While RFID is used heavily in shipping and warehousing applications to allow pallets and packages to be tracked, it is also becoming popular with the financial services industry. RFID-enabled credit cards can be read without contact, letting you wave them by a reader, tap them to a reader or otherwise avoid going through the process of a swipe. While this communications technology can be convenient, it also has drawbacks.
Credit Card Issuers with RFID Chips
It's hard to tell whether or not your credit card has an RFID chip just by the type of card that it is. Almost every issuer offers some cards with RFID chips. Whether you have an American Express, Visa, Mastercard or other credit card, you could have an RFID chip and not even know it.
Identifying Signs for RFID Chips
While some credit cards, such as certain versions of the American Express Blue Card, actually have a visible RFID chip, most do not. Many are marked with the RFID signal, which consists of four nested curved lines, much like the symbol for Wi-Fi wireless networking. Others will have a logo or text marking bearing the words "PayPass," "Blink," "payWave" or "ExpressPay."
Drawbacks to RFID Technology
The problem with RFID technology is that if a scanner on a payment terminal can read your card's information, a scanner held by a criminal can too. In fact, the Washington Post reported that security firm Flexilis demonstrated a scanner that could pick up a RFID signal from 69 feet away. While an intercepted RFID code should only be good for one transaction, one fradulent transaction is still problematic.
Keeping an RFID Card Secure
To stay secure from criminals with RFID scanners, you have to prevent them from reading your card. You could destroy your card's RFID chip by physically removing it or by microwaving it for a few seconds, but that would eliminate your ability to use the RFID chip when you want to. Companies make card shields and even protective wallets that block RFID scanners. Alternately, you could just wrap your card in aluminum foil, which will also block the scanners, and remove it when you want to use it.
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