RFID wallet

What is an RFID wallet?

An RFID wallet, refers to a wallet that blocks RFID signals. They are also known as RFID shielding wallets, RFID shielded wallets or RFID blocking wallets. The term RFID is an acronym for (Radio Frequency Identification).

There has been lots of talk in the media about RFID these days, as it is the new technology that powers contactless payment cards, both credit and debit cards. But not everybody knows how the technology works or why we should be careful to protect ourselves from getting scammed or ripped off. No big surprise really as all businesses pushing a new product or service are not going to actively advertise any of the flaws or draw backs of their product, why would they? It would be bad for business.

The banks and credit card companies are pushing RFID and contactless payments as the way of the future. They are quick to point out the advantages, such as faster payment, less time spent processing a transaction and not having to carry money etc. The one thing they do not advertise is the security issue RFID technology raises. When making a transaction with a contactless card there is no validation that the person who is using the card has the right to use it. There are no checks carried out. No signature or pin number required. This means unless your contactless card is always in your possession or locked up, you are vulnerable to anyone else using it. Not very safe if you ask me. There is another security risk associated with the RFID technology and this is how it works:

A brief explanation of how RFID technology works

RFID contactless card diagram An RFID contactless card is made up of 4 parts: the front of the card, the antenna, the chip (which holds information) and the back of the card. All the parts are sandwiched together to form a contactless payment card. The chip inside the card holds all the account information such as card number, expiry date, the card holders name, account number and sort code etc. The chip does nothing by itself as it has no power source so it remains inactive and the information on it is safe. The chip is attached to an antenna. The antenna can receive RFID signals which also act as a power source for the chip. When the antenna receives RFID signals it sends the signals to the chip. The chip then wakes up and sends the signal back through the antenna with a copy of the information contained on the chip (all the card details etc.). The antenna then sends the RFID signals back to the reader that originally sent the RFID signals.

A card reader sends out RFID signals and when they reach the antenna of a contactless payment card the chip on the card sends back the information. The problem with this is you can’t turn off the chip on your contactless card. As long as your contactless card can receive RFID signals it will simply send back the information on the card to what ever reader asks for it. Considering you cannot see or hear RFID signals and your card will not tell you when it has sent or received a signal it leaves you, the card holder, quite vulnerable.

What an RFID wallet does to protect your information

Although you cannot turn off the chip on your contactless card you can stop it from getting any RFID signals. This is done by blocking the antenna on the contactless card so it cannot receive or send any RFID signals to the chip. There are various way to block the antenna of a contactless payment card. One way is to keep it in a metal tin, or wrap it in tinfoil or keep it at home in a safe. A more practical solution would be to use an RFID shielded or RFID blocking wallet. An RFID wallet should protect your cards but unfortunately, like any product, there are good ones and not so good ones. The cheaper RFID wallets use tinfoil in the outer lining to block signals but this only works if the wallet is closed, and depending on the strength of the antenna on the card reader, it may not completely¬† protect the cards.¬† However a good quality RFID wallet, like the MGB Wallets, will have special material within the lining of every card pocket to block RFID signals. This ensures you get ultimate protection and never have to worry about your contactless payment cards handing out your card details without your knowledge. It’s better to be safe than sorry. You wouldn’t walk around with your credit card details written on your back pocket or on the outside of your handbag, would you? If you don’t use an RFID wallet to carry your contactless cards, that is essentially what you are doing; advertising your card details to anyone with a card reader.