Starling Travel

September 28, 2007

Key Cards Turn On Power In Hotel Room

Filed under: Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Uploaded by Courtney Wachob from FlickrThere is a new fashion in hotels. Your key card turns on the power in your hotel room. Courtney Wachob, on Flickr, described it here:

In order to have electricity in the room, we had to put our key card in this thing . . . and, since we only had one key, we couldn’t cool the room off OR charge camera batteries, etc while we were out. Very annoying.

Although his photos are no long available on Flicker, Steve Portigal took a trip to Wan Tsai in Hong Kong. All four hotel rooms on his trip had these contraptions that controlled the power in his hotel room with his keycard. When he left his room (with his key in his pocket) the power was off, so he couldn’t charge his camera battery or iPod.

He explained it:

“The device on the right was on the wall near the door of our hotel room. It accepted a card key and turned on the power. No card key, no power in the room. If you didn’t have two card keys, that meant you couldn’t have the power on in your room when you were out, in other words, if you wanted to be charging up a device, you couldn’t.”

Other people commented on his photo:

xeeliz: The card key for power is fairly standard. When I once used two keys this way – to have power when out – I got into some trouble when the cleaning staff “snitched” on me. I was duly told off and had to give up my “spare” card key. I guess I could have argued but I was tired and leaving the next day.

Hotel key and light switch from FlickrHere is a photo from sydneyamw, who seemed to like the idea:

what a GREAT invention! A light switch card on your key ring…. so when you leave the room, you have to take the key, and the card comes with you. You automatically turn off all your lights! SMART!!!!!!

It looks like this system might come to the U.S. if the ACEEE (the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy) has its way:

Key card systems have become universal in the hospitality industry due to the benefits of increased room security through reprogrammable key cards. Energy management features that control room HVAC and lighting operation represent the next logical step in key card evolution.

Logical? How so? It just sounds like a way to inconvenience your customers and leave them at risk if they leave one of their cards in their room to keep the power on. I wonder if the hotel world will realize that saving a couple of pennies on electricity isn’t worth your customers’ good will.


  1. You must be joking here. You are seriously complaining that you couldn’t have electricity in your room whilst you were out?!!

    Come on, there are more important things to worry about. This key card power system is used all across Asia and is a fantastic idea. Hotels save money (sometimes large amounts) and MORE IMPORTANTLY the reduced electricity usage helps to preserve our environment…. crucial with global warming becoming more of an issue.

    Many hotels guests leave air-conditioning on, TV’s etc whilst they are out … this is a huge waste of energy and the key card system helps prevent this.

    I do agree however that if you need to charge things whilst out then you should be able to. Well I think this is where hotel staff should come in to try to help where needed. By simply offering two cards to all guests defeats the point of having the system there in the first place.

    Comment by Alan — January 30, 2008 @ 1:21 am

  2. While staying in a hotel in Rome several years ago I took the key card from the reader and left the room before I realized that the lights had turned off with my wife in the bath tub. She had asked me to go out and buy a bottle of wine. The errand took longer than anticipated. When I returned she said that she realized what had happened but was afraid to try and get out of the tub as the laser beams were showing through the room and she feared she might trip an alarm and security people would enter before she could get dressed in the dark.

    After that we have always been careful to get two keys.

    Comment by S. Hatch — November 2, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  3. Does anybody know what companies make these card readers? I’d like to do a research paper.

    Comment by Ginger — September 2, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  4. I stayed at a hotel in Beijing that used the key card system to activate power in the room. I just used my driver’s license in lieu of my key card but in retrospect I suppose housekeeping could have taken my ID. I guess it didn’t seem that likely since I was staying at the J.W. Marriott. I recommend packing a used plastic gift card or similar so that you’ve got a way to keep the power on while you are out.

