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My bank has me use a credit-card-sized smart card and a USB card reader to authenticate for online transactions. I want to optimize for size when I travel light.

I see that there are small SIM card readers, designed to read data from a cell phone SIM card (for backing up your phone book and SMS data). Since these use the same technology of smart cards (do they?) I was wondering if I could buy a small SIM card reader and cut my bank card to the correct size.

Basically, the question is: are all of these USB-based smart card readers interchangeable? Is there a SIM card reader that you could recommend?

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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Smartcard communication protocols follow well-established standards (connector size and location, voltages, signals, logical transport protocol...) so chances are that card readers are indeed interchangeable. If the bank sent you both the card and the reader then there is a slight probability that they did something fancy which compromises interoperability, but I deem this probability quite low.

(Personal experience with people in the smartcard industry has taught me that these standards are considered by them as part of some kind of revealed religion; they will not trespass without a powerful reason.)

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What you should look for is CCID (this is a USB standard for smart card readers). While the card<->reader interface is standard, the way the reader talks to the host PC has long been a wild west. Unfortunately you can still buy hardware that has either fancy SoC connections (IIRC some laptop embedded Ricoch and/or Broadcom devices where such?).

Some manufacturers tweak/break CCID as well, so your best bet is this list:

http://pcsclite.alioth.debian.org/ccid/section.html

Avoid everything in the red list.

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