Security

Stainless steel wallet review

If you're looking for a unique, sleek, slim-profile wallet that announces your geek cred and protects your RFID chipped credit cards from unwanted eavesdropping, this wallet may be exactly what you need.

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.

Stewart/Stand Stainless Steel Wallet

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.

Stewart/Stand Stainless Steel Wallet Box Magnet

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.

As described at Hammacher Schlemmer:

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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About

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.

23 comments
warrenbg
warrenbg

Which one did you get? There seem to be two choices: Available in a bi-fold wallet format (4 card slots, 1 money pocket and 1 clear ID window), or a bi-fold wallet with criss cross card slots. I'd be interested to know the practicality of either option, and some good interior pics if you can :). The interior pics at ThinkGeek are a bit lacking. Cheers

apotheon
apotheon

I recall stumbling across a review of this thing, where the guy said it seemed like it should stop bullets. It obviously wouldn't stop bullets, but it would be nice to have a wallet that could. It's neat enough that this wallet serves as a pocket Faraday cage, though. What other geeky accessories do you have, or want, that could serve a security purpose?

apotheon
apotheon

I got the one with the standard slots and ID window. I considered the criss-cross card slots, but decided I couldn't think of a particular reason I'd need it. I may provide photos of the inside later.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It's one of the few things I'd like to look at directly before making the choice as I tend to be someone who stuffs the wallet. The money slot of my current one is used as three card bays due to how the wallet folds rather than bill storage.

evergrowingbrain
evergrowingbrain

But now I would have to remove my card from the wallet to use it? currently (4 times a day) I just wave my wallet past the card scanner on the underground, and the gate opens - as do all the other Londoners. There comes a point when I'd rather have a less secure system, if it means I can still use it as intended.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Oh how quickly I could loose my entire disposable income to that site. This particular wallet is on my replacement list for when my current one wares out. At present, my geekiest standard kit unrelated to computers would probably be the Casio Pro Trek. Titanium'ish casing, solar powered charging, time, date, compass, altimeter, barometer and tilt sensing back light activation. It replaced my first generation Pro Trek; as seen on the wrist of Zero Cool in a fun guilty pleasure of a movie from the 90s. Runner up would be the Swiss Champ pocket knife. (yeah, I'm all kinds of fun going through airport security)

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Let's see, good leather wallet costs $10 at Walmart and lasts 10 years. Stainless Steel wallet last forever but costs $80. I'd have to live 80 years for it to be cost-effective. It is cool, though!

cliffcoy
cliffcoy

A few pin holes and 15 seconds in a kilowatt microwave solved the rfid security problem on my recently arrived bank card. The magnetic stripe still works. Any retailer who can't or won't read the stripe can key the number manually if they want the sale.

baileyq
baileyq

The RFID blocking feature of the Stewart/Stand Stainless Steel Wallet works on all credit card chip frequencies. This wallet does not block ALL other frequencies. You may be able to protect your credit card from theft, and also continue to wave your wallet to commute. Check out the RFID page here: http://www.stewartstand.com/pages/rfid or contact Stewart/Stand via eMail: info@stewartstand.com.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

It makes there job much easier also when they can just skim your card in passing. Heck, RFID passports along the sidewalk can be scanned from a car across the street so it's not even like someone has to come close to you. Marketing agencies would also like to thank you as they are eagerly waiting until they can just walk down the street pulling an wallet and pocket inventory off you. "oh, say, Mr. XYZ has porn and interesting medication on him; start targetted advertising campaignnnn-now." And if the advertising folk don't abuse it, you can be sure blackmale cases will increase. "Mr. XYZ, are your co-workers aware of your medical condition or what you bring to work each day? Is your wife?"

baileyq
baileyq

Stewart/Stand gives one wallet away every week in November & December. If you go to their website & click on the WEEKLY WINNER TRIVIA CONTEST box on their home page. Every Wednesday morning they post a trivia question on the Trivia Page, their blog, their facebook page, their twitter... sometimes they put up a second question or give away more than one wallet.

bboyd
bboyd

One successful intercept of that RFID info that leads to ID theft. > 80$ Having a cool as heck wallet. = Priceless or maybe just $80

seanferd
seanferd

Of course, my wallets last forever anyway, as they sit empty in a drawer. Perhaps when I get stuck with some sort of RFID-laden ID which is required to be carried, I'll invest in one of these rather cool wallets. Wait. Do these guys make headgear?

apotheon
apotheon

You still haven't given me a substantive answer to my question about part/all of the radio band of electromagnetic frequencies being blocked by the Stewart Stand stainless steel wallet. Perhaps you could read some of the discussion that has transpired here and either answer the question or tell me you don't know the answer.

baileyq
baileyq

Some of them are RFID enabled. Not all of them... there are so many variations.

apotheon
apotheon

I'm not particularly familiar with those access cards. Do they use RFID chips?

