RFID wallets: how they work and are they necessary

Anton P. | May 31, 2023

RFID-blocking wallets or bags stop criminals from secretly scanning credit cards, passports, or other objects with RFID chips. RFID tech is for convenience, like tracking pets or initiating contactless payments. 

However, while RFID offers seamless experiences, users fear that someone might secretly scan their information. Thus, the market is full of RFID-blocking wallets, bags, and cards. Such items should block RFID scanners. But are they truly worth your money? 

RFID wallets protect against accidental scans.

What is RFID, and what is it used for? 

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a wireless system facilitating data exchange between readers and scanners. 

For instance, a work ID in a card holder can contain an RFID chip to recognize you and open office doors. So, RFID chips have certain information that gets transmitted via radio waves. 

You can also check if credit cards or other items have RFID chips. They can feature the official RFID symbol. 

Do passports have RFID chips? 

All passports issued after 2007 in the United States have RFID chips. It contains your biometric information, like facial recognition scans and fingerprints. It also includes other personal data like your name, date of birth, and place of birth. 

So, you might consider getting an RFID wallet with an ID window. Then, your passport will also be safe from accidental scans. 

Do RFID wallets work? 

Quality RFID wallets should work to block attempts to scan RFID chips. However, it is essential to note the material of wallets or bags. 

  • RFID-blocking wallets typically have thin yet durable fabrics. They will likely feature aluminum, alloy nickel, or copper. 
  • Leather wallets or bags also absorb RFID signals, protecting your cards. 

These materials stop radio waves from reaching the credit card or work ID in a wallet or bag. So, while RFID wallets work, please choose a high-quality product with the necessary protections. For instance, both genuine leather and grain leather should block RFID signals. 

Do you need an RFID wallet or bag? 

An RFID-blocking wallet or bag can give you peace of mind against stealthy attempts to scan your card. Furthermore, it protects you against accidental tap-and-pay transactions. 

  • Critics also mention that criminals would need to get relatively close to their victims. 
  • However, various high-traffic locations could become hunting grounds. For instance, public transportation is one of the locations to be wary of your belongings. 
  • So, while attempts to scan RFID chips could be rare, they are not impossible. Sometimes, it is better to prepare in advance, even for an unlikely danger. 
  • Furthermore, there are many stylish and compact RFID-blocking wallets. Thus, you can get a fashionable wallet while also getting protection from attackers. 

Has RFID credit card fraud or theft happened? 

We could not find real-life situations when criminals managed to scan RFID chips to get banking or personal information. However, experiments have proved such scanning to be possible. 

For instance, Flipper Zero is one of the ways to read Near Field Communication (NFC). However, a ZDNET test showed that the RFID blocker card did help to block its scans. Instead of an RFID wallet, you can place a card protector in one of the card slots. 

Do bi-fold and slim wallets have RFID blocking? 

Not all bi-fold, money clips, or slim wallets have RFID blocking. Also, many reviewers did not consider the lack of RFID blocking as a disadvantage. So, when getting slim wallets for women or men, take RFID protection as a bonus, not a main factor. 

How is NFC different from RFID? 

NFC is a subset of RFID, and its primary purpose is to facilitate communications between two devices. For instance, Google Pay and Apple Pay use NFC, while credit cards have RFID chips. Thus, the technologies have distinct purposes. 

Also, NFC works at a shorter range, while RFID can work up to 100m. However, NFC typically works within a few centimeters of two devices. 

Can RFID-blocking wallets harm cards? 

RFID wallets or bags do not harm or ruin cards. However, you should keep each card in a separate slot. Also, do not keep your wallet near magnetic fields other magnets or electronics give off. 

When you might consider getting an RFID wallet 

RFID-blocking wallets or bags are not a necessity but a decent addition to your security. The chances of someone trying to scan your card secretly are slim. However, as criminals become more cunning, new tactics can emerge anytime. 

Here are some scenarios when you might consider purchasing an RFID wallet: 

  • You plan to buy a new wallet anyway. Adding more protection to your wallet can never hurt.
  • Protect against accidental transactions when holding your wallet near the reader. 
  • You travel a lot, both locally and internationally. Pick a secure travel wallet that should be difficult to steal. If it has RFID-blocking features, only better. 
  • You tend to be cautious about your personal information. Security is in your DNA, and you wish to be protected in every scenario. 

Other protections for your credit cards and personal data

Besides RFID wallets, multiple items can protect your belongings. For instance, AirTags can help keep track of important objects. Anti-theft backpacks should stop criminals from accessing their contents. 

Smart wallets are also an option. They include trackers helping you find your wallet in case you lose it. Furthermore, most of them have RFID protection included. 

Lastly, losing your wallet or credit card is an unfortunate scenario. However, hackers are also after your finances online. Many scams imitate PayPal and Mastercard or trick you into sending transfers of money without buyer protection

Our research shows that in H1 2022, Americans lost $3.56 billion to online fraud. Thus, while protecting your cards physically helps, ensure that you stay alert on the internet. 

That is why we highly recommend trying Atlas VPN. It protects you against unsafe connections, like when you check your bank account via public Wi-Fi. 

Furthermore, Atlas VPN can block potentially dangerous websites before you access them. Thus, if hackers try to redirect you to a phishing site, Atlas VPN might block it.

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Anton P.

Anton P.

Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.



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