What Are RFID-Blocking Wallets & Which Should You Buy?

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If you knew that someone could read your credit cards, passport, and even driver’s license without actually having to swipe them or look at them, would you take steps to guard against it? I know I would. Unfortunately, RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) technology used to track sensitive data in many of today’s portable identifiers (e.g. cards) can be easily scanned without you ever knowing.

It’s a scary thought to entertain and if it bothers you, keep reading to find out what you can do about it.

Why Use An RFID-Blocking Wallet?

As it stands right now, most credit cards and debit cards issued within the past decade have RFID technology embedded in them. All US passports issued in 2006 and later have RFID chips that track your data and photo. RFID chips are a convenient way to store and read data – instead of having to swipe your card through a reader, you can simply wave your card in front of an RFID scanner without even taking it out of your wallet. It’s convenience at its best.

Unfortunately, the danger is that someone could build a counterfeit reader – which wouldn’t be too difficult for anyone who has experience in that field – and pick up your RFID information against your will. It’s similar to one of the risks in an NFC device, which requires a close-up “bump” to trigger a transaction. Counterfeit card readers existed before RFID, but they require you to physically swipe your card through a slot; counterfeit RFID readers can pull or delete data without so much as you walking by.

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Angela listed some tips on how to stay safe against hacked RFID chips, and she mentioned RFID-blocking sleeves, pouches, and wallets. A proper RFID blocker will utilize something called a “Faraday cage” and the specification you want to look for is “electromagnetically opaque”. These RFID blockers will prevent illegitimate reading of your RFID-embedded objects.

Not all RFID-blocking wallets are made equal; some are more effective than others. In addition, even the most effective RFID-blocking wallets can fail, whether due to wear and tear or user error. These products will help keep you safe, but they are no replacement for safe habits and exercising caution.

The Most Affordable

rfid-wallet-altoids

As Guy mentioned in his post on blocking RFID chips, an Altoids can is actually somewhat effective as a Faraday cage. Lifehacker expanded on the idea, claiming that an Altoids can was successful in blocking the scanning of an RFID-embedded security badge. The length of time didn’t matter; it didn’t scan. But once the can was opened, the scan worked from inches away.

rfid-wallet-difrwear

For those looking for an actual wallet, you’ll need to be careful when balancing price and effectiveness. There are lots of cheap wallets that claim to block RFID but don’t. The cheapest one I found that still works is the DIFRwear RFID Blocking Flip Side Wallet in black leather for about $23. At that price, it won’t be the highest quality or the most stylish, but it’ll get you by.

The Most Utilitarian

rfid-wallet-flipside-strata

When it comes to utilitarian design, I don’t think there’s any more utility-based than the Flipside Strata Wallet, which will set you back about $30. The reason I say that is because the entire wallet is built out of high-strength polymer, not the usual leather and nylon that you might expect from a modern wallet. The hard-case design does protect your cards, though, from both RFID scanners and physical damage.

rfid-wallet-identitystronghold

Other utilitarian wallets include the Flipside 2X Wallet for $40 (which Jackson reviewed in 2011) and the Identity Stronghold Secure Wallet for $35. The former is the larger and higher quality version of the Strata Wallet, while the latter is a simple bi-fold with space for bills and ten cards.

One downside is that these utilitarian wallets can sometimes be a bit too bulky depending on the situation. However, for protection, they are better than average.

The Most Stylish

Now, obviously the definition of “stylish” will differ from person to person. You may like nylon while another finds it horribly outdated, while someone else might prefer crocodile leather which you might think is too loud. With that said, spiffy-looking RFID-blocking wallets can be hard to find in general, so here’s what I could dig up for you.

rfid-wallet-accessdenied

The Bi-Fold Leather Wallet by Access Denied for $42 is one that fits the sleeker side of the stylish spectrum. It’s the only wallet I’ve found that has a pleasant saddle tan color while actually being effective at blocking RFID signals. However, if that isn’t your preferred color, it also comes in black, dark chocolate brown, and brown/tan.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWwqV2VNrI8

If you want something on the truly minimalistic side of design, the HuMn Wallet Mini and the HuMn Wallet 2 will be right up your alley. They’re customizable, versatile, easy to assemble, and particularly effective at blocking RFID. They’re a bit expensive though, starting at $76 and going over $100 depending on your customization options.

rfid-wallet-kenakai-croc

The $80 DataSafe Bi-Fold Croc Leather Wallet by Kena Kai is a potential choice for those who want to make a statement. A big, loud statement at that. According to their product information, Kena Kai’s DataSafe technology meets the new FIPS-201 security standards and comes with 7 layers of RFID shielding material. The crocodile leather is just icing on the cake.

