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Making your own Passbook store loyalty cards with PassKit

Making your own store loyalty Passbook card with PassKitI'll admit it. I really, really hate store loyalty cards, but I use them. That means that I suffer from George Costanza's wallet more often than I care to say, since I'm always jamming those stupid plastic cards into slots in my wallet. So when I visited my local IKEA store last month and was asked to sign up for an "IKEA Family" loyalty card, I did it -- but I decided to create my own Passbook card to use instead of carrying that hunk of plastic around. To do that, I used the PassKit.com website.

Let's get a few caveats out in the open right away -- this isn't an "official" card, and the bar code on it won't work, forcing the poor IKEA checker to have to type in the number by hand. But I just wanted to see how PassKit's service worked and this happened to be the card I had handy, so it was my test subject.

First, I jumped over to the PassKit website. You can sign up for a free account that lets you have up to 10 passes in circulation at a time, do up to 100 updates per month, and keep those passes up to 14 days.

Next, I used PassKit's online pass designer. They have five different pass types available: transit, coupon, store card, membership and event ticket. This being a store loyalty card, I chose the store card type.

Making your own store loyalty Passbook card with PassKit

Clicking on the store card pass type, my next task was to create a name for the template, determine if I wanted to use a public certificate or upload a private certificate, type in an organization name and pass description, and then determine if I wanted to use an auto-generated serial number or enter my own number. For the last item, I selected "Entered at pass creation" since I just wanted to create a card with my unique number on it.

PassKit's online Pass Designer takes you step by step through the process of creating the card. The next step has you choose colors and images -- I chose to use the same orange that IKEA used for their plastic card, and grabbed a copy of their logo to emblazon on the front. There's a spot for a picture -- or as they call it, a strip image -- so I nabbed a picture from IKEA's website of some living room furniture to adorn that place on the card.

Making your own store loyalty Passbook card with PassKit

Next, you are moved to a page where you enter in content for several different areas. Here, the only thing I really wanted was the card number and a bar code. As I mentioned earlier, the bar code won't work. It looks like our buddies at IKEA use a standard Code 39 bar code (I may be wrong...) but the app generates only PDF417, Aztec and QR codes. No matter -- at least I got the card number on the front of my virtual pass.

You can also add back content -- here, I set the pass up for automatic updates and told it to show up on the lock screen when I am near my local IKEA. I also added a warning on the back to not let the cashier scan the bar code. Under a locations tab in the interactive Pass Designer, you can also choose to have a notification show up when you're near a location, so I have it say "Welcome back to IKEA Centennial" when I'm there.

Finally, I chose English only since I'm the only user of this pass, and to also issue only one copy of the pass. To get rid of the 14-day pass lifetime, I paid a token fee of US$0.99 to PassKit via PayPal. With a click on a pass URL, I was able to install the pass to Passbook where it now resides, awaiting my next visit to IKEA for Swedish meatballs and Dryck Blåbär. Oh, and buying $140 worth of things I didn't know I needed until I showed up at the store.

Hopefully, IKEA and those other stores I still have physical cards for will get on the Passbook bandwagon soon and let me sign up for a virtual pass. In the meantime, PassKit is a fun and easy way to make your own passes and put your wallet on a diet.

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