more than 400 different Marriott ones!

Keys are reused. All keys are encoded over and over again. While the keys are inexpensive because of the quantity purchased (and you shouldn't feel obligated to mail one back it you accidently take one home) it is an more environmentally sensitive to have these plastic card keys than to have to have throw away keys of some kind.
Also, your keys usually expires at a time shortly after your hotel's check out time. If you extend your stay, you usually have to get new keys because the old ones won't work. Lastly, they are the most secure key system available right now. They can even check to see if a hotel employee entered your room and at what time.

As as Lifetime Platinum member ot Marriott's Rewards program. A guset who exceeded 100 nights a year (down to just about 0)I would love to know if Mr.Bill Marriott has any idea of the level of customer relations existing (or more correctly, non-existing in his company.)This includes his own office. They are certainly losing me after 25 Platinum years,and as far as I am concerned, are living off past reputation.I vote by giving my stays to Hilton and Sheraton.Shame on a formerly excellent organization

While I do not believe the rumor, you never actually flat out say that it is not true. You just talk about the random code and the checkout date, other info might be inlcuded in the card but you choose not to say it as you never say that is all that is on the card.

As a life-long traveler, I never believed that myth anyway. However, I have a strange hobby...I collect these room keys, and have quite a unique collection. I see now-a-days, some keys have local advertisements printed thereon, like restaurants for example.

I have heard this and thought it was a silly rumor. One of the things that I thought would be nice for a guest to use their own card and be able to check into the hotel - online and bypass the front desk. Like use my Marriot Gold card and use that to check in. I know there are some kiosks in some places, but never where I am. I usually am at a hotel 45 weeks out of the year, and would think this would be helpful for business travelers.

I did get this urban myth warning me about the valuable inforamtion stored on hotel room keys. I am a road warrior and so this email was sent to me from severalhelpful people. In fact, to the best of my knowledge no reputable hotels store credit card info on the room key. TIP: A good place to check the validity (and history) of any email story is at At any rate, snopes dispells this room key information myth along with many others that make their way into your inbox. Be responsible and do not pass along an email unless you check its validity.

We recently stayed at a Marriott property in England -- and as with most UK properties -- house guests are often requested to use the check-info card to verify charge back to rooms.
I suggested that perhaps the Room Card could have your Name included to verify this information during the time of your stay. That way a restaurant or bar staff could swipe the card to verify your name etc when charging back to your room.
HTH . . Murray

Perhaps Marriott could use paper cards similar to the Washington DC and New York City public transportation (metro) cards, to help recycling (biodegradable) and perhaps also cheaper to make.

The keycards do have more value than just opening your room door and those in common areas of the hotel. Near many Marriott locations I stay at the local golf course(s) will give you the resident 18 hole rate if your bring your Marriott room key as proof you are staying in the area. I've saved hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars by now off greens fees over the past decade.

It's amazing what people will and will not believe these days, but it's really nice to see that there are companies that really care about the security and privacy of it's guests. Of course, there's still going be that ONE person who thinks the world is out to get them and that all of their personal information, including their mother's maiden name is stored on those key cards, but that's where your employees come in to ensure that's not the case. Kudos to you Mr. Marriott for looking out for all of us!

Thank you Mr. Marriott, for someone of your reputation making this issue clear. This is the only way that these rumors get put to rest.
Andrew Rabinowitz
Area Director
Tharaldson Property Management

Thank you for setting us straight on that. I always keep my key cards out of fear that there is secure information on them. At least, I won't have that worry any more at Marriott facilities.
Pardon me for also using this space to comment on something else. I have a suggestion. Outback Restaurants and PF Changs have gluten-free menus available and are heavily supported by people with Celiac Disease, because of this. Could Marriott consider gluten-free choices on their menus? One out of 133 people in the United States is affected with celiac disease, an autoimmune intestinal disorder. I believe it is more prevalent in Europe. Damage to the mucosal surface of the small intestine is caused by an immunologically toxic reaction to the ingestion of gluten. Gluten is the trigger. Gluten includes all forms of wheat, rye, barley and perhaps oats. If you have Celiac Disease, you cannot even have a small morsel of these! Ever! For the rest of your life.
The British restaurant at Epcot Center even makes gluten-free rolls for guests. Outback even has an awesome cake that is gluten-free! There are now three different brands of gluten-free beers available in the United States too. If you look at and, you'll find a lot of communication about the disease and chatter on the excellent places that have committed themselves to serving gluten-free food. I can't tell you how many people would choose Marriott if the menu was sympathetic to their needs (and your publicists promoted it).
Thank you for reading this and for your constant pursuit of excellence at all Marriott resorts and facilities.

The best thing I like about these keycards is that you can do a express checkout. You really don't have to do anything and save a couple of minutes. I love sailing out of the room right to my car.
I am sure there will come ad ay when you will mail me my card so that I don't have to checkin. I enjoy trhe banter and excahnge with the front desk which I will miss.
I am going to stay at the Marriott County Hall in London in July and I am excitedly looking forwrd to it.
Keep the blog going !

Thanks for clarifying about the room keys. Are keys left at the front desk or in the room at check-out re-used (with a new random number)? I hope so, to help our environment.

Well at least you're not afarid to talk about this stuff and you understand that being open about these things is very important.
Thank you for that.

Is it possible, or feasible, to also have the room key be swiped for a beer at the bar, a t-shirt at the shop,etc? My feeling is that I am likely to spend consistenly (likely not more on a 1 time purchase) on an individual basis rather than a tab.

I always say don't believe anything from email chains