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Question DetailsAsked on 9/29/2011

Will a layer of aluminum foil lining a wallet protect credit cards from theft of information by an RFID reader? Want to advise friends too.

I've seen on TV and read articles in print media that say there is a device that can read all data recorded digitally on your credit cards (in some states even on a driver's license, which gives home address). I have even seen ads for steel wallets to contain these items in order to prevent someone standing a few feet away to record your data right thru a purse or wallet. Don't want to spend $10 on a gimmick if I don't need to, nor give up the handy wallet I already have which perfectly organizes items I need regularly. I also carry a bunch of cards in a separate pack, rubberbanded, which are just bonus or rewards type cards, which I think don't contain any account info. Wondering if having multiple signals together like that will foil the electronic reading devices, or do they need to be wrapped or put into something else? I used to carry the extra debit & credit cards,& store charge cards that I do not use frequently the same way, but have just moved them to a metal Altoids box.

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15 Answers

Voted Best Answer

Some of the new credit cards have RFID readable chips embeddded in the card that can be read by someone passing a reader within a few inches of your card - say while you are standing in line. Tinfoil may or may not work, depending on the frerquency used for the card. Best bet is to buy sliop covers specifically designed to block RFID reading - Amazon has a set of 10 for (as I remember) about $20 or so. If you travel, you might also think about a passport slip case, because the new passport have RFID biometric and ID data embedded in them - takes a different size and type of cover, because frequency is different.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD


Interesting question. I did a little digging, and it seems the cards you need to worry about being picked up by an RFID reader are the ones that you "tap" instead of "swipe," like a Mobile Speedpass or newer credit cards. Your card validation code--the three-digit code on the back--is not included in the information on the chip, neither is your PIN number, so any transactions requiring either of those numbers would be impossible for someone stealing your information. And some of the newest cards don't encode the name of the cardholder, making it even harder for someone stealing information to use that information.

From research, aluminum foil should be fine for making a sleeve for your cards. I'm not an expert on this subject, so I'd be more than happy to have some professionals chime in on the discussion.

Answered 4 years ago by Cas


It is true that someone with a special scanner can read your RFID enabled-credit card. However, most hackers will not waste their time stealing credit-card information one card at a time. For just a little more effort, they can hack into a merchant's database and steal thousands of customers' card numbers and related info. (Cold comfort, I suppose.....) If you're still worried that you'll run into the one guy who likes sitting with a device that will read your RFID card, you can line your wallet with thin aluminum foil.

And to help reduce the risk even more, I like Nana's advice about credit cards one uses infrequently -- keep them at home (Altoids box optional).

Mark Schleisner
Director, nycComputerGuy

Answered 4 years ago by Mark


It is true about the RFID chips. Credit card companies are putting them in all the new credit cards they send you. HOWEVER, all you have to do is call the Customer Service Phone Number on the back of your card and request a regular plain card without the RFID chip and they will send you one. Had all of mine replaced so no worries.

Answered 2 years ago by Guest_9823825


Many retailers (Amazon included) are now selling RFID guard technology imbedded in billfolds and wallets. sells wallets and billfolds that accommodate a passport.

I purchased a Mundi RFID anti-theft wallet this past summer, AND put my cards in a protective sleeve, but the reader that said you can request the chip not be in your credit card by calling the card issuer is yet another protective layer. The foil lining in the wallet or billfold just does not hold up nor is it easy to "make a sleeve" with foil. Even the heavy duty foil does not hold up to daily use.

Answered 2 years ago by Guest_9911086


This is strictly about the US Passport. If you take a look at your passport you ma notice that it is a little thicker and stiffer than they used to be. This is because the passport has and RFID protection layer built into it. If you will check the State Department website and read it carefully you will see that this was done specifically to protect your passport. In addition, the data on the passport is encrypted and protected to avoid the data being useful if it is read.

The biggest exposure for passport holders is theft rather than RFID reading.

See the State Department Passport FAQs at for mor information.


Answered 1 year ago by Guest_9156317


Aluminum is a poor choice for electrical shielding against radio frequencies. For those old enough to remember, people attached aluminum foil to TV antennas to improve reception. Not only can aluminum act as a frequency collector, under certain conditions it will behave as a directional antenna (much like your satellite dish mounted on your house) such that you are amplifying the signal in a particular direction. From a physics standpoint, the best materials for insulating against radio waves are lead (#1), copper (#2), and tin (#3). High grade stainless steel and cast iron also perform well when they are thick enough, but who wants to carry a hundred pound wallet? Despite being the best insulator, lead is toxic, which leaves copper and tin. True "tin foil" is not easily sourced leaving just copper. A thin film of copper (1 or 2 mils thick - a mil equaling one-thousandth of an inch, or about the thickness of a plastic trash bag) will do the trick although a copper mesh (like a porch screen) is even better. The beauty of copper is that it will disperse magnetism as well as radio waves thus protecting your card's magnetic stripe from being altered or wiped. Note that both sides of the card must be insulated to provide protection and that lining your wallet leaving the inside uncovered may actually enhance the readability of the RFID or magnetic stripe since the insulator will "trap" the signal inside until it reflects out. The absolute best protection is to have the RFID disabled (American Express will do this, other credit issuers I am unsure of.) The previous answer suggesting a slip-cover is the most practical as long as such a slip cover uses copper or true tin foil; however, there is a down side. The copper protecting your card will reflect any incoming signal onto anything else in your wallet, the implication being all cards with a magnetic stripe or RFID should be insulated.

