Do I need a protective sleeve for my Global Entry cards (and credit cards)?

Just got Global Entry and the cards come with metallic sleeves to protect the data encoded on the cards. I mistakenly threw one away. Do I really need to replace it? Also, I notice these being sold for credit cards as well. Again, are they really needed?



Thanks, super helpful. Next time please don’t bother. Can anyone offer a real answer?

Ooh, spikey. They have given you an answer, what don’t you like about it? It’s pretty clear to me!

What’s pretty clear to you? Without anything further than “nah” and “+1”, that the OP has been answered correctly isn’t clear at all. Responses like that aren’t what make this forum a great resource.

It was a yes or no question. He got a no answer. I can’t really see the confusion.

I didn’t say anything about confusion. Again, “yes and no” answers aren’t what makes this forum worthwhile. Some other thread titles on this page:
*Hearing Aids – Don’t they make the problem worse?

Could a single untrained person operate a modern tank?

Were Nazis always SOB’s even to each other?*
In case you genuinely don’t know this, those asking questions on this forum are looking for more than yes or no answers. They would like details or at least some confirmation that the answer they have received is correct. What makes the above threads informative and interesting to read aren’t one word answers.

ETA: I’ll stop commenting as to avoid hijacking this thread any further. Sorry, OP.

This is the General Questions forum. The OP was presumably looking for a factual answer. A simple “no” (or “yes”) answer, without further explanation, might be based on facts, or opinion, or the flip of a coin. If it is based on facts, surely it would be helpful to know what those facts are.

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As Stranger On A Train said, what you need is a faraday cage, which is what the metallic sleeve basically is.

The Global Entry card contains an RFID chip, probably containing your personal information, like your name, social security number, address, and other things you wouldn’t want some random person to know. RFIDs can be read remotely with the right equipment, but only from a few feet away. If someone had the right equipment, and you had the card in your wallet without the sleeve, they could walk past you and get that data without you ever being aware of it.

If you’ve ever had a work badge that you just waved at a scanner, or any number of other access cards like for hotels, it’s the same thing. The scanner sends out enough RF to activate the card, and the card transmits back the data it contains. The difference is that cards like Global Entry sends back information on you, and that’s a privacy risk, so to cover that risk they give you the sleeve which will prevent the card from activating.

I haven’t heard of any instances of anyone doing this in the “wild” though. As you note, this vulnerability is much more likely to be used for credit cards than something like Global Entry. If you are someone who might be targeted by a state intelligence agency or something, then yes, you should worry about it. There’s also a small chance that a large electromagnetic field might physically damage the RFID chip, which could lead to confusion and delays when you try to use the card. But other than those concerns, I’m going with nah, don’t worry about.

Moderator Note

In GQ, we expect more than a simple yes or no in response to this type of question. A yes or no in this case is far too simple to answer the question factually. If you can’t provide a cite or at least a thorough explanation behind that simple yes or no, then you probably shouldn’t be answering the question.

nesta’s answer demonstrates what we expect in GQ.

Stranger On A Train’s reply also comes off as mocking the OP. We do allow for a certain amount of joking around with the topic in GQ once the question has been addressed factually. In this case, despite over half a dozen replies, the question hadn’t yet been properly addressed factually. It’s probably best to hold off on an answer like this until someone has already mentioned Faraday cages and why this would or would not be required in this case.

I keep my credit cards, Global Entry, and passport in sleeves or an RFID case. Airports seem like a great place for data skimming, with plenty of people at close enough quarters to do it. I got the sleeves free from my bank, and I needed a passport case anyway, so why not?

Sorry, while I intended to be a bit jokey I wasn’t trying to mock the o.p. I just don’t think there is a big concern or need for RFID blocking sleeves and wallets.

The conductive metallic-interlaced sleeve that comes with the card is intended to protect it against electrostatic discharge; I wouldn’t have much confidence in it effectively shielding it from being scanned. It isn’t really a Faraday cage because it isn’t closed although when laying compressed in your wallet the effective aperture is going to be small and poorly oriented for scanning. A fully enclosed RFID wallet or case should theoretically provide more protection, but I’m not aware of any standard they actually have to be tested to, so how well any particular one works is unknown. Do you need to be worried about ESD? Well, if you commonly give large shocks to people, then maybe, but if you aren’t a shocky person it’s probably not a big concern. Personal ESD really pertains to direct contact with sensitive microelectronics, where the RFID chip should be relatively insensitive to “normal” levels of static electricity.

The problem with RFID in general is that it has no security whatsoever. Fortunately, it’s a pretty inefficient way to collect personal data versus hacking some company or government database with thousands to millions of records of personally identifiable information, often including bank accounts or credit cards, social security numbers, full name and address, et cetera. Unless someone is trying to steal your identity specifically, it’s probably not that big of a concern.

I hope that was more useful than the joke infomercial.


It’s unlikely, but possible, that someone could get within a few feet and skim the data from your cards, creating a privacy and theft risk. The simplest solution for protecting credit-sized cards is to get a wallet with RFID shielding, thus avoiding the need for individual sleeves.

Have there been any confirmed instances of people having personal/financial information (credit card info, SSN, etc.) stolen by means of surreptitious RFID scanning in public places?

In lieu of any reports of such, I found these sources:

RFID skimming: is the danger real?

Why you don’t need an RFID-blocking wallet

Why you don’t need to worry about RFID shielding

There are plenty of RFID-blocking products, but do you need them?

TL,DR: save your money and effort, don’t worry about protecting your credit/ID cards from RFID skimming.

When I got my enhanced drivers license, the DMV clerk gave me a protective sleeve. I asked what this protected.

The answer was that the data was simply a unique number - no other data. I gave the sleeve back because the likelihood of skimming my card AND hacking the state database to get my personal info was vanishingly small.

Thanks for the replies. I had done some research before posting but I wanted more input.

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

I just wanted to add that you only need the physical Global Entry card when entering the US from a land border (I assume Mexico and Canada). And I might as well add that if anyone plans on foreign travel at all, it is definitely worth getting Global Entry.