RFID, Travel, Wallet Cases, Wallets

How to Protect Your Credit Cards from RFID

protect your credit cardsRFID (or radio frequency identification) is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to transfer data wirelessly. Broadly, this technology can be used for a range of different purposes, from identifying livestock animals to tracking automobiles through an assembly line. For the purposes of this particular blog post, though, we will discuss how to protect your credit cards from RFID.

There is a growing trend in the credit card industry where card companies are manufacturing cards with RFID chips or tags. These chips can communicate your card details to certain payment terminals in a contactless fashion. In other words, with an RFID credit card, you can pay for a transaction without the normal step of swiping or sliding your card through a magnetic strip reader. Depending on your card company, this technology might have slightly different names, like PayPass or PayWave. However, the basic idea—of contactless payment—remains the same from one RFID card to the next.

The Danger of RFID Technology

While RFID cards can be a bit more convenient to shop with, they also introduce a new identity theft threat into the equation for cardholders such as yourself. With the right equipment, a cybercriminal or identity thief could feasibly extract your credit card details (including number, expiration date, and security code) remotely. There are RFID-reading devices or sensors that can essentially “pick your pocket” digitally.

So how can you protect yourself? Sticking with non-RFID cards might not be an option, and unless you are ready to start using a mobile payment platform like Apple Pay or Google Pay, you probably aren’t ready to stop carrying around your credit cards with you at all times. And since it’s not easy to know whether or not someone close to you in a store or on a train might have an RFID sensor in their bag, you might be at a loss for how to defend yourself against this (relatively) new-fangled threat.

How to Keep Credit Cards Safe from RFID Theft

Luckily, there are ways to basically “fortify” your cards so that even thieves with the right equipment can’t access your information. Some of the best defenses are products you can purchase; others are DIY home solutions. All are worth a try to keep your credit card information out of the hands of high-tech thieves. Read on to learn about your various options for RFID defense.

1. Use an RFID-Blocking Wallet

e-holster travel neck walletAs RFID technology has become more popular and commonplace over the past few years, wallet designers have realized their new role in the market as defenders of credit card information. Since your cards are probably tucked inside the slots of your wallet 99% of the time, it makes sense than an RFID-blocking wallet would be the best option for keeping credit card information safe.

When a payment terminal or an RFID sensor collects information from your card, it must first send a signal to your card requesting the information. This signal causes the microchip in your card to activate and send back the information stored on the card’s RFID tag. On more recent cards, the chip and RFID tag will encrypt your credit card information before sending it back, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to get usable information from digital pickpocketing.

However, the best defense is still to block any unwanted signals from reaching your card and activating the chip in the first place. RFID-blocking wallets do exactly that. Using a special synthetic material for their interior slots and lining, these wallets essentially build a wall around your cards that outside signals can’t penetrate. If signals can’t get in, then your card’s microchip can’t activate, and if your card’s microchip can’t activate, then it can’t transmit credit card data while stowed in your wallet.

If you are interested in picking up an RFID-blocking wallet to keep your cards safe, read our blog post “The Best RFID Travel Wallets” to find some of the best wallets currently available on the market for this purpose.

2. Use Aluminum Foil

If you don’t want to invest in an RFID blocking wallet, you might try the most popular DIY method for blocking RFID signals: wrapping your credit cards or lining your wallet with aluminum foil. There are some differing opinions around the web on how well this defense works, as some RFID readers will still be able to detect your card even through a layer of foil. However, foil absolutely does inhibit these signals and makes it borderline impossible for RFID sensors to activate the chip in your card if they are more than about an inch away. Since you will normally notice if someone is that close to you, the foil trick absolutely can reduce your level of risk.

3. Use an Altoids Tin

altoids tinIf you are a fan of Altoids mints, try to remember to save the tin next time you finish a container. Metal containers are great for blocking or greatly inhibiting radio waves, and in a pinch, an Altoids tin can work perfectly as an RFID-blocking wallet.

4. Pack Your Wallet with RFID Cards

You might think that carrying fewer RFID cards in your wallet would help to mitigate your risk level. The smarter solution, though, is to pack the slots of your wallet with RFID cards. According to MarketWatch, having lots of different RFID cards in your wallet will confuse a scanner with an information overload of sorts. The cards “cancel each other out” when there are four or five different RFID microchips in your wallet, making it difficult for thieves to steal your information remotely.

Even with protective measures in place, you should still keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements for any suspicious activity. The biggest issue with digital pickpockets is that it’s very difficult to tell they’ve stolen from you until they start using your cards. With that point in mind, keeping an eye on your statements and being ready to cancel cards at the earliest sign of suspicious activity is still your best bet for keeping your cards and finances safe.

travel money belt