RFID Credit Cards

What are RFID Credit Cards?

Traditional credit cards require visual access or direct physical contact to retrieve information such as the card-holder’s name and account number. Recently, some companies have begun using RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) and smart card technology which requires no actual contact in order to transmit this same information. Instead, each card contains a tiny wireless computer chip and antenna that is energized and interrogated by a reader. As many as 20 million of these RFID credit cards and 150,000 vendor readers have already been distributed in the U.S., and according to Visa USA, “This has been the fastest acceptance of new payment technology in the history of the industry.”

Credit card companies offering RFID-enabled cards are quick to tout that their information is safeguarded by sophisticated cryptography. Unfortunately, some recent studies have indicated that data is able to be lifted from these cards with almost alarming ease. Remembering that no physical contact is necessary for transmission to take place, tests were conducted with commercially available skimmers where information was able to be retrieved from distances as great as 30 and 70 feet. With the right technology, someone could potentially walk into a crowded room and fill one of these devices with the personal data of everyone in possession of an unprotected RFID credit card. In this instance, no one would even be aware that their identity had been stolen.

How can I protect myself?

  • Be on the lookout for portable skimming devices
  • When using RFID credit cards, purchase a “shield” (Faraday Cage) for the card or use a Scanner-Proof Wallet
  • Use cash when able to do so
  • Try to keep an eye on your credit card at all times, if possible
  • Retrieve your credit card immediately after every transaction
  • Keep your receipts
  • Review your account statements carefully, and notify your financial institution immediately of any discrepancies

* Information provided by Division of Consumer Services, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services