    Comment by Vacation Lady — February 19, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  5. I understand the need to go “green” and save electricity. HOWEVER…the hotel we stayed at in Tenerife used this system and then also charged us per day for the use of the hotel room refrigerator (which we used to store cheese and yogurt for our on-the-cheap lunches). Hotel would not issue a second key either…therefore, when we left the room, taking the key, the fridge went off and things warmed up. We solved the problem by our own ingenuity with a fake card in the electrical box – but still, the idea to charge us for the use of a fridge that would only work when we were in the room was crazy!

    Comment by Suser — February 22, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  6. I stayed at a hotel in Barcelona with a key-card power system. When I got to the room I was so jet-lagged it took me an hour to figure out how to work the system (when I called the main desk all I got was attitude, because it was “explained” when I checked in). The hotel used a metal card attached to the key, so you couldn’t just double up on your keys to keep the power on. The system made this horrible buzzing noise whenever the card was inserted, which made it difficult to sleep. And I wasn’t happy about being forced to come back to a pitch-dark room every night. I fully support being energy-efficient, but this isn’t the way to do it. I ended up switching hotels half-way through my stay.

    Comment by Maggie — November 7, 2010 @ 12:36 am

  7. I think the idea is a completely sound one, however it’s been used as a blunt instrument. Why not just have 2 plugs (refrigerator and 1 free one) as on all the time? Why not embed a light in the key card holder that’s on low all the time? Why not have the ability for staff at a central location to switch on an air conditioner if I call 30 mins before returning? If they can wire it this smart, they can wire it actually smart, too. I think it’s brilliant, but stupidly used in many cases. I wish I had something like it in my house.

    Comment by Janet — March 30, 2011 @ 8:15 am

  8. This is a marvelous idea, and I find it completely absurd that you would ridicule a hotel for utilizing it. This technology isn’t exactly a quick return on investment; it is a hotel’s investment to help save electricity to be greener. I’ve enjoyed this technology on the Disney Fantasy, and it was of no inconvenience whatsoever. Perhaps you find it acceptable to leave every light on in your home when you’re not there, but some companies are trying to shrink their carbon footprint.

    Comment by Natalie — September 7, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

  9. i think the key card system is a good system, as human beings we tend to forget things sometimes but with key card system it is impossible to leave the lights, air conditions or tv on.

    Comment by glory — September 19, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

  10. 10 minutes to figure out why an alarm was going off, room had NO lights that worked, entire time worrying that front desk had assigned a room to me that someone was already sleeping in. (Travel enough, and this WILL happen to you) By the time I remember the check in staff telling me to put my key in the slot was NOT in reference to the back hotel entrance I had asked about, half the floor was awake from the incessant, beeping alarm. Went down for another item to bring in and locked myself out of the room. Why? Averaging over 150 nights a year of staying in hotels, I have developed a very good habit of immediately putting the key back in the pocket without the cell phone so I don’t lock myself out of the room. Along with other comments about refrigerators shutting off, no ability to charge electronics and the room being either unbearably hot or cold every time you return, add these: 1.) Multiple people in the room. Try to get 4 or 5 keys for a family traveling on a budget. 2.) My frickin’ safety. Coming into a room, loaded with suitcase, laptop, paperwork, and not being able to turn a light on to make sure the room is actually safe. (Again, travel enough and you will find the ground floor room with the patio door or window left unlocked or even open.) 3.) The fact that I will now ask when making a reservation or checking in if these ridiculous devices are present. If they are I will NEVER stay at your hotel because you are NOT saving the earth. Quit building your hotels with the cheapest windows you can find and you will save WAY more energy than automatically turning off a few flourescent bulbs every time someone leaves a room.

    Comment by Jim — October 22, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

  11. This thing really an energy saving device, but can i ask you a question, What Electrical devices or spare parts installed that contribute to the system of this key card? Thank You.

    Comment by Arvin Villanueva — January 30, 2013 @ 1:32 am

  12. Does this Key card system creates power fluctuation? which may result in device may misbehavior?

    Comment by Ankur Sarambalkar — February 18, 2014 @ 1:12 am

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