The science of the scratch card in your pocket

by Emily on November 30, 2018

in Articles

Why the paper scratch card is a lot more secure than you think

Have you recently recharged the minutes on your mobile phone? If so, you used a recharge card with a unique PIN.  Most likely, you didn’t think twice about using that PIN; it was just a formality to get additional call time.  But your unique PIN does more than simply unlock your minutes – it literally translates to money.

Each mobile network operator (MNO) partners with a scratch card manufacturer or recharge cards. To clarify, recharge cards are a type of scratch card similar to lottery cards and gift cards. Each card includes a panel that can be scratched off to reveal previously hidden information (i.e. the unique PIN).

When it comes to recharge cards, 60% of mobile phone users in the current market are pay-as-you-go subscribers, also known as pre-paid customers. Although technological growth has paved the way for new billing methods, recharge cards are poised to persevere as research indicates some users prefer the physical interaction of scratch cards.  Thus, MNOs must stay abreast of the safest and most cost-effective ways to produce them.

When it comes to manufacturing recharge cards, MNOs must consider the following criteria:

  • Cost
  • Security
  • Card performance

What you need to know about the manufacturing process

The importance of data protection

Perhaps the most important aspect of recharge card manufacturing is the security of the recharge PIN. To manage large amounts of data, manufacturers must use secure facilities and processes. Endorsing this fact is Workz Group, the world’s number one recharge card manufacturer, headquartered in Dubai, UAE. At the company’s facility, all data received from MNOs is encrypted at all times and protected on a secure offline network. It is only accessible by a few authorised data engineers.

Uncover the elements of manufacturing

Despite numerous technological advances, some recharge card manufacturing techniques are inefficient and costly.  For example, some machines require the manufacturer to manually load and unload the printing sheets to print both sides of the card. To counter that cumbersome process, Workz uses an advanced printing press that prints raw paper into a finished product in just ninety seconds. The company recently broke its own production record by producing 40 million scratch cards in a single week.

The organization offers MNOs solutions that include product and artwork design, data management, manufacturing, packaging, fulfilment, and warehouse logistics.

The all-in-one service, backed with high-speed, high-quality printing, results in high-capacity production at a low cost, thus proving immensely beneficial to mobile network operators, regardless of their positioning in the market.

Susan George, Senior Manager Supply Chain Product at du, said, “We highly appreciate Workz’ support with our new product launches. They provided a comprehensive solution which included meeting our budget, maximising production efficiency, and reducing lead times.”

What’s in the PIN?

Malcolm Keightley, Head of Factory Operations at Workz, says the key element of the manufacturing process is to get the PIN to the customer securely. Why do MNOs need to protect the PIN? There’s a risk of fraudulent exposure.  However, this illegal activity can be prevented with the right encasing card and panel construction.

At Workz, camera verification systems are used to cross-check each set of data to prevent any missing, incorrect, or duplicated printing. This is done primarily for security, but there’s one other major benefit – cost savings. A call to the network operator’s customer service centre costs them at least US$1 to advise and resolve the problem. This cost does not include other expenses that may be incurred, such as replacement products, logistics, staff training, time spent at the point of sale, or the damage caused to the operator’s reputation.

To avoid such a situation, Workz ensures that a layer of protection – a carefully curated secret recipe – is printed over the variable data. In 2015, the manufacturer announced the launch of its custom-made Macwhite scratch card, which offers network operators greater durability, protection against misuse and fraud, and enhanced PIN visibility. This is heralded by Workz as the best-performing scratch card available.

Guaranteeing your card’s durability

Aside from security issues, there’s a simpler yet equally frustrating issue that affects recharge card customers – their cards are sometimes scratched to the extent that the PIN is illegible. This is called overscratching, and it’s the number one problem that MNOs face.  Consumers often fail to realise the intensity of the force they use whilst scratching the card. 

It is advisable to use a coin to ensure ease of scratch. Sharp objects, such as rocks or knives, cause significant damage. Workz realises the importance of preventing overscratching and thus, its cards guarantee a certain level of resistance through the use of silkscreen.  Silkscreen-covered panels are easier to scratch and reduce the likelihood of overscratching.

Workz produced over 1.5 billion products in 2017, with over 60 operators from 45 countries, using Macwhite technology. This has proven to be a revolutionary step that enhances product durability. Macwhite is acclaimed to be one of the strongest construction techniques on the market.

How can MNOs pique customers’ interest?

Workz constantly reinvents its products through continual research and development to provide its customers with a competitive advantage and added value. MNOs want to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive market and the way to appeal to the end user is by creating value.

An example of this is Workz’ collaboration with Vodafone Qatar, which introduced a “scratch and win” game for its recharge cards.  It became widely popular and increased sales by 27%. Mohammad Asim Mirza, Director of Customer Operations at Vodafone Qatar, said, “For the past 9 years, Workz has played an important role in new product launches, loyalty programs, green initiatives, and cost optimisation. They have been very instrumental in implementing and bringing into the market innovative ideas to make Vodafone Qatar the first.”

Although innovation is key for MNOs for brand differentiation, low cost, high security, and card performance are also defining factors for card production. The main objective is to ensure the PIN reaches the customer safely and seamlessly. 

So, whether you’re a pre-paid mobile phone customer or an MNO, it’s important to think critically about scratch cards.  Each card is about more than the simply holding a printed number for users to recharge their account with – it’s about advancements in manufacturing, market differentiation, customer satisfaction, and most importantly, the security of the PIN.

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