Bottom Line

RFID-blocking wallets will increase the security of your RFID-embedded cards, but they aren’t foolproof solutions. The best way to stay protected against rogue RFID scanners is to minimize your reliance on RFID-enabled tools; abstinence really is the only guaranteed protection. But if you can’t find a way around it, then you can safeguard your cards with the wallets listed above.

Do you use an RFID-blocking wallet? If so, which one? If not, why not? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

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38 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

serhat sine

I’m using : SecrID

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Joe Guy

I’ve been using the SilentPocket Bi-Fold Wallet. They also have RFID blocking cell phone cases that I’ve started using since my phone stores all my credit cards, and with an NFC chip, I use it the same way I use an RFID credit card.

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Kevin

Can you outline the method used to determine which wallets “worked” as advertised?

Joel L

I went with general user review consensus. If there were no reviews or if the reviews seems suspicious, I did not include the product in this article.

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Guillermo A

Anyone tested aluma wallet?

kwebster

There is a guy on another site who has tested wallets on his scanner at work. He doesn’t recommend Buxton, but he does recommend Aluma wallet. It is what he uses and he has tested it. Hope that helps.

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Mike Merritt

In Ontario, Canada, the “Ontario Motor League” / CAA (in their retail stores) sell RFID blocking envelopes for a few dollars that you can slip your credit card into – then put it back in your regular wallet. The cardboard like envelope is just the size to slip a credit card into – and is like a sleeve to slip the CC out, use it, and return it to the sleeve in your wallet. Easy – Cheap – Fashionable.

Joel L

Sleeves are a good alternative and arguably more secure, though they are slightly less inconvenient depending on the design of your wallet. If it works for you, great! :)

Melle

Our bank gives them out for free.

Gary

Thanks Mike Merritt.

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jameydee

The Obstructure wallet is almost identical to the HumNT at half the price. I’m quite fond of mine.

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Ed

Would lining the inside of your wallet with aluminum foil work?

Guy M

Yes, it does. Bit of a pain in the backside though.

Guy M

Pelican now makes a hardcase wallet for about $25. Plus it’s got the legendary waterproof and breakproof guarantee that Pelican is famous for. If having a hard case works to block or impede chip scanning, this is a good way to go.

The silver trays from microwaveable dinners can be cut and put in your wallet as well. Those will act similar to tinfoil but be a little more durable.

Benjamin Strand

@ED, Yes it will. See my comment.

Val

Well, you don’t need to go that far, these RFID cards work on extremely low frequencies, even a strip of aluminum foil touching it will reduce the range someone can scan your card to millimeters… Going off of that, if a wallet is simply lined by a metal lining it should be good enough to defeat an RFID scanner until it gets to a ridiculously close range.

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dragonmouth

For the past couple of years I’ve been using Aluma-Wallet as my wallet. You may have seen it advertised on TV. It looks like a small cigarette case. I don’t know for sure if it is RFID-proof but being all metal it is better than leather. I picked one up at a flea market for $5.

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Glenn Herrick

Mike Merritt’s RFID blocking envelopes: That sounds like a grand idea, except that it’s in Canada and I’m in Europe [Italy]. Anyone out there know an international source [probably made in China anyhow]? Thanks.

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Benjamin Strand

My wallet has a zippered pocket that spans the entire length of the wallet when unfolded. I took some tin foil and folded it 3 or 4 times so it was the same width as my wallet and placed the tin foil in the zippered pouch towards the outside wall of my wallet. Now when I close my wallet, it is completely secured because of the thick tinfoil surrounding it does not let anything pass. The wallet cost me about 40 bucks and the DIY Faraday cage was about 2 cents from my kitchen supplies.

Joel L

My issues with DIY aluminum are: 1) it can come loose and 2) it crackles and makes undesirable noises. If it works for you, though, that’s awesome. Definitely a frugal alternative. :)

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Nick

I actually wouldn’t mind modding a Altoids can to a wallet form of sometime or just a basic card holder. I mean it is cheap and works effective besides it is kinda stylish in some ways.

