I've discussed what to do about RFID chips in your wallet before. In comments, of course, the idea of simply buying an RFID-blocking wallet was discussed.
Ultimately, that's exactly what I did. It happened that what I was using for a wallet (homemade) was wearing out to the point that the cards were threatening to fall out. It was time to get something new anyway. I decided to spend a few bucks on something made out of materials that should, in theory, be very durable. While I'm at it, I could get something that blocks RFID, has a slim profile, looks good, and serves as the subject for a security product review.
I chose a stainless steel wallet from Stewart/Stand. This is a review of a security product, but not so much a review of the effectiveness of its security features per se. While I tested its RFID blocking properties at a 7-11, that's not exactly the most rigorous test. Since I haven't worked with RFID systems in about for years or so, I don't have the equipment around to do any proper testing, but as it's woven from stainless steel microfibers I'm sure it serves as a very effective pocket Faraday cage. It isn't 100% steel, of course: the edges are stitched together with non-steel thread, and a couple of layers of reinforcing at the fold are fabric. Anything inside the wallet is surrounded by woven steel, though.
When it arrived, it came in a package I can only describe as "nifty". I tore open the smallish, battered manila envelope and pulled out a particleboard box made from very fine particles, with a thin cardstock Stewart/Stand branded band wrapped around it. I pried the two halves of the box apart and was surprised to discover they had been held together by small magnets set in the corners of the box. I removed the wallet itself after marveling at the box for a moment and was immediately taken with the feel of the woven steel material.
At ThinkGeek, where I bought my stainless steel wallet, I found this description:
You might think that steel would be hard on your jeans pocket, but in fact these wallets have the texture of silk and are woven from micro fibers of stainless steel.
ThinkGeek also describes it as "Buttery Smooth Steel in Your Pocket".
These descriptions — "buttery smooth" and "the texture of silk" — sound like exaggeration. When I pulled it out of the box, however, I was surprised to find that it actually does feel very much the way ThinkGeek describes it. It is slick to the touch, and invites one to pick it up to feel its texture.
Woven using 25,000 stainless steel threads that are three times thinner than a piece of paper –.001″–this is the only wallet with a hand as smooth as silk and the strength that surpasses leather. Impervious to stretching or staining, and without sharp corners or the inherent bulk of other wallets, the stainless steel is the same metal screen found in the architecture, aerospace, and automotive industries, resulting in a thin profile that allows it to fit into a front pocket.
After admiring first the box, then the wallet, I read the small sheet of paper that came with it. It describes "Recommended Use", indicating that it won't demagnetize credit cards, may set off a metal detector, and serves as a Faraday cage in your pocket to protect against malicious use of an RFID reader.
Also on the small sheet of paper is warranty information. Most of it reads like the kind of warranty you'd expect, limited to 90 days from purchase, with more about what it doesn't cover than what it does cover. There's one part of the warranty that caught me by surprise, though: the mugging/theft warranty, which is limited to US customers only.
Maybe this is normal for wallets these days. I don't know. I haven't actually bought a new wallet since I was about fourteen years old, but I definitely don't remember being told anything like the following with the last wallet I bought:
Any Stewart/Stand wallet stolen during a criminal act can be replaced. The victim only need pay for the cost of shipping and must provide both proof of purchase in the form of a receipt as well as a copy of a police report with specific mention of a stainless steel wallet.
Regardless of how common the mugging/theft warranty terms may be, and regardless of your need for an RFID blocking wallet, this thing is definitely an interesting conversation piece, and serves the purpose of a slim profile wallet well. It's actually just fun to own and use, completely aside from normal, functional value.
Because the steel fibers don't really stretch the way leather or even fabric might, it is not the choice wallet for people who pack more and more stuff into a wallet all the time, until the thing turns into more of a ball than a flat rectangle. On the otherhand, if you have good "wallet discipline" and prefer something slim and sleek, this is definitely an option worth considering.
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Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.