Holes in your LEAP card

Two of my four kids are old enough to have to pay for the LUAS tram system in Dublin which uses LEAP cards for payment. When we arrived in Dublin we purchased a LEAP card for everyone who needed one. In an attempt to avoid misplacing the kids cards I wanted to punch holes in their cards and attach them to lanyards. I knew the LEAP cards used RFID / NFC for tap on and tap off billing at the LUAS stations, but I was not sure how the card was laid out on the inside.

Now that I know what they look like on the inside the wires are right there above the chip

Searching the internets for LEAP / LUAS card design, internal layout, chip desgin, ETC didn’t help much. To try to see the inside of the card I shined a high intensity LED cell phone light through the card in a darkened space. It was clear in the light where the chip was located. I figured punch holes away from the chip was all I needed to do; WRONG

Turns out there is an antenna ring all the way around the edge of the card. Where I placed the hole cut the antenna in half breaking the card; Opps those cards are useless now. Sure hope we can transfer the money from the broken cards onto the kids new cards. Knowing there are wires in the card, I need the ability look inside of the card better. My first idea was to melt the cards, but the lab with all of the heating tools is back in the states.


Instead of melting the cards with fire, or in the oven, I elected to melt them with chemicals. Not knowing where to pick up straight acetone we went to Tescos in Dundrum  picked up some nail polish remover and a flat Pyrex container. When we made it home from that shopping adventure Maddex and I filled the pyrex bowl with nail polish remover, dropped in one of the busted cards and let it sit over night. The card did not completely melt. it peeled into three layers leaving us with two mostly dissolved  outer layers, and a vinyl feeling middle layer with the chip and antenna visible.

From the looks if it I was close to being in the clear with my hole – not close enough.

I’m going to melt our last broken LEAP card and compare the measurements before figuring out where to punch the next hole. It looks like I can use the corners, or I need to be about 12mm in from the middle of the short side. The middle looks stronger to me then the corner. Now that I know what the card looks like on the inside I used a wider angle light under the new cards, then marked out the wire where the hole was going to go.

wire clearly visible with a wider light 

Couldn’t find a hole punch deep enough to miss the wires, and I don’t have a drill here. The hole doesn’t need to be perfect, I guess. Used a utility knife to cut a square hole in each of the kids cards. Then it was off the LUAS stop to test. Test results came back positive the cards still work and they are now attached to the kids a bit harder to misplace. Mission accomplished.

Finished working leap card with a hole in it
Back side of the finished working LEAP card

More pictures from the process

The goal is something like this – Sadly this one did not work
LEAP card taking a bath in nail polish / acetone
Nothing special, Tesco brand nail polish. First ingredient is acetone
Closeup of the short side of the card away from the chip
Short side of the card towards the RFID chip

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