Monday, August 05, 2013

OnSight RFID Credit Card Sleeve Review

All I know about radio-frequency identification (RFID), and other similar technologies, is that it's used in cards. About five-ish years ago, I worked for a company that, I'm guessing, used this technology for the building's identification / entry cards. When I got there, I think those cards and readers had been around for at least a year, so it wasn't that new.

Thanks, NCIS
Nowadays, credit cards are coming with some sort of non-contact, wireless payment. I'm assuming that Visa's Wave, MasterCard's Paypass, and bank cards with chips use similar technology. From my experience, they don't seem to work from that far away; maybe an inch or two? The media, lately, has been featuring stories about how it's possible for thieves to easily read the information off of these cards using readily available card readers. Be afraid?

To be honest, I first saw this story hit the "mainstream" in an episode of NCIS this past season or the last. It is the opening scene or somewhere near the beginning where someone with a reader goes through a crowd, passing the unit by purses and pockets. She got caught...

Wallets with Built-in Protection?
I decided to get rid of my wallet a year ago and just throw everything in my pants pockets for comfort. The right pocket is reserved for change, keys, and little used cards. My bank cards and credit cards are scuffed to hell, but they still work and aren't in too bad a condition. Unfortunately, the Ikea Family card, which is freely available from kiosks in the store, is faring the worst with even the magnetic strip chipping off -- probably because it's a free and thus, cheap card. So that I'd stop destroying my cards, I decided to pick up a really small credit card sleeve.

Wallets did not show up on my radar for the past decade because I had no interest in them. The last one I got was from Costco for $20 and I used it for over five years. What can I say, it worked and looked okay. So, imagine my surprise when I went shopping for a new one recently. It turns out that a lot of new models supposedly come with built-in RFID protection. I was able to find full leather wallets and basic sleeves with this feature across a wide price range.
OnSight RFID Credit Card Sleeve front

Not really concerned...
Not being that concerned about being skimmed (ignorance is nice), I didn't make RFID protection a priority in a new wallet. However, since the prices of RFID protected sleeves and regular wallets were roughly the same, I thought, "why not?". The only other requirement I had was that it'd be small enough to not bulk up my pants pocket.

OnSight RFID Credit Card Sleeve back
OnSight RFID Credit Card Sleeve -- works well
I decided on the OnSight credit card sleeve that was designed to fit three cards. As you can see in the photo below, I managed to fit about five cards in there. To be fair, some of those cards are really thin and just membership cards with magnetic strips, as opposed to thicker bank cards. They either all come out at once or none of them come out due to my packrat-ing.

It's synthetic with recycled plastic, set me back only CAD$ 4.75, and looks reasonable. The size of the item is only just about a centimeter wider than the typical bank card. I have not noticed any change in comfort by having it sit in my right pocket all day long. In fact, it's probably more comfortable because my loose cards used to get twisted into weird positions in the pocket -- usually when putting on/off pants. Having a sleeve to bind the cards together into a solid, wider, and single unit has prevented this twisting thus far.
Sleeve top view of cards
I have no clue if the RFID protection actually works. My impression from reading other product descriptions is that there's just a layer of foil used as a lining inside the sleeve. For some reason, the only place I would regularly use Paypass or Wave disables it, so I'd have to go out of my way to test it. Meh.

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