RFID: To Block, or Not To Block

Think you're safer with an RFID-blocking wallet? Think again.

It's easier than ever to fall victim to identity theft, it seems. Hacking is an ever-advancing art, and it's hard to believe that a thief can electronically gather your information from several feet away. Since it is technically possible, there are foil-lined pouches and lined wallets that block RFID-skimming from individual credit and debit cards.

While wrapping your cards in metal may be effective in blocking fraud, the question is: Are these credit-card "foil hats" truly necessary?

Distil Union says NO to RFID blocking

In short: No. More and more specialists agree that RFID-blocking is essentially modern-day snake oil, preying on fear to sell you something under a false sense of security. After careful research, we agree with Washington's Top News to "spend your cash elsewhere."

Here are the facts.

1. Your card most likely isn't RFID.

That chip on your card? It is not RFID. In fact, it is an EMV chip designed to provide improved protection. If your card doesn't have the words PayPass or PayWave or an icon that looks like a wifi signal, you can completely skip the skimming fear. In the name of simplicity: Why pay more for an added feature you don't need?

Image via this post on How To remove your card's RFID if you do have it and would like to manually opt out.

2. You're already protected.

Absolute worst-case scenario: RFID sends only a one-time code, keeping unencrypted card numbers from transmitting anywhere. This limits any thief to only one potential stolen transaction.

The good news is, most credit card companies do not hold customers accountable for fraudulent payments made due to fraud. So in this case, a foil RFID-blocker would prevent one transaction that you're already protected from.

3. There are better ways to protect yourself against actual fraud.

The real threat to credit-card hacking is in the form of ATM skimmers: Thieves place readers into an ATM or point-of-sale device where cards are read, efficiently gathering data in large quantities. Unfortunately, a foil sleeve or lined wallet cannot protect you from this most popular form of theft.

The good news is, the U.S. is adopting the Euro-style chip called EMV cards. They've been using this across the pond for years to effectively minimize fraud.

... RFID-based contactless payment systems have recently fallen out of favor among U.S. credit card companies. They’re focusing instead on implementing a European-style chip-and-PIN system known as EMV, which uses different technology and is less vulnerable to remote skimming. (EMV cards may come with their own security risks, but again, an RFID-blocking wallet won’t help you with those.)


While the ubiquitous ATM-skimmers are an increasing problem that makes nearly everyone vulnerable to theft, there are a few precautions one can take to avoid becoming a victim:

  1. Make withdrawals or transactions only at ATMs in a bank lobby — or even better, directly from a bank teller.
  2. Look closely at the card reader on an ATM, and find a different one if it appears loose or noticeably different than before.
  3. Along with the skimming device itself, thieves will also plant a tiny camera nearby to pick up your pin number. Always use one hand to cover the hand that's typing in your pin.

And perhaps the best part: All of these fraud-prevention practices are free!

So, what's the final verdict on RFID-blocking cards and foil sleeves?

If you’re bent on traveling incognito — perhaps you’re a spy, or an international person of mystery — an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve might be a prudent precaution. Otherwise, odds are you’ll be just fine without one.


All of this being said, if you like a wallet and it happens to have RFID-blocking, that's just fine (unless you need to have access to your NFC cards). And because we understand the value of peace of mind — the undisputed benefit of having RFID-shielding in your wallet, our Wally Bifold is available in an RFID Edition. Because for many, peace of mind is priceless.

Wally Bifold leather wallet with RFID-blocking

To provide the best of both worlds, the exterior of Wally Bifold RFID Edition is shielded against skimming. Inside the billfold are two card slots for at-a-glance card storage.

Use these internal slots to hold your NFC cards (like subway, work key-cards, etc). Wally Bifold lets you enjoy the peace of mind that comes with an RFID-blocking wallet, plus tap-and-go convenience without having to remove these commonly used cards from your wallet.

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