From e-signature documents to digital invoices, companies worldwide are working towards a more sustainable future, and a simple first step to a greener office is reducing paper waste. One often overlooked paper product that people use daily leads to more waste, carbon emissions, water usage, and tree destruction than needed: the business card.
Over the recent years, two business card alternatives have entered the market to help companies meet their sustainability initiatives: digital business cards and Near-field Communication (NFC) business cards. A digital business card is what its name suggests—an electronic version of a business card that lives on your mobile or desktop device and can be shared with a QR code, email, or text message.
An NFC business card can electronically transmit information between two nearby devices. While an additional (but reusable) piece of hardware is necessary, NFC tags allow you to share your business card with a single tap. NFC cards may interest people who like the idea of still having a physical resemblance to a business card while trying to cut back on paper waste.
Like any product, NFC has its benefits and drawbacks. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of NFC cards and who should (and shouldn’t) use them. (If you want to learn more about the pros and cons of going digital, check out this guide to digital business cards.)
Whether you’re a solopreneur or work for a global enterprise, it’s important to make educated buying decisions. NFC business cards come with a price tag, so consider these pros and cons before making the purchase:
NFC business cards can be a great choice for certain individuals—they’re fun, trendy, and have that cool factor. They typically work well for people or companies who:
If you want to replace your paper cards—but still like the idea of having something physical to pull out when networking—NFC is a great choice. NFC business cards come in several different materials: plastic, metal, wood—you name it. They’re also reusable; to share your business card, all the other person has to do is tap their smartphone to your NFC tag.
With the re-emergence of in-person events and conferences, NFC is a quick and convenient way to share contact information. If you don’t work from home or have the need to network remotely, then using an NFC card can be a neat branding opportunity.
Like most products, NFC business cards have a price tag. If you have flexibility in your marketing budget and like having a physical card, then an NFC card can be worth the investment. (Remember, however, that you’re not only paying for the NFC card itself—there are shipping and handling fees, and you’ll have to buy a replacement if any team member loses or misplaces their card.)
NFC business cards aren’t a perfect solution for everyone. They do raise a few red flags, specifically regarding functionality and security. You may want to consider other business card options if your organization:
Because NFC business cards are a newer type of technology, they encompass a few connectivity and reliability issues. Antoni Singger, Tech Expert and Founder of Breezer Freezer, has previously tried NFC business cards and found them unreliable.
“Despite being a new technology, the reliability of NFC cards still needs to be improved,” said Freezer. “There are too many instances where the card fails to transfer the data successfully, which can be incredibly inconvenient and costly.”
If you’re looking for a reliable business card, your best options are a traditional paper card or a digital one. While digital cards can also encounter connectivity issues, in the worst-case scenario, you can always email or text your card once you have a better signal since you don’t need to be physically present to share your card.
While tap-and-go contact sharing is certainly convenient, it does pose a security risk. Because of the nature of NFC, anyone near you with a smartphone can access your information without you knowing it. Unfortunately, Sam Chan, Founder of PiPiADS, experience a major security breach while using NFC.
“One (bad) day, when I was sharing my NFC digital business card with one of my clients in a restaurant, someone hacked my phone and uploaded malware that wiped all my phone data,” said Chan. “Thanks to cloud technology, I could retrieve my data. However, after this incident, I never used my NFC digital business card.”
Digital business cards are a good option for organizations who want something more robust than a traditional paper card but maintain a high-security level. For example, HiHello—the leading digital business card platform—is SOC 2 Type II and GDPR compliant and meets leading global enterprises' security and privacy requirements.
Like traditional paper business cards, you can only use NFC cards to share information in person. You must also carry an additional piece of hardware—your NFC tag—with you at all times.
One of the biggest advantages of a digital business card is that as long as you have your phone, tablet, computer, or Apple Watch on you (and truthfully, who leaves home without their phone or watch?), you’ll always be able to share your information. Some digital business card platforms even offer remote networking tools, like virtual backgrounds and email signatures that link to your digital card.
If you’ve found yourself with an upcoming event or conference and a stack of outdated business cards, you’re not alone. Not even Amazon can always deliver exactly what you need at a moment’s notice.
Because you need to order an NFC tag and wait for it to arrive, NFC isn’t the best solution if you need a last-minute business card.
Oftentimes, NFC providers are in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry. Not only are you paying for the physical NFC tag, but you’re also paying for shipping, any replacement, and a platform fee. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you plan on distributing NFC cards company-wide. Omer Usanmaz, CEO and Co-Founder of Qooper, tried NFC cards, but the cost was a limiting factor.
“The first issue I encountered was the cost associated with them. NFC cards are often expensive to produce compared to standard paper or plastic business cards, so if you have a large network of contacts that need their own card, the costs can add up quickly,” said Usabnmaz.
If cost is a concern, digital business cards are a more budget-friendly option. HiHello conducted a business card cost analysis and found that, on average, small-to-medium-sized businesses could save 26% of their business card budget by going digital. Large businesses and enterprises can save even more (over 50% more!). Not only that, digital business cards have a higher ROI—HiHello found that people are 7x more likely to follow up if they receive a digital card.
In terms of sustainability, NFC business cards are a more eco-friendly option than paper cards. However, they do produce some waste and often can’t be recycled.
Digital cards are a better solution for organizations looking to amplify their ESG initiatives. HiHello published a business card sustainability report and shared the following environmental savings companies could have by going digital:
There’s a reason why NFC business cards are trendy—they’re convenient, are a neat branding opportunity, and have a “cool” factor. Utilizing NFC technology for business cards is a fantastic solution for some, but not all. It’s unclear how long the NFC trend will last; however, there has been a shift in market signal over the past twelve months. NFC-first platforms are now pivoting away from NFC and building digital business card features and capabilities, showing a lowered confidence in NFC technology.
While HiHello is a digital-first-and-only platform, we understand that NFC is important for some teams. Because of this, we have an NFC feature built into our digital business card app. We will never sell or ship hardware, but if you have an NFC tag (which you can purchase from sites like Amazon or Etsy), you can use it to share your HiHello digital business card at no additional cost. This guide lets you learn how to make your own HiHello NFC-enabled business card.
HiHello is changing how everyone—from individuals to Fortune 500 companies—manages their most important relationships. It starts with a digital business card built from the ground up to be delightful, customizable, and secure. HiHello’s digital business cards unlock new opportunities, cut the costs of traditional cards, and have a positive environmental impact. Hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide trust HiHello to amplify the power of their network, and we’re just getting started!