Everyone asks: Do RFID-safe bags work?


The Radio Frequency Identification chips (RFID) that are embedded in most credit cards are read by passing them through a scanner.

This creates the theoretical possibility that anyone with a scanner hooked up to a computer could read a card in close proximity, use that information to generate a counterfeit card and hit the nearest Rolex outlet.

There is a possibility, therefore,  that a thief could read every card in your wallet or handbag, without ever touching you.

Bag manufacturers are ramping up the fear factor in a bid  to persuade you that their RFID-safe bags, which are lined with metallic material, are the answer, but I’m sceptical.

Along with just about everyone else who travels, I have a bunch of cards in my wallet stacked close together, and the chance of a scanner-scammer untangling one card from that pack seems remote.

In a test of various RFID-safe bags in the USA, some performed well, others less so, but a bag made from aluminium foil held together with gaffer tape was more effective than most.

This does not sound like a robust solution, but others have suggested carrying your cards in a small metal tin, and this seems a practical and cheap option.

I cannot find any credible reports on the internet that suggest conclusively that a traveller has had their cards "stolen" by a scanner operated by someone passing close by.

If I was thinking of buying an RFID-safe bag, I’d ask for a demonstration to prove that it was an effective shield against a scanner device, in a simulated real-world situation.