Home > Life, The Universe, & Everything > Ontario Has A New Driver’s License Card? No More Magnetic Stripe!

Ontario Has A New Driver’s License Card? No More Magnetic Stripe!

After I moved a couple of months back I completely forgot for about 6 weeks to get my address on my license changed. Thankfully, in Ontario you can simply do the whole process online and just wait for your new card to arrive in the mail. (If you couldn’t, I likely would still be procrastinating getting it done.) My updated address license card arrived yesterday and when I opened the envelope from Kingston I looked at the card as a matter of habit when I noticed something different about it…it was missing the magnetic stripe.

(I have no idea what is contained in these two codes that remain on the Ontario Driver’s License but I assume it is just the information that is already on the license. I downsized the picture to make the codes unreadable…I hope successfully.)

2010 Ontario Drivers Licence Card With Magnetic Stripe

What the….? Why no more magnetic stripe? My last license card (the one you see above) was issued in early 2010 when a previous card met an untimely demise. Pretty much everything else about the ‘new’ license is exactly the same except for the changing of the coloring of the letters where it says “9 CLASS/CATEGORIE” and “12 RESTRICTIONS/CONDITIONS.” The old license has them in blue while on the new license (seen below) the lettering is black.

2011 Ontario Drivers Licence Card No Magnetic Stripe

There is still the same 2 letters followed by 7 numbers as the code of your license (no clue what it means but I do know the two license have two different codes). In case you are wondering, no, my new license is not one of the new enhanced security licenses that can be used to cross the border by land into the USA. It is a plain license which they just have upgraded…or maybe simplified? Maybe the magnetic stripes were getting demagnetized too easily so they decided to just stick with the UPC barcode (I think that’s what that top one is) and the PDF417 (thanks for helping me identify it Wikipedia!)

According to the AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) website here, the update to the Ontario licenses was introduced in April of 2011 and it is expected that all Ontario licenses with magnetic stripes will be out of circulation by 2018. By 2014 all license cards in Ontario without the “20 barcode” will be out of circulation. If you’re wondering which of the two barcodes still on the license is this “20 barcode” I can’t help you because so am I. The 20 barcode is, according to the AAMVA in the link above, more secure and meets their standards. Unfortunately, in my research I was unable to find out what a “20 barcode” actually is. I am guessing it is the one I called PDF417 because I think I remember old Ontario licenses having the UPC looking one.

If you know the answer to what the mysterious “20 barcode” is, please let me know!

What do you think of the loss of the magnetic stripe? Do you even care? I don’t personally and I think the whole thing just looks cleaner now. As well, it is probably easier and more reliable to scan these than it was to swipe the magnetic stripe.

Do you have one of these licenses yet? Still using the really old one that predates both of these? I know I still have my old white and red OHIP card and I’m not getting a new, green one until they force me to! (If you’re from Ontario you know what I am talking about.)

  1. September 22, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    I got a new license when I moved back in November and it has the strip so it must be a new thing. It seems kind of redundant to have all 3 forms of scanning options on there, so maybe they were phasing out the swipe machines, so therefore the strip isn’t needed? Just guessing here.

    As for the health card, mine is pretty much garbage, but it still works and I won’t get rid of it either!

    • September 23, 2011 at 12:28 am

      OHIP card win Sean! Except I heard they’re gonna be forcing us soon to change 😦
      As for the stripe I think you’re right that sounds reasonable. Maybe the manufacturer of the swipe machines they were using stopped supporting them. That tech is pretty old!

  2. September 23, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I recently applied for the Ontario Photo Card (an ID card designed for people who don’t drive, but need to have a legal form of ID) and if you don’t know what that card is – it’s looks purple and has a clipped-off corner at the top right – to aid people who are blind and/or have low vision.

    That card too – don’t have a magnetic stripe either.

    • September 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

      Very cool! Is this Ontario Photo Card a newly introduced card as well? Or is it just an updated version of a card that already existed? I have never seen one before.

      • September 24, 2011 at 12:07 am

        Well, It’s a newly introduced card for people who don’t drive (or for those who are not planning to drive/decided to finish driving), but need to have ID.

        Many groups (mainly the CNIB and some seniors advocates groups) were lobbying for the province’s actions to introduce a card for people who don’t drive. I was among those who had lobbied for that card.

  3. Jessica
    September 27, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    love my red and white OHIP card !

    • September 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      Ditto! But my friend Allegra hates us for loving our Red OHIP cards haha.

  4. Marc
    October 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I think the “20” barcode is likely a typo. I believe they’re trying to say “2D” barcode.

    For reference: the 1D barcode is your Drivers Licence Number. The 2D barcode includes all the information that is printed on your card (Name, address, DOB, etc.)

  5. Emmanuel Perron
    May 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I realized that too the other day when I was comparing my G1 driver’s license with my dad’s license. My dad’s has the magnetic stripe and mine doesn’t. Today I got my G2 license by the mail and I now have a purple trillium flower on it. I’m guessing in a new thing.

    • May 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      Indeed it is Emmanuel!

    • Nick
      May 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      I also just got my G2 in the mail yesterday with the new purple trillium flower on it.

  6. thusithurai
    May 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Do all the new ones have the purple trillium on it ? or is it for organ donors ?

