Does My Credit Card Have RFID?
Identity theft and credit card fraud are often in the news, and many people are worried that they will be victims of these financial crimes at some point in their lives. Even if the money is eventually returned to you, it can leave you in some awkward situations with bills and loans that need paying in the meantime. Pickpocketing got even easier recently, too with technology enabling thieves to “skim” information from your credit cards, without even touching them.
If you, like many people, are concerned about electronic pickpocketing then keep reading. We will take a closer look at RFID to see what it is, help you answer the question “Does my credit card have RFID?”, and finally, suggest ways in which you can protect your cards from contactless credit card crime in the future.
What Is RFID?
RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. Objects can be installed with RFID tags that store digital data in them.
An RFID reader can then capture this digital data via radio waves and automatically analyze and store them in a computer for later use. Unlike barcodes, which can only be read in line-of-sight, RFID tag data can be captured outside of the line-of-sight.
An active RFID tag must be connected to some sort of battery or power source so that it can constantly transmit information; these types of tags can be read up to 100 feet away. Passive tags, on the other hand, like those found in credit cards, are powered by a nearby RFID reader, and have to be in closer vicinity for their data to be captured.
RFID Credit Cards
More commonly known as contactless payment cards, credit cards equipped with a passive RFID tag can be conveniently used to make payments in stores and on public transport, without even removing the card in question from your wallet.
The percentage of RFID credit cards in the USA is actually relatively small, and this technology is more commonly found in payment cards elsewhere in the world.
According to a principal analyst at ABI Research, around 26 million RFID credit cards were issued in the USA in 2016, but to put that into context, that's 26 million out of a total of 550 million payment cards issued.
Does My Credit Card Have RFID?
If your card has a chip in it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an RFID tag. In fact, it’s more likely to be an EMV chip. An EMV chip also stores digital data but requires direct contact to transmit that data effectively. That means someone would physically have to swipe your card to obtain your credit card’s information.
You can identify whether or not your payment cards contain an RFID tag in two different ways. If your card has a radio waves symbol on it, that usually means an RFID tag is present. Or, if your card contains the words PayPass, payWave, or blink, that also means that an RFID tag is embedded.
The reason so many people are worried about RFID fraud is that an RFID reader can be bought online for as little as $100. With this device, thieves have the technology at their fingertips to steal your credit card information, including the card number and expiry date, without ever laying a hand on your card or even your purse or wallet for that matter.
Although the device does need to be held within two to four inches of your card, the worry is that people can easily get this close to you and your bag in crowds, busy tube stations, or while stood in lines at checkouts.
RFID Fraud Protection
If you find that you do own one or more credit cards with RFID tags in them, several ways can be tried out to protect yourself from RFID fraud. If it’s something you are worried about, here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Request Non-RFID cards
Have a chat with your bank to know if it’s possible to have payment cards without RFID technology. They may charge you a fee but it’s worth asking, and then assessing the cost versus the perceived risk and worry that it’s going to save you.
- Leave Your Cards at Home
Take your credit cards out with you only when you need them. Of course, this is easier said than done these days as many people rarely carry cash these days and pay for everything with their cards daily. Taking cash out of the bank each week and leaving your cards at home, though, will not only protect you from electronic pickpocketing but also help you keep an eye on your spending habits.
- Cover Your Cards in Tin Foil
If you don’t want to leave your cards at home, then you can also use aluminum foil to block your cards RFID, although you do need a few layers of good thick foil to make it work. Having to wrap and unwrap your cards to use them each time will prove to be inconvenient, but it will be effective.
- Buy RFID Protection
You can also buy special products that protect your cards from RFID readers, from small credit card sleeves to purses and wallets that can protect more significant amounts of cards. You can even buy denim jeans with RFID protection lined pockets. Clothing brand Betabrand teamed up with Norton Security and released the first denim to the market with capabilities built-in to the pocket lining.
The nickel and copper lined pockets do also create a dark spot for your mobile phone, so keeping your phone in one of these protective pockets will drain your battery incredibly fast as it constantly searches for a network.
So, if you’ve answered the question “Does my credit card have RFID?” with a yes, you may want to look at some of the ways in which you can help to protect yourself against electronic pickpocketing. Luckily, it’s easy to tell if one or more of your credit cards could potentially be targeted in the future. If it is something that concerns you, then you should probably look at a few of the products available on the market that will protect all your cards and chips from being skimmed.