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You might have an excuse to buy a new purse — to protect yourself from credit card fraud.

You may or may not be aware of this, but many credit and debit cards contain RFID technology, which allows you to pay for something by tapping it on (or placing it near) a payment terminal. RFID stands for radio frequency identification, and those frequencies communicate the information needed to process a transaction. Lots of things have RFID, including some key cards, transportation passes and all U.S. passports issued since 2007.

Millions of U.S. consumers have RFID-enabled credit and debit cards. The tap-to-pay function can be really convenient, but it’s also susceptible to theft, using scanning devices thieves can conceal while brushing up against you or your purse to read the card data. Perhaps you’ve heard of using aluminum foil to protect such theft — it’s effective, but it can also be a little annoying to fold and unfold foil around your credit cards whenever you want to use them. Some companies make special sleeves or cases to protect RFID cards, too.

You can take security a step further and get an RFID-protected wallet or purse. A company called Articulate used crowdfunding campaigns to launch a line of wallets and purses designed to block RFID used in credit cards and debit cards. They’re a lot more fashionable than foil-wrapped cards (unless you’re really into the metallic look), but foil is a lot cheaper than a $35 Articulate clutch, which are available for pre-order.

How you choose to protect your information is really a matter of preference, but before you get to that point, you need to know if your cards are RFID-enabled. RFID is often noted on cards with a symbol made with four curved lines (it looks like waves you might see on an icon indicating sound volume), but you can also call the customer service number on the back of your card to find out.

Another important note: RFID is not the same as chip-and-PIN technology, but they’re both alternatives to the magnetic stripe technology used for most U.S. credit and debit cards. If your card uses chip-and-PIN, a thief isn’t going to get information using an RFID-reading device.

If you carry an RFID card and don’t protect it, however, someone could steal the information, encode it onto a fake card and make fraudulent purchases using your data. Credit and debit card fraud can be very expensive, even if you’re not held liable for the fraudulent charges, because it can damage your credit score and take a long time to fix. Given that possibility, using some foil, card sleeves or a special purse doesn’t sound so bad.

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Image: Articulate Clutch

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