In the wake of identity theft trials and modern-day hackers, RFID technology is in the heart of the debate. To know what is an RFID-blocking wallet and how important it is to keep your identity and money safe, we will need to dig in this technology a bit deeper.
First, let’s acknowledge how common RFID technology is today. Did you know that it is present in almost every item we use regularly?
You may be paying tolls with it. Your company may be using it to control employees access. Warehouses use it to track items. You may be paying your groceries at Target using RFID credit cards. Even your passport probably has this technology. RFID is everywhere.
This technology has been developed to make transactions, tracking, and identification easier, but it also has one major downfall: identity theft risks. These risks are where RFID-blocking wallets come in handy.
Before we answer the question: “What is an RFID-blocking wallet, and how can it keep me safe from identity theft when traveling?”, let’s see what the RFID technology is all about first.
What Are RFID Tags?
The term RFID stands for “Radio-Frequency Identification.” RFID tags are a type of tracking system that allows us to identify items through smart barcodes. These tags (or labels) contain electronically stored information that can be exchanged with an RFID reader through radio waves.
RFID was initially used for inventory stocking. Have you ever noticed a small square tag inside the clothes you’re buying with something resembling a mini electric circuit? Bingo, that’s an RFID tag! This technology offered so many opportunities that it moved to other areas of use as well: authentication, passports, identification cards, credit, and debit cards.Read RFID Wallet Reviews
Because it is so good and easy to use, what is the issue and why should you invest in an RFID-blocking wallet for your next trip? We’ll help you understand why in this article.
3.) Protect You From Identity Theft
Your anti-theft travel purse will protect your physical theft, but how about identity theft?
RFID identity theft, also known as wireless identity theft, is when someone uses wireless radio frequency signals to steal your information.
One of the most important things you need to remember is that the RFID tag (also called chip and label) is a transponder that someone could read from a distance. When the tag comes in contact with radio waves, they respond with a slightly different signal that can contain critical information. This data may include the card holder’s name, Social Security Number, picture, address, phone number, or employee data.
Thieves with an RFID reader can activate those chips and pick up the information it contains. Some hackers have demonstrated how they can “skim” information and data from RFID-enabled credit, debit, or government-issued identification cards at a distance of several feet. That is the last thing you want to deal with during your vacation.
An RFID-blocking wallet can prevent anyone from scanning your data.
2.) Protect Your Credit and Debit Card
RFID-enabled credit and debit cards gained popularity in the last decade. According to the Nilson Report, 35 million contactless chip cards were in circulation in 2011.
Not too long ago, we always needed to swipe our cards to pay for something. The cards used a magnetic stripe on credit and debit cards. RIFD cards made these financial transactions even faster and easier. To complete a financial transaction, these cards can wirelessly transmit personal data using an RFID reader held only a few inches away from it. Who can say no to shorter lines at the cashier and less time packed between shopping carts?
However, many demonstrated how easy it is to intercept these RFID-enabled cards. Videos are available online to show how to hack these cards, making it easy for hackers to use these techniques.
How Can You Know If Your Credit Card Has RFID?
Many credit card providers offer wireless technology, even if it’s not on all their cards. Some of them are American Express, Citi, Wells Fargo, Capital One, and Chase.
To be sure if your card has RFID, look for one of the following:
- The words “Blink,” “PayPass,” or “Paywave” written on it.
- A symbol with four curved lines that look like radio waves visible on the card.
How Can RFID-Blocking Wallets Help Protect Your Credit Card?
The RFID signal from your chip is weak, so it can only send data a short distance, like when you’re paying for goods. On the flip side, a thief can pass a reader directly over your purse and wallet and intercept your card’s data.
RFID-blocking wallets impede the card’s RFID signals and make them harder to read from a distance.
1.) Protect Your Passport
Whether you’re embarking on a summer Europe beach tour or preparing a Philippines island hopping adventure, you will want to keep your passport safe at all times. That includes protecting your data as well.
Since 2007, all U.S. passports issued have an integrated RFID chip. Many other countries have also started switching to RFID tags in passports as well.
This tag contains an electronic version of your passport, including the personal contact information seen on the photo page of the passport. The RFID technology has been put in place in this case as an additional security measure. This tech enables immigration officials to identify you without taking much time. It also allows them to catch any thief using your passport fraudulently. If someone steals your passport and tries to go through customs with it, immigration officials will instantly know that the information in the chip doesn’t match as soon as they scan it.
That’s the best case, though. In the worst cases, someone can pick up the information on your passport and use it for illegal activity.
How Can You Know If Your Passport Has RFID?
If you can see a small logo at the bottom of the cover of your passport that kind of looks like a camera, your passport is RFID enabled.
How Can RFID-Blocking Wallets Help You Protect Your Passport?
Passports have a shielding layer added by the State Department to protect them. However, we shouldn’t skip the opportunity to add an extra layer of protection. Some RFID-blocking wallets are big enough to fit your passport and will keep it safe from third-party interceptions and RFID skimming.
RFID-blocking wallets are a small investment that will help alleviate any worry you may have about RFID identity theft on both your ID cards, debit cards, and passport.
How to Choose the Best RFID-Blocking Wallet
It’s time to invest in the best RFID-blocking wallet for your next vacation.
While these wallets all help block the signals from RFID cards and documents in some way or another, they are not all the same in terms of style, design, and use. Here are some things to consider to choose the best RFID-blocking wallet.
Don’t think of RFID-blocking wallets as ugly accessories. Manufacturers have designed them with fashion needs in mind.
You will find traditional multi-fold wallets, large zip wallets, and single-card wallets. Choose the style that fits your needs. Consider the following features:
- The number of card slots needed
- Types of documents to store (large documents, coins, phone)
- Packing options (back pocket, purse, backpack)
RFID-blocking wallets come in all sizes and materials. Go for leather if you want you don’t want your wallet to stand out — or if you appreciate the feel of it. A cork wallet is a light and sustainable option, especially if you’re looking for a wallet that floats.
You can also opt for a non-steel wallet. The latter fits one card only but offers optimum security. Make sure it will go through customs first, though.
How do you usually use your wallet?
If you are traveling and using public transportation a lot, you might want an RFID-blocking wallet that still has an unshielded outer pocket. This way, you can put your train or metro card in it to easily use it, all while keeping the other documents protected.
If you are traveling to a foreign country and want to keep your passport on you at all times, a large and zipped wallet would be more appropriate.
With all that being said, we are adding the RFID-blocking wallets to our travel accessories for solo travel list. However, complete protection from identity theft will require more.
How to Protect Your Personal Information When Traveling
Don’t Take All Your Cards at Once
Whether you’re traveling for business or travel, you will not need to carry all the cards and documents you own. Take those you will need on your trip and leave the others at home.
If you have multiple cards and take them all, monitor your accounts frequently. Sign up to any email or text alert from your bank notifying you of unusual activity on your account.
Report Any Stolen Cards
If you lose your credit card or suspect fraudulent activity, let your bank or card issuer know of it as soon as it happens. Some card issuers have a $50 fee to pay for lost cards, but they are willing to waive it if you notify them soon.
Protect Your Card in Foreign Shops
Swipe your card in trusted establishments only when you’re abroad. For transactions in small shops, pay with cash instead. Some cases of credit card data theft and duplication have been recorded over the years, so it is better to be safe than sorry.
Protect Your Data Online
Now that you know what an RFID-blocking wallet is and what to expect from it, head to our next article to discover our top 5 picks! Happy (and safe) travel!