How to Add RFID Card to Apple Wallet

Your iPhone is always on you, but your employee badge is easier to forget or misplace. Wouldn’t it be handy if you could add your badge to Apple Wallet? Luckily, we have the technology.

In order to add an RFID card to your Apple Wallet and use your iPhone or Apple Watch as an ID badge, you will need:

  • An iPhone 6s or later, or an Apple Watch Series 3 or later
  • The latest version of iOS or the latest version of watchOS
  • Be signed in on your device with an Apple ID
  • A participating employer
  • An app provided by your employer
  • Your employee credentials

When you add an employee badge to your Apple Wallet, it automatically allows you to use your phone as a badge by holding your phone against a compatible reader–Apple calls this “Express Mode.”

You can also do this with some (but not all) student IDs, transit passes, and electronic keys.

We’ll walk you through how to add an RFID card to Apple Wallet, as well as a brief overview of how your smartphone uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to act as a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag.

How to Add RFID Card to Apple Wallet

How To Add An Employee Badge To Apple Wallet

  1. Download the app provided by your employer, and sign in with your employee credentials.
  2. Follow onscreen instructions to sync your badge info with the app.
  3. Tap the Add to Apple Wallet button when prompted.

Conveniently, any card added to Apple Wallet through your Apple Phone will automatically be linked to a paired Apple Watch. It will also be set to “Express Mode,” which allows you to use the digital badge without unlocking your phone or watch.

You can now use your iPhone or Watch the same way you would an employee badge:

  • Open doors
  • Count attendance at meetings
  • Unlock computers or IT equipment
  • Clock time

How To Use an RFID card in Apple Wallet Without Express Mode

If you prefer, you can turn off Express Mode, which means that to use your digital badge you’ll need to:

  • Unlock your iPhone with Face ID, Touch ID, or passcode
  • Open Apple Wallet
  • Select your employee badge
  • Tap employee badge on reader

For an Apple Watch, double-click the side button and scroll down to your badge. Select and scan on the reader.

How To Use an RFID card in Apple Wallet Without Express Mode

Does Your Smartphone Support RFID?

The reason why you need an app to add your employee badge or prox card to Apple Wallet is due to the wireless signals that an iPhone is capable of sending and receiving. This is an issue of both hardware and software compatibility. 

Badges and prox cards use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) signals to communicate with locks and readers. Smartphones have a similar but slightly different protocol known as Near Field Communication (NFC). 

RFID signals can be Low Frequency (LF), High Frequency (HF), and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). Different types of prox cards use different frequency strengths.

The NFC hardware used in smartphones can’t communicate with Low or Ultra High Frequency RFID signals, only High Frequency, which works in the 13.56 MHz band. So your smartphone literally can’t read LF or UHF signals, and it needs some help to accurately receive and send HF RFID signals. That’s where the app comes in, as a kind of translator enabled with an NFC certificate from Apple.

There are also non-standard types of HF RFID tags, such as the Mifare classic, that are not compatible at all with NFC technology.

Additionally, older models of iPhone don’t have the hardware or the software to support NFC, which means that they simply can’t send or receive NFC signals (such as AirDrop), let alone RFID signals.

So, in short, in order to be able to add an RFID card to Apple Wallet and your smartphone like a prox card or employee badge, the basic system needs to have:

  • High Frequency RFID prox cards and readers, not LF or UHF
  • Standard types of RFID tag readers
  • NFC-compatible smart devices
RFID
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