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The Short & Sweet Guide: Formatting Data for Plastic Cards

Learning how to format data the correct way can remarkably speed up the process of ordering plastic cards. In order to properly process data, the data needs to be transformed from one format to another. Following these guidelines on what types of file formats are accepted, best practices, and data and card layout will ensure your card personalization process is seamless.

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Standard File Formats

Using these standard file formats, your data will be easy to read and process.

  • Excel (.xls or .xlsx)
  • Comma Separated Value (.csv Dos Formatted)
  • Tab Delimited (.txt Dos formatted)
  • Pipe Delimited (.txt Dos formatted)
  • Fixed Length Text File with carriage returns at each record (.txt Dos Formatted)

Standard File Format Best Practices

Using these best practices will streamline the process of personalizing your plastic cards.

  • Provide a clear header in the file that accurately lists what the data in the file represents.
  • Make sure that there are no floating lines of data. Keep all the data fields lined up in the file.
  • Ensure that text Casing is correct for how you want it to print. Unless specifically requested, the data will be printed as is on the document.
  • If you're supplying multiple files, ensure that file names are uniquely identified per version of card.
  • Make sure your data is scrubbed and ready for the transformation processes.

Data and Card Layout

If a third-party like CARDSource is creating the data, they will need:

  • The starting number as it needs to be printed on the cards.
  • A layout of the card with the fields shown for printing position.
  • Any specific fonts or barcode symbology needed.
  • If you need a check digit added to the barcode data.

If you are supplying the data to be used for personalization, you will need to provide:

  • A data layout of where to pull the information from in the inbound data or a header records in the data that states what each field represents.
  • A layout of the card with the fields shown for printing position.
  • Specific Font types or barcode symbology needed.
  • If you need a check digit added to the barcode data.

Data Services From Third Party Vendors

If you have data and you aren't sure how to format it or you need help, a third party vendor like CARDSource could help you with:

  • Data Scrubbing
  • Truncation or concatenation of data fields
  • Presort services for mailing files including NCOA services
  • Data cleansing, reformatting or manipulation of data files other than the standard data transformation processes.

By following these guidelines for formatting data, your data will be clean and easy to use for any processing team. If you need help with formatting data, let us know. We would be happy to help. 



Jade Beaver
Marketing Coordinator
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