Answered 1 year ago by gumpacina


My son repairs and installs electronic equipment in Hospitals, clinics,like MRI, X-ray, Processors, etc.

when I told him I was carrying my CELL PHONE around in my HIP POCKET, he assured that there has been plenty of facts, that women that tuck their cell phones down into their busom ,(yeah, they really do) turn out to have cancer in that exact spot if they have cancer of the breast!

I asked, "What if I put aluminum foil between the phone and my butt." He laughed and said , "Don't the RFIDs come thru metal buildings when you shop? Why do you THINK a piece of tin foil would block something that is strong enough to penetrate HEAVY METAL BUILDINGS?"

Source: X-RAY ENGINEER'S mother

Answered 1 year ago by Guest_9424062


I just left out an important piece of info about aluminum foil shielding the body from RFIDs.

The "RESEARCH" that you may read about it being o.k. to put the phone up to your head and talk, is funded by guess who? the PHONE COMPANIES!!

Source: X-RAY ENGINEER'S mother

Answered 1 year ago by Guest_9424062


I suppose if you don't need to use the credit card's "tap-n-go" feature you could locate the rfid chip and pierce it with a pushpin. The chip is a little smaller than 1/4" square. Just be sure you don't damage the magnetic strip.

I use a small aluminum case for my cards. Not sure it works to block the scanners used by the crooks, but it is an organized to store my cards.

Answered 1 year ago by Guest_92081372


I agree with LCD. There are good RFID blockers on Amazon. Probobly best to look there as opposed to simply using tin foil from your cuppard. I have a friend who always uses these kind of anti-theft measures and he sincerely believes it is worth it. Better safe than sorry. Best of luck.

Answered 7 months ago by JessicaNV


One comment about XRay Mom's recent thoughts - actually steel framed building do somewhat block radio signals - which is why cellphones frequently fade out and you have to move to another spot to get a signal, and in solidmetalwalledelevators you usualloy have zero signal. The reasons steel buildings do not totally foil signals is first off most of the wall surface is not metal - it is drywall and wood and plastic inside, and brick or concrete or stone facing outside which the waves can penetrate fairly well, and also they go through glass fine- which is a good portion of the surface area of most buildings. Many highrise buildings actually put in wave carrier wires from antennas on the roof down through the core to allow radios, TV's and cellphones to work- plus the steel framing, at some frequencies, reradiate the signals also. That is the reason AM radios work fairly well in steel framed buildings but TV less so - different frequencies travel better through certain conditions.

As for the RF (radio frequency) energy being stopped by the right composition and thickness foil - it definitely work as proven by that method commonly being used for "hardening" of military radio equipment (inside the case), military weapons with electronics, and aircraft radio equipment - and inside most electronic devices there are foil or thin metal shields to keep the radio signals from interfering with the electronic chips. And in computers and similar non-radio equipment they use metal cases and foil to prevent outside radio signals from interfering with the operation. And when you get electronic parts like anew board fora computer - yup - it commonly comes wrapped in a foil-faced plastic bag too keep inadvertant damage from strong radio signals or security scan X-rays. They have even found that the extremely thin metallized see-through shrink-wrap advertising sleeves they put on transit buses can block out or seriously inhibit some radio and cellphone signals.

However, as I said before, for different frequency blockageit takes specific thicknesses andsometimes different materials, so a commercial protective sleeve designed for that purpose by a brandname company is far safer than a do-it-yourself solution.

Answered 7 months ago by LCD


In many camera stores [or online] you can find small, plastic-coated, lead-lined envelopes used to protect photographic film from airport security x-ray exposure, [costs very few $ for several]. They're thin enough that you can cut them down to fit & fold over your cards, even within your wallet, and they'll do a fine job of preventing any radio transmissions [RFID chip-readers] from reading data.

Answered 5 months ago by WilliamQ


I just finished reading an article in Consumer Reports, June 2011, Page 25. They rated the anti reading devices and found that most will protect some information, but will not completely protect all cards. A staff member used aluminum foil, wrapped with duct tape. "Our reporter offered her own homemade shield constructed of duct tape and lined with aluminum foil. It provided better protection than eight of the 10 commercial products, including a stainless-steel RFID blocking wallet selling online for about $60."

This activity comes after opening my card statement yesterday and finding a charge of $312 to a local grocery store. I immediately contacted the card company and was advised to return to the store to obtain a copy of the receipt. In addition to confirming it was not my purchase, the store's security film was reviewed by the manager and he reported that this was a fraudulent charge and definitely not me. I contacted the local police and filed a report. I'm dropping off a confirmation letter from the card company to the police department today, along with a copy of the receipt.

This will be my third time, since retiring and moving to a town about 20 miles from a resort area two years ago, that I've had an issue with credit card information theft. I made my aluminum/duct tape barrier this morning and have wrapped my cards. I went online to purchase a RFID wallet, but found that the prices were all over the place! How does one know that they're purchasing a viable product? Rather than waste my money, I decided to peruse information supplied by the trusted Consumer Reports.

It's interesting to note that I worked in the ghettoes of Baltimore City for almost 20 years as a firefighter/paramedic and never had an issue with credit card fraud/theft. I moved to a small town, outside a large resort area and have had three fraud/theft issues within two years! Be especially careful with your cards when visiting beach areas!

Source: Empress Medic of Baltimore

Answered 4 months ago by MedicBon


put cards between 2 thin sheets of lead.

Answered 3 months ago by Guest_9310346


I finally found a use for my old FilmShield bags made of a thin core of lead. Cut them up into "billfold size" patches (larger than dollar bill in each dimension; insert in wallet; when folded, the wallet's "liner" folds onto itself with all credit cards, etc. in between.

Theory seems valid anyway..... any thoughts?

Please don't reply that I'll get butt cancer....

Answered 1 month ago by mauth

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