We're constantly bombarded with new gadgets in our everyday life. Lately, hotels are moving away from ordinary locks and towards card keys. Some of them simply slide into a small slot in the lock, while others work with radio frequency (RF) and one does not even need to slide them, one simply presents them near the lock and the door opens.

I am wondering what the correct verb for this action would be. Does one swipe them, as would be the case with a credit card? Hover, perhaps? Place over? Something else?


  • Your term “present” works.
    – Lawrence
    Jan 21, 2021 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


They are called proximity cards which you just hold near the reading device:

  • A proximity card or prox card is a "contactless" smart card which can be read without inserting it into a reader device, as required by earlier magnetic stripe cards such as credit cards and "contact" type smart cards.

  • The proximity cards are part of the Contactless card technologies. Held near an electronic reader for a moment they enable the identification of an encoded number.


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  • I was hoping for something a bit more technical, but I guess "hold" should suffice. Thank you.
    – legrojan
    Nov 27, 2015 at 11:53
  • 1
    You do hold them near a lock. But I think the action would more commonly be described as swiping
    – mcfedr
    Nov 27, 2015 at 13:40
  • 1
    @mcfedr - Swipe means pass (a swipe card) through an electronic reader. Here the technology is different and you just have to hold it in front of the reader, there is no swiping movement.
    – user66974
    Nov 27, 2015 at 13:45
  • 3
    One can just wave their card over the sensor pad.
    – Jim
    Nov 27, 2015 at 20:17
  • One can flick the card toward or over the lock.
    – Xanne
    Jan 21, 2021 at 5:20

It is difficult to say, because common usage involves a movement such as waving the card near the reader, or tapping the reader with the card, but no movement is actually required for the technology to work. All that is required is proximity. 'Hold' implies a stillness that is not part of the most common usage. In my estimation, the majority of users of this technology either tap the sensor with the card or wave the card over the sensor.

If I were instructing someone to use the technology, I would tell them to tap the sensor with the card, because it would ensure proximity. I suppose 'tap' seems most reasonable to me because, even though lesser proximity may still allow the reader to function, there is no good reason that I'm aware of to avoid touching the sensor with the card.

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