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NFC versus RFID technology

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, to a wireless communication method that uses radio waves to identify and track objects or people. NFC stands for Near Field Communication, a specialized subset of RFID technology. It is based on the same underlying principles as RFID, but it operates at a higher frequency, at shorter range, and uses a specific set of communication protocols that are designed for two-way communication between devices.

Key differences in terms of functionality and usage:

  • Communication: RFID is (typically used as) a one-way communication technology, while NFC is a two-way communication technology.
  • Distance: RFID has a longer reading range, typically several feet, while NFC has a shorter reading range of up to a few centimeters. Read more below.
  • Security: NFC provides higher security than RFID, due to its shorter range and requirement for user action.
  • Applications: RFID is used for a wide range of applications, including supply chain management, inventory tracking, and access control. In contrast, NFC is commonly used for mobile payments, ticketing, and access control in situations where a higher level of security is required.

Low-frequency (LF) versus high-frequency (HF) credentials

In the context of RFID and NFC credentials, the frequency refers to the number of times per second that the electromagnetic wave emitted by the credential repeats itself. This frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz).

The frequency is important because it determines how far the signal can travel and how much data can be sent. The lower the frequency, the less data can be sent, but the signal can travel farther. The higher the frequency, the more data can be sent, but the signal can't travel as far.

RFID credentials can be low-frequency or high-frequency, depending on the application requirements and the specific technology used. NFC credentials always operate on the high-frequency range of 13.56 MHz. NFC is building upon the standards of high-frequency RFID, and it is considered a specialized branch of RFID technology.


Although RFID technology can operate at both low and high frequencies, in this document we use the term RFID to specifically refer to low-frequency RFID credentials, excluding NFC which are high-frequency RFID credentials.


  • Frequency: 125 kHz - 134 kHz
  • Range: 11.8 in - 39.3 in (30 cm - 1 m)


  • Frequency: 13.56 MHz
  • Range: 3.9 in - 39.3 in (10 cm - 1 m)