Do RFID Wallets DEMAGNETIZE and RUIN credit/debit cards?

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ezbzbfcg2
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15 Aug 2019, 2:07 am

I bought a Levi's brown leather billfold men's wallet to replace my old one. I really liked the old one, I've had it for quite some time, but it's now falling apart.

This NEW wallet looks identical to the old one that I've had for several years, except I noticed something different. It came with a little card that advertised that the wallet offers RFID protection.

I entered the barcode online and got this: https://www.upcitemdb.com/upc/26217159676
That's the one if you want to see what it looks like.

I switched out all the stuff in the old wallet and put it all in the new one the other day. Today, when I went to use a credit card at a convenience store, I got a chip error message. I tried the same credit card at a different store. Same problem. So it's not the merchants' credit card readers that are malfunctioning. Thank God my debit card still worked, so I could complete the transactions.

Anyway, I called the credit card company. I'm in good standing, so it's not like the card was declined. They're sending me a new one. But I'm wondering: How did the card go kaput?

You might say I damaged it myself when transferring it to the new wallet, but I don't think so. It looks normal, and I handled it the same way I always do. Yet, it stopped working.

Anyone familiar with this? The only thing I can think of is that the new wallet "demagnetized" the credit card. I see no other way for it to magically stop working. The only thing different is the wallet, and suddenly the card stops working. (The card worked fine the day BEFORE I switched out the wallet).



Fnord
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15 Aug 2019, 8:40 am

The chips in credit/debit cards store their data electronically, not magnetically, so placing one inside an electromagnetic shield should not alter its data. Flexing and bending the card, or exposing it to an electrostatic discharge may alter the data or damage it enough to keep it from working.

An RFID wallet is nothing more than a wallet with a metallic or carbon-fiber lining. The lining blocks RF radiation from reaching the cards inside -- nothing more. It does not damage the cards or erase their data.

Keep in mind that in most cases the phrase "Offers RFID Protection" means little more than lining the wallet with less than a penny's worth of foil to justify charging a few dollars more for the entire wallet.


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BenderRodriguez
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15 Aug 2019, 9:00 am

I don't know about the wallet but had a card similarly and rather mysteriously stop working. On closer inspection, there were some scratches on the chip.


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Fnord
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15 Aug 2019, 9:17 am

All it takes is one small scratch or microcrack, and the whole chip is ruined.


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DanielW
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15 Aug 2019, 9:25 am

the chips themselves are easily scratched, so if the wallet is abrasive, taking it in and out could damage the card. Likewise a magnetic strip card can be damaged, by being placed too close the the speakers in a cellphone, or a purse with a magnetic clasp or heaphones or earbuds, etc.



ezbzbfcg2
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16 Aug 2019, 3:47 am

Thanks for the replies. Perhaps I damaged it when switching it out from the old wallet. Funny, though, that I handled it the the way I always do, but it just so happens to get damaged at the same time I got a new wallet. Maybe the new wallet had a loose piece of thread or leather in the pouch that scratched the chip.

Still, I've got to see what happens with my other credit cards.



smudge
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16 Aug 2019, 7:02 am

I thought RFID scanning was an untrue conspiracy theory.



Fnord
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16 Aug 2019, 8:00 am

smudge wrote:
I thought RFID scanning was an untrue conspiracy theory.
It is, more or less. Most people nowadays carry an RFID card to access their workplaces. When someone tells you that they scanned your wallet from just a few feet away and show you some numbers, that is what they're reading, not your credit cards.


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jimmy m
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16 Aug 2019, 8:32 am

Some of the newer credit cards have RFID chips built into the card. These cards allow contactless purchases. With one of these credit cards and an appropriate reader, all you have to do it tap the card to the reader and the transaction occurs.

But that also means that if a thief with a portable reader could intercept the signal and steal sensitive information. Thus they are now producing RFID/NFC Signal Blocking Cards that fit into the wallet (some wallets may have these built in).

The RFID Blocking Card works by drawing power from the scanner, and emitting a counter-signal to jam the communication. This protects the surrounding cards within a 5 cm (2 inches) radius. It can stop transmissions of personal information by a remote RFID device.

I bought one of these blocking cards and have not noticed any adverse reactions.

The way you test the effectiveness of the card is to take your credit card and blocking card together and try to perform a financial transaction at the self-checkout at the supermarket. It won't work because it confuses the scanner.



Fnord
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16 Aug 2019, 9:11 am

Oh, yeah ... the Tap cards ... forgot about them. Some are just keyring fobs. I never use them. There is no PIN feature on the ones sold around here. The idea is just "Tap and Go". Personally, I'd like something a little more secure.

So, yes, it is possible to read one of those from a distance.


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“I must acknowledge, once and for all, that the
purpose of diplomacy is to prolong a crisis.”

— Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, in the Star Trek
episode "The Mark of Gideon" (ep. 3.16, 1969)