To read RFID tags with an Arudino is easy using the RDM630 card reader module (also sold as RDM6300 in a slightly different version). It's available from DealExtrme, including a pack of 10 RFID cards, or keychain fobs. These are all based on 125 kHz cards and reading, using the EM4100 protocol. (That is important, since there are many different frequencies and protocols used under the same umbrella name RFID).

John Boxall at has an excellent beginner's tutorial on using the module. Hooking up the module is easy, needing only +5V and ground, plus a single pin (lower left on the RDM6300) to a digital pin on the Arduino. He opts for using SoftwareSerial so he can define the incoming RX data pin to something else than the standard pin 0. That way, it does not interfere with the serial transfer while uploading new sketches.

Reading from the module then boils down to reading from the SoftwareSerial class. In essence, it looks some like this, when surrounding boilerplate is removed:

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>
SoftwareSerial RFID(2, 3); // RX, TX

// setup

// loop
if (RFID.available() > 0) {
  int byte =;

He goes on to implement some convenience methods which parse the incoming numbers and compare them to a whitelist of accepted cards.

The only missing feature I had wished for in this reader, is to detect multiple cards at once. As far as I understand, that is not possible, and only more expensive readers (or possibly other protocols) can do so.