If you've ever had to visit the bathroom at a rural gas station then you know the proprietors of those businesses can be very creative in keeping track of their washroom keys. Sometimes the key is chained to a large piece of wood or a metal tool. I've even seen tiny bathroom keys affixed to large rocks. The reason for the added weight is to remind people to return the key when they are done.

There used to be a similar thought process for hotel room keys too. They usually came on an oversized key chain contraption that made it hard to fit into your pocket or purse but it was so big and cumbersome you would very seldom forget it or lose it.

In today's modern hotels most of the time we aren't even given an actual key anymore. A lot of hotels have gone to the key card format. The "key" is actually a plastic card with a magnetic stripe on the back. That strip contains enough information to allow you to open the door or make a charge on the room if you've left a credit card on file at the front desk.

The Blind Life via YouTube
The Blind Life via YouTube
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It's what we should do with that key card after our stay that has the internet in an uproar. Should you return the card to the front desk after your stay or is it okay just to keep the key card on your person? It turns out that most major hotel chains do not have an official policy on this question.

Those who favor returning the key card say they are motivated by environmental concerns. The plastic cards can be erased and reused, so recycling the cards means having to use the energy and raw materials to make new ones. So, that's a good reason.

Those who favor keeping the key cards often say they do it to protect their identity since a certain amount of information is stored on the magnetic stripe on the back. Others say they like to keep the cards as souvenirs of the places they've been and hotels they have stayed.

Runnyrem via Unsplash.com
Runnyrem via Unsplash.com
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What might surprise you is that the data stripe on the back of your hotel key card contains a lot less information than you might think. It really only contains enough information to unlock your door during the dates of your stay. But there isn't enough information stored on the card for someone to gain access to your credit card account..

If you were wondering it costs hotels about ten to fifteen cents for each card which is why we are seeing more and more upscale hotels opt for keyless entry. In other words, the information to unlock your hotel door is transferred to your smartphone via the hotel chain's app.

CNET via YouTube
CNET via YouTube
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I prefer this method because this allows you to actually check in to your room before you arrive and then just walk right up to your room with your bags. Any chance to skip the long lines at reception is worth taking if you ask me.

So the answer to our query, should you take your hotel key card at check out is this. Sure or no, or do whatever you want because those cards will be obsolete in another five years and you'll only need your smartphone anyway.

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