The first credit cards were launched by Diner’s Club way back in 1950. They didn’t have nearly the functionality as they do today, and at the time, they could only be used for restaurant bills. Other banks soon followed, and one of the most popular paying methods was born.
It took American Express nine years after that to revolutionize the industry with the credit card imprint machine. If you were born after the mid-‘80s, you’ll probably not know that electronic readers didn’t exist. A copy of your card was made on paper.
Fast-forward a few decades, and the paper method has become obsolete in favor of scanning, tapping and swiping. While simply holding your card near the reader is a great step forward, the technology comes with some danger. Here’s how to prevent your card from being illegally scanned.
Here’s the backstory
Chips in credit and debit cards have made purchases in shops somewhat safer. The traditional method of swiping it through the reader can still be used, but Chip-and-PIN combinations are far more common.
The evolution of payment cards led us to where we are now — tapping or holding your card close to the reader so that wireless signals can complete the transaction. The technology is called Radio-frequency identification (RFID) or Near-Field Communication (NFC).
Simply put, it is an electronic system to send, verify and receive information quickly. When you tap a card on the reader, it verifies where you are buying from, the purchase amount and how much money is in your account.
But one thing that it doesn’t do is verify the person tapping the card is the rightful owner of it. It also doesn’t check that the transaction is legitimate or authorized.
The dangers of RFID payments
It seems a bit scary, but the only thing that needs to happen to complete a transaction is for the card to be close to the reader. So, in theory, someone with an RFID-enabled card machine could hold it close to your wallet and steal your card’s details.
Since no other input is usually required, you won’t know it happened before it is too late. There is a way to prevent the possibility from becoming a reality. The answer? RFID-blocking cards and wallets.
These handy accessories look and function like regular wallets but have properties that block all RFID signals. With a wallet or blocker like the ones highlighted below, nobody will be able to tap your card without your knowledge.