RFID credit cards: Should you worry about protection?

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Radio frequency identification (RFID) credit cards — a type of contactless card technology  — allow a safe and quick payment transaction process.

The beauty of RFID credit cards is that they allow you to make your payment by simply waving or tapping your card at the payment terminal. While this technology has been on the rise, it is potentially even more in demand now as people are looking for ways to minimize contact with surfaces.

However, with any new technology, concerns for security are always on the table. If you’re wondering how safe RFID credit cards are, you’re in for some good news.

What is an RFID credit card and how does it work?

An RFID credit card is equipped with radio frequency identification technology. This allows your credit card to communicate with a payment terminal using a radio frequency instead of a magnetic strip.

RFID technology allows you to simply tap or wave your credit card near a card reader or ATM Using this technology to make purchases gives you the ability to complete transactions within seconds. Plus, your card never has to leave your hand, minimizing contact with the card terminal and the likelihood of leaving your card in the reader.

How to determine if your card is RFID enabled

While RFID technology is becoming the norm for credit cards, not all credit cards have been updated with the technology. If you’re not sure whether your card is RFID enabled, you can easily check by taking a look at its physical aspects.

RFID enabled cards have a logo on the front or back of the card that looks like a Wi-Fi symbol turned on its side. This symbol is meant to represent the radio frequency used by the card to make it contactless.

If your card has that symbol, you should be able to make purchases with a wave or a tap of your card. To be sure, you can test it the next time you go to a shop. When you’re at the checkout, look for the contactless logo (it’s the same logo that’s on your card). Then, simply tap your card on the payment terminal to complete your transaction.

How common is RFID credit card theft?

RFID credit cards are considered to be as safe as EMV chip cards, and data theft concerning RFID cards is uncommon. This is because of how these cards transmit information and what information is shared.

RFID card technology uses radio frequencies to communicate with card readers, and for that communication to happen, your card has to be close to the reader and can’t have barriers around it that prevent a connection (such as a wallet with other cash and cards inside).

Unlike traditional credit cards, RFID cards use one-time codes to complete each transaction. Every time you use your RFID card, a new code is created, thus making it more difficult for your information to be compromised.

While it is technically possible for a thief to find a way to skim your RFID card, they would have to work quite hard to do so.

What you need to know about RFID credit card protection

Because RFID credit cards work via radio frequencies, some concern has been drummed up that a card reader could pick up your card information without your knowledge. For this reason, there are quite a few products on the market, such as sleeves and wallets, that claim to have RFID protection.

However, these products are truly not needed to keep your RFID credit cards safe as the technology is already incredibly secure. In order for a person to compromise your card information, they would have to get very close to you, have a card reader that could pick up a signal and have no barriers between the card and card reader.

Are RFID cards effective?

RFID cards are secure and effective payment methods. However, any new technology has its growing pains. There are still retailers that don’t have machines that can read RFID cards, and it’s also possible to encounter a faulty card reader that doesn’t allow you to use the technology. If this happens, you’ll still have the option of paying by dipping your card in the chip reader or swiping.

Tips for preventing credit card theft

RFID credit cards are some of the most secure credit cards at our disposal, but it’s still good to take precautions as with any other credit card.

For starters, consider setting up mobile alerts for all of your accounts. This will give you a notification any time your card is used, allowing you to immediately identify suspicious charges.

Another good practice is to make sure you have a strong password for your online accounts (and to avoid saving your password on websites, in particular). If you’re worried about losing your password or forgetting it, you can take advantage of a password managing app like Dashlane or LastPass.

Lastly, make sure you’re taking the time to review your credit card statements and credit report. These tools document activity on your accounts and give you a clear picture of how your card is being used and what you’re being charged for.

Normally you are allowed a free credit report each year. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, you can now get free, weekly credit reports.