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Do You Need RFID Blocking Wallets or Bags for Travel?

Posted on April 27 2017

The short answer is “No, don’t waste your money” and here’s why.

RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology is a wireless means of transmitting information from one device to another using an RFID chip and a scanner. The myth is that a clever thief can scan your wallet and pick up your credit card number or passport information without your knowledge. Luggage and travel companies have been pushing this fear tactic for years so they can continue to sell overpriced RFID blocking bags and wallets to the scared, uneducated traveler. The truth is far less sinister but would put them out of business.

There was, in fact, a brief period in time where credit card companies built RFID chips into their cards. This method never caught on with the public so they stopped producing cards with this capability. Unless you have a really, really old credit card that says it is RFID capable, your card isn’t able to transmit any information to an RFID scanner. The magnetic strip and the chip are completely unsusceptible to RFID scanning as well. Even if you do have an RFID enabled credit card, the information transferred is encrypted so there’s still very little to worry about.

Now let’s move on to those RFID blocking passport wallets. If you’re from the U.S., the RFID chip in your passport doesn’t contain personal information, rather only a number that is linked to a database at the U.S. Department of State. This actually improves the security of your personal information by making it very difficult to counterfeit or copy your passport. Some other countries include information like your name and city of birth but this information is also encrypted, meaning anyone who steals it can’t even read it.

Long story short, don’t believe the lies and don’t waste your money. Find an honest company making a normal bag or wallet that you like and forget the mythical RFID scare tactics that have been burned into

3 comments

  • Chris: October 14, 2017

    John,
    The RFID chip contains a number that is linked to a secure database which contains your name and birthday. This is very different from containing the actual information. The thief would have to scan your passport and then hack a secure government database to extract the information, which ultimately isn’t very valuable anyways given the contents. If they are that capable as a hacker, it seems unlikely they will spend their time extracting birthdates. The actual information is not contained in the chip.

  • John: October 02, 2017

    The RFID chip in a US passport DOES contain personal information.

    As posted on DHS website (https://www.dhs.gov/e-passports): “The chip holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page: the holder’s name, date of birth, and other biographic information.”

  • Bruce: May 12, 2017

    Wow, I had never really thought about it. I got pulled in by the marketing! lol
    Though the only wallet i do have that has RFID blocking in it, that wasn’t the reason I got it at all. I just really like my wallet.

    Thanks for sharing!

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