Did you know that you can become the victim of stolen credit cards and identity theft even if no cards were taken from your wallet? Some thieves use radio frequency identification (RFID) to access your credit cards unbeknownst to you, which is why you need an RFID-blocking wallet.
RFID-blocking wallets are lined with a special layer of RFID-blocking material, which significantly minimizes your information exposure. These wallets were originally travel essentials, but given today's threats to information security, modern problems require modern solutions. Some security experts say consumers worldwide are adopting them for regular use.
To protect your credit card and personal information from ending up in the wrong hands, take a look at our buying guide on RFID-blocking wallets. We've included our top pick, the Stealth Mode Trifold RFID-Blocking Leather Wallet, which is ideal for everyday use since it accommodates a dozen cards and a decent stack of bills.
Considerations when choosing RFID-blocking wallets
Credit cards that use chips, also known as RFID tags, transmit data electronically for payments. Thieves capitalize on this vulnerability by using two types of card-skimming devices.
These devices are installed into point-of-sale (POS) machines like ATMs or gas pump card readers. As you can imagine, RFID-blocking wallets won't protect against them since credit cards are exposed once placed in the device.
: With this method, thieves carry devices or utilize apps to capture data. They're able to obtain information from the RFID tag if you're within range, so you don't even need to remove credit cards from your wallet to become a victim.
RFID-blocking wallets tackle the latter method since contactless skimming can happen in virtually any public space. Their materials form a barrier and interrupt the signal, making it harder to access your data. To thieves, time is money, so they often move on once they encounter an obstacle like RFID-blocking wallets.
Damage control after RFID theft
You'll need to call all your credit card companies, banks, and even companies with which you have memberships, to flag your account for out-of-character activity. In the event purchases are made, you'll need to go through a detailed process to dispute charges. Unfortunately, it's virtually impossible to find the thief and hold them accountable, so RFID-blocking wallets are an important line of defense.
RFID-blocking wallets typically have linings made of metals like aluminum, copper, and nickel to block out radio waves. These linings are thin yet effective, so they don't add much bulk to wallets and, if anything, you barely notice they're present. Some wallets are made entirely of these metals to disrupt RFID signals. Not all metal wallets are RFID blocking, so you'll need to check product descriptions carefully.
RFID-blocking wallet styles
Bifold and trifold wallets
The most common styles of RFID-blocking wallets are bifold and trifold. These traditional styles are practical and look like normal wallets. They're popular choices if you intend to use an RFID-blocking wallet daily, as there's plenty of space for cards and bills.
Cardholder wallets have a minimalist design and only house a few cards at a time. Given their small footprint, they're ideal if you prefer to carry only the bare essentials. They don't hold bills, so you may need to invest in a money clip as well.
Checkbook wallets are the largest styles available, and house checkbooks, bills, cards, receipts, and sometimes passports. Since they're much larger than other wallet styles, you'll have to make room in your bag and get used to carrying it in pockets. They're most popular for travel use.
Hybrid wallets combine more than one wallet style. Popular versions integrate money clips into bifold, trifold, and cardholder styles. These designs are unique and for some may be an acquired taste, but loyal consumers swear by their practical designs.
Simple styles of RFID-blocking wallets cost $20 and below. Those with more modern designs and better style or color choices cost up to $75. If you'd like to make a serious investment in quality, style, and protection, expect to spend between $100 and $200.
Q. Do any designer brands make RFID-blocking wallets?
A. While you won't find them often, given the importance of information security, some designer brands are adding them to their product lines. There are, however, plenty of high-end RFID-blocking wallets made of superior quality and fine detail.
Q. Why do some RFID-blocking wallets lack coin compartments?
A. RFID-blocking wallets protect credit cards, so originally there was no reason for coin compartments. Since they've become adopted for regular use, many styles are more practical and now feature compartments for coins and even keys.
Our take: Thin, convenient design with easy access to cards. Discreet enough to hide in clothing and outerwear.
What we like: Finger slot makes it easy to retrieve cards, and available in both men's and women's styles.
What we dislike: Tight card slots, so don't expect to bring more cards than capacity allows.
Sian Babish is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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