How to Protect Cards From RFID Scanning

By Robyn Broyles

"RFID" stands for radio-frequency identification. An RFID tag is a microchip that stores information that can be read from a distance by a special device called a reader or interrogator. RFID tags are now found in some passports, driver's licenses, employee and university identification cards, and even some credit cards. The RFID tags in some of these cards can be read from up to 30 feet away, and the possibility of identity theft concerns some RFID card carriers. Fortunately, since metal effectively blocks radio waves, it's easy to retrofit a wallet to protect cards from RFID scanning.

Things You'll Need

  • Aluminum foil
  • Wallet large enough to store all your RFID cards
  • Heavy cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Duct tape or packing tape (optional)
  • Credit card or similar sized card
  • Pen or pencil

Step 1

Use a pen or pencil to trace the credit card onto the cardstock, then cut out the "dummy card" with scissors. Repeat this step to create a second dummy card.

Step 2

Wrap each dummy card in aluminum foil. To make the card easy to slide into the wallet, and to help hold the foil in place, you may optionally wrap duct tape or packing tape around the foil dummy cards.

Step 3

Open the wallet and examine how it folds up. Identify the card slot nearest one side of the folded wallet and insert one of the foil-wrapped dummy cards. Do the same with the other dummy card for the other side of the wallet.

Step 4

Protect cards in a wallet that opens in several stages by adding more strategically placed foil-wrapped dummy cards.

Tips & Warnings

  • There is a small chance that radio waves from an unauthorized RFID reader will be able to penetrate the wallet edge-on, especially if your wallet is "fat" with lots of cards. For additional protection, stack all the RFID cards in your wallet next to each other. The RFID tags will interfere with each other and reduce readability. This technique may not render the tags completely unreadable, however. (Unlike items with magnetic coding, RFID tags will not damage each other if placed side by side.)
  • If you have an RFID card in your wallet that you would like to keep readable without having to be removed, such as an ID badge that provides key-card access, place it just outside one of the dummy cards.
  • If you keep an RFID keycard badge on a lanyard or clip, protect it after you leave your school or workplace by storing it in your RFID-proof wallet.