Proximity Card Readers
Pros: no combination to remember; models without keypads can be completely hidden from view and can't be vandalized; can be integrated with computer or security system
Cons: card can be misplaced; pro-fessional installation is required
Price: $250 to $1,000
Shown: Radio Key RK600 (Image #5). When connected to a computer, it can record the time and the person using the lock, and be reprogrammed remotely

A familiar sight in office buildings, these locks work when you wave a special card in front of a reader. The reader, which sends out a low-level radio signal, energizes a microchip embedded in the card. The card then transmits its unique code to the reader. If the reader recognizes that signal, it automatically releases the electronic strike or magnetic lock holding the door shut.

The great advantage is that the reader can be concealed behind a wall (though not behind metal), making it virtually invisible. And for anyone who is visually or physically handicapped, cards are easier to use than a key. The downside? A card is a key by another name, and just as easy to lose. If that happens, you'll have to break out a spare (which has a different code) and reprogram the reader to prevent the old card's use.

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