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Anonymous

Flipside Sidekick 3x. I highly recommend it. It’s secure, built well, compact, and has an option to add an additional attachment for more cards.

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kendra kroll

I heard there’s a RFID blocking solution called the Blackout Pocket from Scottevest that will protect credit cards and passports, and can keep your cell phone “off the grid” too. Coming soon to scottevest.com

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Nancy Partin

Hi! I’m looking for a non-leather RFID wallet that will hold both my passport and my credit cards. I’m cross-eyed from reading all of the specs and reviews and nobody seems truly satisfied with anything. I know you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but can you recommend a moderately priced wallet? I have no way to test whether or not something really will block RFID and, thankfully, some of the reviews noted when wallets did not work. But, you seem very knowledgeable so I am hoping you can help me. Thank you!

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joe hall

Obstructures A3 wallet is a great option- super minimal, opens easier than the HUMN and is considerably less expensive.

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Diane R

I hope this does not sound too stupid— protecting your cards, passport, etc. within one’s wallet sounds important; but when it needs to be used & you take it out of the wallet, could someone “zap” you at that time ?

Nathan

Diane, good question. As I understand it, yes, you’re technically quite right, but with RFID wallets being few and far between, they’d just pick their own time and place in order to get someone else’s data instead of dramatically increasing their risk of being caught by getting yours at the time and place of purchase.

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Faizan

Hi,
I make leather wallets in Kolkata, India & sell to Europe & the US. Can you please advise what material can be lined in my wallets to make it RFID scan proof. So that I can sell my customers RFID blocking Wallets? Thanks in advance.

S.

Faizan: some RF shielding fabric such as the ones sold here:
http://www.lessemf.com/fabric.html

PS: I have no connection to this company and haven’t ordered from them either nor do I know which fabric would be best for lining wallets, unfortunately but I’m sure if you google it you’d find more info.

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Sam

Merry Christmas.
I just got a Columbia™ Slimfold Security Wallet
How does Iit rate as a security wallet?

Reese

I also just bought a Columbia Security Wallet with built in RFID shield. But cannot find any info on it or how reliable it is. Have you had any feedback on it? I looked at the same exact wallet without the RFID shield and they look identical. I have Google the wallet by style # and bar code but cannot find the information on it. I would just like to know that it’s going to do what it is supposed to.

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Alan

I use the Sharkk RFID Aluminum Wallet. It is made of aluminum and is very stylish. It has 7 accordion style card slots. I have a friend at an unnamed store who tested my wallet with an RFID scanner. The scanner was unable to pick up the few debit and credit cards I had in my wallet. He was impressed and I was relieved.

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Pierluigi

Hi, I use 15 Mile Hose, 100% handmade with a very good RFID protection, vegetable tanned leather, nice work.

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John Williams

Plenty of very fine copper mesh on ebay – about £3 for an A5 size piece. You can make a Faraday cage lining on any container, wallet, bag, hat or clothing. Just like flexible headphone and USB leads the metal mesh is so fine it bends like cloth. Much better than aluminium foil. Pure copper does go green though, so you should also consider brass or stainless steel meshes.
RFID is passive and hard to test. Try putting your phone – which has fully powered radios – inside your Faraday bag and try calling it, WiFi – ing it or Blutoothing it.
If thhe mesh will stop a powered transmitter signal. RFID has no chance. Also, don’t be too paranoid. RFID skimmers need to be quite up close and personal to work.
Before RFID “chips” there was plain old RFI – Radio Frequency Interference. I’ve been using fine copper mesh for over 30 years to line electric guitar pickup cavities and HiFi record player pre-amps.
Be prepared to explain yourself at security though – all this metal will set off the x-ray scanners and metal detectors – you may be asked to “step this way, sir”, by a guy snapping on some rubber glubs ….

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Jane Smith

Any sources for RFID wallets for women?

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gucci

THE FLISIDE STRATA WALLET IS ACTUALLY $40 BUT I’M STILL GONNA BUY IT

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harrell caines jr

I’ve used a metal business card holder for ten years to hold my cards and license. I wonder if it would prevent this from happening.

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Marc

I do the same – metal business card holder. Been using one for years. It’s just right to hold a credit card, debit card, driving licence and 2 folded notes.

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