RFID Blocking Wallets: Too Good to be True?

STORY BY Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk

Published: May 11, 2013

To put it bluntly, yes.

Many brands of RFID (radio-frequency identification) blocking wallets and purses promise consumer protection without quantifying exactly what their product “covers…” And for good reason.

Unlike a birth control that can boast 98 percent effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, RFID blocking devices can’t say much of anything. So they don’t.

This older Consumer Reports article explains that in June, 2011, no truly effective RFID blocking commercial products could be bought on the market. Although these products could make it more difficult for an electronic reader to read a credit card’s data, they could not entirely block the data transmission.

Wallets used in the experiment were made from “stainless-steel material,” lead, copper, iron, and aluminum.

Two years later, these are the same materials that companies use to construct their RFID shields, which can mean only one thing: The outrageously overpriced aluminum wallet you just bought off of Amazon may be no better than a strip of duct tape.

“Our reporter offered her own homemade shield constructed of duct tape and lined with aluminum foil,” Consumer Reports writes in its article. “It provided better protection than eight of the 10 commercial products, including a stainless-steel ‘RFID blocking’ wallet selling online for about $60.”

Yikes. You now have my permission to stop reading this article and frantically sort through your old pile of online shopping receipts.

If you do continue reading, however, you will at least find some solace in the fact that there is one free and easy way to protect yourself from RFID fraud: Place your credit cards backwards in your wallet slots so that the RFID tag is facing inwards and not outwards. It’s that simple.

If you want a 100 percent effective method for avoiding RFID theft, you can also resort to this no-brainer: Contact your credit card company and ask for a copy of your credit card that does not have the special chip. (Warning: This may involve extra fees.)

So if you’re looking to keep your money in your non-aluminum wallet like me, simply outsmart the electronic reader by putting your credit and debit cards in backwards. Then, if you have some extra time, grab a hammer, go to youtube and search “how to disable RFID chip.”

I promise you’ll have fun.


Other Stories by Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk
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