So, you’ve finally decided that you should have a wallet that shields RFID to protect all of your credit and debit cards from identity theft. You’ve made a wise choice! But which one? There are literally hundreds of them out there to choose from. I can’t tell you which one is right for you, but I can help you decide by listing some of the features that you should look for and some things to look out for!
Let’s start with the basics.
Does it work well as a wallet?
I know this question might seem overly obvious, but it’s something you really need to question. Many people get caught up in some of the gimmicks or marketing hype and forget this simple premise. An RFID-shielded wallet must first and foremost be a good wallet! Let’s take a look at that first...
Material and Workmanship
A wallet is going to be used every day and will be rubbed inside of a pocket or jostled around with other items inside of a purse. It needs to be constructed out of sturdy material with quality workmanship. We’ve tested hundreds of wallets and the difference in workmanship and material quality is surprising. They all look good in pictures, but you need to read the descriptions, especially any section on specifications.
For example, one popular all-metal money clip that we tested looked really good online. It even looked good when we opened the box, but after only two weeks we could see that the metal was painted, and the paint was rubbing away.
Within four weeks, what started as a black wallet turned into a shiny steel one. Contrasting that, another wallet was anodized, i.e. the color was chemically bonded to the metal. After months of use it still looked like it did the day it was unboxed.
Cash Carrying ability
Some people carry more cash than credit cards, and others have more cards than cash. Whichever one you are, there will almost always be times that you will carry some cash, so the wallet you choose needs to be able to securely carry that cash in a way that it doesn’t slip out of the wallet but conversely carries it in a way that it is easy to get to when you want to.
Bifold and trifold wallets
Magnetic clasp in wallets
Card Carrying Capacity
Whether you carry just a driver’s license and a picture or you carry multiple credit cards, every wallet must have some card-carrying capacity. The bifold and trifold wallets overlap the cards so that you can see each one when you open the wallet. This makes it convenient to see, but also adds a great deal of bulk to the wallet. If you only carry a few cards, this isn’t bad, but if you carry 6-8 or more, this kind of wallet may not be your best bet.
Conversely, minimalist wallets stack the cards on top of each other. This makes the wallet smaller and lighter, but getting to one particular card in the middle of the stack might not be as convenient.
Special Features of RFID wallets
I’m going to recommend that you be skeptical and wary of anything that is considered a “special feature” of a wallet. Sellers are looking for differentiators that make their wallet “different”, and they concentrate their sales and marketing on how “different” their product is, but “different” doesn’t mean “better.”
One wallet advertises a special button that you press and then all of your credit cards pop up for easy retrieval. That’s a nice feature…until the spring breaks and the cards don’t pop up anymore, or the wallet gets a little worn and a little looser and when you press the button the cards pop all the way out and all over the floor.
Another wallet we saw was just an old magic trick wallet that presented different cash and cards depending on which way you opened it. Again, it looks good in the ads, but in reality, it never stays completely closed unless you are holding it tightly in your hand…like a magician would.
Does it have RFID Shielding?
Once you’ve determined the basic kind of wallet you want to use (bifold, trifold, money clip, magnetic clip, money strap minimalist, etc.) you will need to determine if it is RFID blocking or not. The easiest are metal wallets. Radio waves don’t travel through metal, so every metal wallet is made by its very design RFID shielded.
Some companies offer wallets that look like they should be RFID shielded but they are made out of polymer or carbon fiber which is does not block RFID. This doesn’t mean that all polymer, aluminum or carbon fiber wallets aren’t RFID shielded. Some of these use a carbon fiber exterior bonded to a metal interior. Again, it is important that you read the description to understand what you are really getting.
Real and Fake Leather Wallets
Leather and fake leather (also called Polyurethane leather, PU Leather, vegan leather, or pleather) can be more difficult to analyze. Since leather, real or fake, doesn’t block radio frequency waves, the RFID wallet needs to be manufactured with a special RFID shielding cloth sandwiched between the leather exterior and the nylon interior lining of the wallet. It's impossible for you to know if that shielding security cloth is there or not without testing, or without cutting into the wallet to see if it's there.
I will comment that in all of our testing we have never found a product that was advertised as being RFID shielding that did not have the shielding inside…and we cut them open to find out! Of course, you can always test for yourself. Once you purchase a wallet you can download an app onto your cell phone that will read the information on your credit card.
You can place your credit card inside front pocket of your new wallet and then try and read the information from it with your phone. This is a good way to confirm for yourself that the RFID shielding protection technology actually works.
How much does it cost and who is selling it?
Hundreds of sellers have jumped onto the RFID-shielded wallet bandwagon. It’s difficult to figure out who is a reputable seller and who is not. To make it worse, Amazon's reviews won't help you either. Be very skeptical of products with thousands or tens of thousands of reviews.
You will find out that many of those reviews aren't even for the wallet that they're advertising. They are for another product entirely that the unscrupulous seller repurposed for their wallet to make it look like their wallet had more reviews than it does. One product we investigated had thousands of reviews. On closer inspection, we found that most wallets the reviews were all written in Portuguese, and when we translated the Portuguese, we found that all of the reviews were for a book, not the wallet!
RFID wallets price range
RFID wallets range in price from under $10 to well over $100. It will probably not be surprising to you that the less expensive wallets are not very good quality, and the most expensive ones are not better quality, they just have more marketing. The best wallets with great price and the best quality are somewhere in the middle.
When you're shopping for a wallet, take a quick look at the company that is selling it. If the company also sells different kinds of wallets and other similar products, it's probably a reputable company. If the seller is offering this one product or a wide range of dissimilar products, then it is probably just a marketing front on Amazon, and you should beware.
How can you tell the difference? One way is to go to the company’s home website. If they have their own store, separate from Amazon, Walmart, Google, Etsy, or other marketplaces, chances are they are a more professional store.
You have lots of choices when it comes to purchasing a new RFID-shielded wallet. If you spend just a little bit of time looking at different products and researching how they are made and who is selling them, you can get a very nice, high-quality wallet from a company with good support that will last you for many, many years. Of course, if you don’t want to spend the time, you can also buy a really inexpensive wallet and replace it every year. Personally, I opt for the former.
P.S. I’ve written a lot about products. If you are reading this blog, you probably already know that I am a co-founder of the IronClad Family and we sell RFID-shielded wallets. I’ve personally bought many of my competitor’s wallets and tried each of them for months, and cut some open with a razor or a disc grinder to see what there is inside.
Based on that, we offer wallets that we know are good, high-quality that shield the credit cards, and we stand behind what we sell.
I’m frequently asked what I use for a wallet. What I use works for me, and I love it, but I encourage everyone to evaluate their own needs and desires. With that said, I’m more of a function-over-feature, minimalist kind of person. I carry more cards than I do cash, so I carry a matte metal wallet with a money strap. I’ve accidentally dropped it multiple times on concrete, in the water, and in the sand. I’ve left it on the console of a boat for days in salt spray and sunlight. And after all that abuse, it still looks great whether I'm at the beach or at a formal event wearing a suit or a tuxedo.
My most used credit card, is the first in credit card slots and my driver’s license is the last card. I can pull either without looking. I know that my second most used credit card slots comes second from the front and my Emergency Information Card is next after my driver’s license. By pushing the cards up using the finger groove the bottom and then squeezing, the cards all fan out so I can choose the one I want. It works for me, but everyone's personal style is different. Find one that you like, because it is the one accessory that you will carry with you every day for the rest of your life.