    • May 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      I have no idea but I’d imagine they all look the same.

    • Amy Ayers
      July 10, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      im not an organ donor (not eligible for medical reasons) and my new licence that i got in the mail has it too.. it must be another new thing..

    • JM
      December 1, 2012 at 11:53 am

      The new one acts as a travel document between Canada and the United States of America when traveling by road or water. I have a feeling it’s got something to do with crossing the border. You’ve been flagged?

  7. Jessica P
    June 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I also have a purple trillium on my new card. Not sure if for organ donors as I don’t think I ever filled out a consent form, although I’m considering it now.

    • June 26, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Thank you for weighing in on this Jessica!

  8. Peter Hope-Tindall
    September 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Dan, the upper (1 dimensional) barcode contains the DL number. The PDF417 (the lower 2 dimensional barcode) contains pretty much everything that is printed on the licence – name, address, class, expiry, other numbers, etc.)


    • September 19, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks so much for clearing that up and weighing in on this Peter. Most appreciated!

  9. April 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I was searching for info on my latest drivers license/OHIP cards and found this, and even though my complaint isn’t truly connected, I think I’ll leave my thoughts on the latest ‘update’ of the cards (2013)…that are new to me anyway!
    I recently went to get both cards updated and had to get a new photo…something I dread because I have to look at it for five+years! The last one on my DL was fairly flattering, and my last OHIP card was awesome! 🙂 In fact the lady that took it said it was the best photo she’d seen in a long time, and I could “smile” on it which of course helps!
    Now I’m not vain, well maybe a little as this bothers me, but I usually am photogenic in normal circumstances…but this thing the government has with taking ‘prison like’ photo’s of people needs to go! Passport photo’s is another example! My last one looked like I should have a number under my face honestly! You can’t have a glimmer of a smile, flat look, make sure your eyes are glazed, head in an unnatural position…then “snap” here’s your weird, totally unlike you, new ID that you have to shake your head at for the next 5 years or so!

    Five years ago I was 54, and a pretty young looking 54 at that (if I do say so myself)…but in those five years since, apparently I’ve aged drastically! I have gained a bit of weight, some of which showed on my face, but YUK! you should see the new photo, it’s disturbing! But I digress….the real reason I was looking for info, was that on the DL photo card it looks like it’s black and white, and the OHIP card is color?? The DL photo almost looks like a PNG photo, with the grey and white checkerboard showing behind…like it was unintentional? All I was told that day, was that they were going to use the same photo for each card.

    Can anyone out there confirm their photo’s on DL are black and white? I almost feel like taking it back to see if they screwed up! Except I don’t want to wait in that horrific line! I tried phoning but it’s busy all the time.
    The color one isn’t that much better mind you, but the b/w version is disgusting. I usually ask to see the photo, or the taker offers to turn the screen around to show me…but maybe she knew I would hate it, and so didn’t offer! It was very busy in there that day as they’d apparently stopped doing the photo’s at another location…so it was jam-packed! I should add that on each card there’s a smaller version of the other’s photo…to make it doubly annoying! 😦

    The new “don’t smile at all” thing is strange, I mean okay, I can see a huge grin changing your looks, but allowing a small smile surely wouldn’t make a big difference to the total look of your face..would it? Don’t terrorists smile? (that’s for the passport people) they probably don’t…I thought the whole idea for an ID photo was for an official of some description to be able to recognize and confirm your identity through it? If it looks like you’ve been taken over by zombies, how on earth can that help? AND the other thing I thought weird, was they made me take off my glasses! I mean I always wear them, this is my normal look, so they want me unsmiling and no glasses and think this will look MORE like me?? Anyhow, that’s my rant for today…sorry to be so long winded, but thanks for allowing me a place to vent! 🙂

  10. PHT
    April 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    The photo that prints on the current Ontario DL card is Black and White. A colour photo is captured – but this prints in black and white on the card. The requirement for a neutral expression (i.e. not smiling) is common to identification systems (such as passport, etc) that are using automated photo comparison/facial recognition.


  11. Tyler
    July 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Tell this to the smoke vendors in my town. They’re to stupid to look at the date, so the insist on swiping it. I got this new license without the strip and now I can’t buy tobacco.

    • Prowler
      July 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      Maybe if you didn’t look like such a baby! lol

  12. Jessica
    September 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

    What does the purple flower mean?

    • September 7, 2013 at 10:19 am

      It’s a trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower.

    July 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Does your old-style no-photo red-and-white OHIP card have the
    Organ/Tissue Donor sticker on it, or are you evading this too ?
    The green OHIP photo card – which presents no problems beyond
    a bit of time every 3 years – has the advantage of encoding the card
    holders wishes re any future interest in his/her reusable body parts
    when terminal.
    Anyone begrudging the time could use it thoughtfully,adding up the
    cost of their own tax-covered health care or that of a family member.

  14. Linda
    December 29, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    My new DL arrived in the mail, and the photo looks nothing like me….even without my glasses. Since they don’t show you the result of the photo at the time it was taken, and the photo is suppose to represent you….should I go back and demand a “reshoot”?
    My sense….their screw up!!!

    • hopetindall
      December 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      @Linda, is this a picture of someone else on your licence? – or is it just a bad picture of you? (they always take pictures without glasses).

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