Tap-and-go payment systems make it easier than ever to buy everyday necessities and to splurge on luxuries. In 2019, retailers, service providers, and even government agencies realize the benefits of giving people easy ways to pay. Consider the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates public buses and trains in the state of New York. The MTA recently rolled out a contactless payment or tap-and-go system. Riders can purchase tickets with an app on their phones, or pay with a quick tap of an RFID-enabled credit card. The MTA wants to make using public transit convenient. But there are trade-offs to payment systems that seem effortless to users. RFID wallets, badge holders, and card sleeves are designed to deal with these trade-offs.

With the increasing threat of electronic pickpocketing (also called RFID skimming) and the rising possibilities of card clash, protection for your RFID cards is certainly a good idea. Although you’ve probably carried RFID-enabled payment cards and identification for quite some time, the risks have never been greater. Safeguarding your money and information is easy and inexpensive, and a bit like opting for the extra insurance on a rental car. You may not need it, but you don’t want to be without it if and when you do. 

What is RFID skimming?

Pickpocketing is risky, and any thief has to be highly skilled just to attempt it. When traveling or visiting a busy place, people are generally aware of the threat of pickpockets and take steps to protect themselves. But electronic pickpocketing is hard to detect and easy for a thief to execute with some simple gadgetry. In addition, the risk is minimal. With a homemade RFID reader, a thief can scan the cards in your wallet or purse from a short distance. If your wallet is in your back pocket, it’s in a particularly vulnerable spot. There’s a good chance you’d never even see a person who was stealing your credit cards. Search for “RFID skimming” on YouTube and you’ll see several videos demonstrating the ease with which someone can steal a credit card number in just about any public space.

What is card clash?

Most people probably carry several RFID cards in their wallets or purses. Credit and debit cards, driver’s licenses, passports, and access cards often have RFID tags. So, the odds are good that you have more than one of these with you wherever you go. And that can create problems at public transit gates and other places where you need to scan a card to board the bus, get on a train, or enter a restricted area. Card clash occurs when the RFID reader scans more than one tag. When that happens, the results can vary, but they’re never good. If you’re trying to pay with a credit card and have several in your wallet, the charge may go through on the wrong card. Also if the scanner at the metro scans one card boarding and another card leaving the station, you can end up getting charged for two maximum distance rides as the system doesn't know if you were boarding or departing.

How can I prevent card clash?

One way to prevent card clash is to keep RFID cards separated. This is a surefire method, but it’s not practical to carry each one of your cards in a different place. A better option is to use an RFID wallet with independent shielding for each card, which is a feature of every ID Stronghold wallet. Individual RFID-blocking card sleeves are also available.

Is an RFID wallet really all I need?

RFID skimming and card clash are serious problems, but there’s an easy solution. An RFID-blocking product effectively shields your cards from electronic pickpocketing and prevents card clash. RFID wallets and purses don’t look different or cost any more than regular products, but they aren’t vulnerable to digital theft. Securing your money and identity is a no-brainer.