Key Cards vs Bluetooth Hotel Locks & Upgrading Guest Access

If you want to provide a better, more modern guest experience while increasing operational efficiency, key cards, as we discuss in this article, are a limiting factor.

And an “it ain’t broke” mentality isn’t going to cut it as competition and your need to protect profit margins intensifies. 

Bluetooth locks, on the other hand, address the issues of operational costs, efficiency, and guest experience. The problem is the cost of overhauling your locks to implement a better access system.


We’re here to explore why hotels are moving away from key cards and how Bluetooth locks can transform the guest experience. We’ll also explain how you can upgrade your hardware (without having to replace it) so you can give guests more independence, lighten the workload for your staff, and stay relevant in an ever-evolving market.

Enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth without the sticker shock of overhauling your locks.

Learn how to upgrade your existing locks with Operto Boost

Why hotels are moving away from key cards

RFID vs. magnetic key card is no longer a hot debate in the hotel industry. With over half of hoteliers reporting they were looking to digitize the check-in and check-out process in 2021, key cards are quickly losing their appeal. 


And it’s no surprise that arrival and access are key areas of digitization, as almost a quarter of surveyed hotels state that improving the guest experience is a core reason for implementing new technology. 


To create a better guest experience

The traditional magstripe or RFID key card can pose problems for guests: It can get lost or demagnetized (if it’s a magstripe), and guests can easily forget it in their room, requiring a visit to the lobby and potentially long wait at the front desk. 


53.6% of guests state they’d like to see contactless check-in and check-out implemented over the next two years, and 47.1% report they’re more likely to stay at a hotel offering self-service technology that minimizes contact with staff. So upgrading to Bluetooth locks allows you to meet their expectations and broaden your appeal (we take a closer look at how they improve the guest experience below).

Image of a guest using a hotel key card
Traditional hotel key cards cause logistical problems for both guests and hotels.

To lighten the workload on your staff

Operating with key cards means extra work for your staff as well, as they’re tasked with reactivating or replacing them at all hours of the day. This has an impact on your team’s workload, as well as your hotel’s overall operational efficiency. 


And with persistent hotel staffing shortages, anything that creates more work for your employees can end up having a negative impact on your productivity, staff morale, and the guest experience. 


To find a more affordable, sustainable solution

On top of improving the guest experience, getting rid of key cards is good for your profits. Replacing key cards when guests lose them or forget to return them after their stay is a cost that adds up over time. 


And throwing away old plastic key cards is just objectively bad for the environment. With 78% of travelers stating they plan to stay at an eco-friendly accommodation, saying goodbye to key cards is a highly visible sustainability effort that benefits your business and can be used for marketing. 


How Bluetooth locks can change the guest experience

So if RFIDs and magstripes are off the table, what options do you have? Bluetooth locks give your guests the modern experience they’re looking for by creating a smoother arrival process and a more secure and independent stay.

Operto Guest interface showing the guest app for a hotel
With Operto, you can give your guests all the information they need as soon as they book, making the arrival and check-in process smooth and simplified.

Smoother arrival

With an integrated management solution for remote management, you can auto-generate mobile keys for each stay. That means guests can check in before they step foot in your hotel, and they’ll never have to wait in line at the front desk. 


And with guest communication capability, digital ID verification, and built-in security deposit functionality, a guest experience platform couples perfectly with keyless entry for a frictionless arrival process. 


Enhanced security

With traditional key cards, if someone else obtains a dropped or stolen key, they could access a guest’s room. But when you provide access via mobile keys, the only way to gain access is by unlocking the phone that holds the mobile key, which only its owner can do. 


And when it comes to key cards, the only way to deactivate it is if you actually have the key card in your hands. But mobile keys can easily be remotely deactivated or changed, for example if a guest checks out early or should a payment issue arise. 


A more independent stay

When you grant mobile access and integrate it with a guest experience platform, you can curate a journey that makes guests completely independent. Share information about your hotel before arrival, send mobile keys as soon as a guest checks in on their smartphone, and allow them to check out on their own terms. 


With a digital key, guests don’t depend on your staff to access their room. And they don’t have to worry about having to track down an employee if their room key doesn’t work or they can’t find it. 


How hotels integrate Bluetooth locks for efficiency 

With over 60% of hotels already investing in or beginning to invest in self-service and contactless technology, and an increasing number of short-term rentals digitizing the guest journey, switching to Bluetooth lock systems is necessary to keep up with the competition. 


Providing your guests with contactless access not only gives them a smoother stay, but also takes work away from your front desk staff and team in general. And you can use your Bluetooth locks to make room access smoother and more controlled for your housekeeping and maintenance teams, too. 


Plus, the oversight you get when you pair Bluetooth locks with a comprehensive access control system means better reporting and clear insights into exactly who’s entering which room and when. 


The increased efficiency Bluetooth locks and contactless technology provide is indisputable. Take Prague Residences: The accommodation provider began saving $10,000 per month on labor costs by adopting digital check-in and contactless access with Operto. 


Bluetooth locks for boutique hotels

You may be sold on the idea of Bluetooth locks, but the price tag remains an important question. And for boutique hotels, overhauling all your locks may be an expense you simply can’t budget for. 


But upgrading to Bluetooth locks doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive. 


Let’s look at the costs you may face when implementing a better access system, before introducing a cutting-edge solution that allows you to avoid a major investment.


New hardware means overhauling more than your locks

The cost of installing keyless hotel door locks isn’t necessarily just a case of taking out your RFID reader and installing a Bluetooth lock. Replacing a lock may mean the door no longer meets fire code standards, and if forced to replace your entire door, you can be met with serious costs. 


Add installation and maintenance expenses on top of this, and offering contactless access just got expensive. 


Plus, installing Bluetooth locks means you need front desk software and an access control system for your management team, as well as a guest engagement platform that gives your customers all the add-on benefits of this technology. 


Upgrading your locks with Operto Boost for BLE functionality

Replacing your locks may seem unattainable, but you can actually implement Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology without having to change your locks. With Operto Boost, you can upgrade your existing locks to equip them with BLE functionality at a fraction of the price you’d pay to replace all your locks. 


Operto Boost is a tailor-made solution for boutique hotels that want to go contactless and get the tech they need for enhanced operational efficiency and a digital guest experience.   


The technology lets you modify locks in minutes, and they’ll still maintain their RFID or magstripe functionality for guests who prefer traditional electronic door locks over smart lock access. 


Hotels around the world have seen the value of Operto Boost’s cutting-edge technology in implementing digital check-in and mobile key functionalities. Take Accor, for example, which is partnering with Operto to power its digital key program globally.

Image of a digital key and the Operto Boost lock upgrade process
With Operto Boost, you can upgrade your locks to give them mobile key capabilities without having to spend a fortune.

Say goodbye to key cards and upgrade to BLE locks 

Your guests may not understand the value of a Bluetooth lock. But they do know how frustrating it is to have to wait in line at the front desk to check in or because their key card isn’t working. 


So give them convenient access via their mobile device by upgrading your locks with Operto Boost. 


Aside from providing an enhanced guest experience, you’ll enjoy benefits like better access visibility, greater operational efficiency, better security, and major cost savings.

Enjoy the benefits of Bluetooth without the sticker shock of overhauling your locks.

Learn how you can upgrade your existing locks with Operto Boost.