baileyq
baileyq

The stainless steel wallet will block all 13.56+Mhz frequencies. This includes ALL RFID enabled Credit Cards, State Drivers Licenses, Federal Passports & Passport Cards, Transportation Worker Identification Credential Passes, Government Personal ID Verification Cards, Military Common Acess Cards, All ISO 15693 & 14443A/B, HID Access Cards & Tokens, EPC Gen1/Gen2 cards, DC Metro & Boston Charlie Transit Passes. I don't believe it block the Oyster Card for the London Underground. I was able to protect my Credit Cards when I used my Stainless Steel Wallet in NYC. I was also able to wave my wallet at the turnstile to get enter my building & to gain access to secure areas in my office. I thought it was brilliant.

apotheon
apotheon

I was under the impression it blocked all radio frequencies. Are you perhaps referring to magnetic readers, as opposed to radio frequency readers -- or are you talking about a limitation on what parts of the radio frequency band are blocked by the stainless steel wallets?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I?m not familiar with the oyster card but guessing that it?s something like the quick-pay fobs around these parts, a criminal would want a clone of that quick pay fob identification so they can simply swipe away your dollars for there purchases; no id or key number required. I chose porn simply because it?s something most people wouldn?t want to make public at work or even admit to. It?s the largest segment of the entertainment industry yet everyone claims ?oh, I don?t look at such smut.? It was an easy example as where medicated health conditions. Now, why would your smut have an RFID chip; tracking. One primary area of use for RFID is in product tracking from original material source through too consumer purchase and potential even disposal afterward. Stick with the given example, the paper pellet is bugged for tracking through shipping and inventory usage. This could result in each page or at minimum, each publication having a tracking bug. Up to the point of consumer purchase, this is a very valid use but deactivating the rfid chip at purchase would be extra expense so it?s more likely this will remain active. Similar with toys that may have many components with there own tracking bugs. Video store rentals are even more likely given the potential replacement of the bar code and magnetic strip with a single chip that provides both functions. Really though, any objects one may want to keep private could be used in the example. For your passport, there are shielded passport wallet?s available so your covered there also. Just don?t purchase the cheaper model that tends to rest open just enough to allow rfid signal. Splurge and get one that rests fully closed. I?m a fan of voluntary advertising. If I want cable TV, I know who to call for the service. I don?t need to have it splashed in front of my face constantly while out on the street or interrupting my evening through cold calls ?we noticed that you do not subscribe to TV advertisements with us, would you like an advertising subscription.. er.. cable TV package?? Targeted marketing would be ok if it wasn?t combined with the over saturation of incessant marketing pitches. I?d much rather be able to avoid cold call style constant marketing in favor of opening a directory related to the product I am looking for at the time I am looking for it. I barely tolerate the TR advertising and stopped reading CNet because of it and the over-use of flash media. It?s a personal choice though so fair enough; for those who like to be constantly hounded too open there wallet, the world happily caters to that preference. It's a deny all and allow only what is needed approach rather than allow all then try to deny what has already proven unwanted. They are talking about the universal card yet again. This would combine your ID, banking, medical records and the rest of it. Given the negligence in RFID passports, what are the chances that it?s going to be done right? The US farmed out blank passport production to Korea which farmed it out in turn to China. They then used UPS to ship the blanks instead of a bonded and secure currier service. You are right to point out that RFID scanning could simply be done during the moment of use. At least within a store and at the point of sale, it can be mitigated easier. It?s time limited by the 20 seconds needed for the cash swipe. The building may already provide enough interference. If not, structural materials could be added. Point of sale could also be moved out of the radio and line of sight view of the street. RFID is also capable of encryption though unencrypted use seems to be the norm. All of this is still better than the buffet of unprotected RFID walking up and down the sidewalk. Personally, I want nothing RFID?d especially identifying cards until encrypted cards are the norm and in such a way as to have it easily updated to a stronger method when computer power and researchers demonstrate that the old method?s safe lifespan has expired.

evergrowingbrain
evergrowingbrain

Excellent reply. My oyster card is, I admit, an auto updatingway into my bank account (maximum of about ?10 a day. Why would my porn have an RFID chip? My passport won't fit in the wallet. I am a BIG fan of targetted advertising. (I'd rather be sold something I'm interested in than more panty liners and stair lifts.) but that is just me. If they start putting my medical details on such a thing, I wouldn't carry it. How did such a fundamentally flawed technology become used in this way? If it can be scanned from across the street, they'll just scan them from a car outside the shop where you use your card...

seanferd
seanferd

Actually, I do have some fine, silky steel mesh of my own. I suppose I could make a wallet out of it.

bboyd
bboyd

With the price and taxes on cigarettes now it might be worth more to the thief.

Jaqui
Jaqui

a metal cigarette case, like the one I have. :D since it doesn't look like a wallet, people won't steal it. :D

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