There are a lot of opinions about what are the best or most important features for men’s wallets. Let’s break each of them down and talk about when they would or would not be useful. We’ll also talk briefly about the durability of each feature or why they might pose a problem. Then, after you’ve read this brief foray into features, you can decide what you really want in a wallet versus what the designers and marketers want to sell you.
Going in alphabetical order…
If you have a wallet with a cash pocket versus a money clip, you might also want a bill divider. It essentially gives you two cash pockets so that you place your small bills on one side and your larger on the other or to keep some money separate for a special use versus that which you can spend freely.
The downside of a bill divider is that it does add an extra layer of material, making your wallet a little thicker than it would be with only one cash pocket. Because of the size requirement, they are most often found in larger wallets such as trifold wallets.
Ahh… the wallet chain. How I miss the 90s. But even though it’s not the 90s, wallet chains serve two purposes. They look cool and they help keep your wallet safe. Pickpockets avoid men with wallet chains. People without their wallet tethered to their clothing make much easier targets. Even if you don’t like the look of a chain, you can get a short one to go around your belt loop. It will barely be seen.
Of course, a wallet chain needs a chain ring to attach to. Check that the ring on your wallet is firmly attached with reinforced leather surrounding it so that the ring doesn’t slip out or tear the leather when you pull on the chain.
If you want to carry a few coins for the vending machine or parking meter but don’t want them jangling around in your pocket, you can buy a wallet with coin pouch. Often placed in the lining of the cash pocket with a zipper or foldover, they’ll keep your coins ready in one spot. You can also use it for transporting SIM cards safely.
Likewise, if you find yourself frequently locking yourself out of your car or house, you can put an extra key in your wallet, secure in its own pocket. You won’t need to worry about calling the locksmith unless you also leave your wallet behind locked doors.
As with other additional pockets, the extra material needed to form the pocket will add to the bulk of your wallet.
Elastic bands can be used to keep polycarbonate wallets closed or as quick-access storage for cards and cash on the outside of your wallet. They’re a neat idea, but…
Elastic stretches out. Over time, the band will become more and more loose, eventually becoming unusable. It can also fray and tear. It will be the weak point of almost any wallet. It also doesn’t look very stylish. Who wants to fold up their bills to put them under a band? Money clips and exterior pockets are a much better way to go.
Different than money clips, these are for attaching the wallet to a belt or a lanyard, or for attaching other items to your wallet, such as keys or a pill case. You’ll probably only use these for certain occasions. Maybe you want a key holder wallet and want to attach your car fob to the outside. Maybe you want to carry your wallet around your neck when you’re jogging or swimming.
Any time you buy a wallet with an exterior clip, check how sturdy the clip is and how securely it’s attached to the wallet. The clip won’t do you any good if it breaks or tears away from the wallet.
We like exterior pockets for storing quick-access cards or a few folded bills. You can get to what you need without opening your wallet. Sometimes, you don’t even need to pull your wallet out of your pocket to retrieve a card and slide it back into its place.
There are some downsides. 1) You’ll have to fold your bills into thirds to make them fit into an exterior pocket. Wadded up cash doesn’t look very good. 2) Any card on the outside of your wallet will be more exposed to wear than those on the inside. Your most-used card will get scratched up faster than any others. 3) You might not need to use only that quick-access card or two as often as you might think. With most stores and facilities issuing their own membership cards, you often benefit from showing their card before you pay.
Let’s say you frequently shop at two different stores and get your gas from on one chain. They all have their own discount cards. So, instead of pulling just one card out of your quick-access exterior pocket to pay at all three places, you also need three more “quick-access cards.” You might as well have your whole wallet on the outside!
ID windows are useful when you usually only need to show one ID. You can pull out your wallet, flash your face, and be on your way. If you have an exterior ID window, you don’t even need to open your wallet.
But what happens when you have to show your work badge in the morning and your ID when you stop at the store for a cold one after work? Which ID do you put in the window? What if you’re also taking some night classes and have a student ID to carry around? If you have to pull multiple IDs out of the pockets of your wallet, you might as well skip the ID window and store them all in the pockets.
If an ID window is a good fit for you, consider buying a wallet with the window on the inside. Exterior windows are subject to scratching, denting, and ripping. Interior windows are much better protected.
Money clips are useful when you want to carry a thin wallet, and you don’t expect to need to carry a lot of cash. Clips will hold an average of 10 bills. They cut down on the bulk of the wallet by removing the cash pocket. That takes out a full layer of material. The clip itself adds some thickness, but only on one side of the wallet, not both as in bifold wallet or three sides as in a trifold wallet. You could even buy a wallet with a money clip on the outside to keep your bills within easy reach.
When you buy a wallet with a money clip, test to see how many bills it will hold and check that the clip is attached to the wallet securely.
You can buy a passcase wallet or purchase a separate insert. The passcase is an ID window that flips out or up from the inside of the wallet. It can be double-sided or single-sided. It keeps the ID window inside for better durability and allows you to show your ID without showing the rest of what’s in your wallet. They can removable or stitched to the fabric of the wallet.
A passcase does add quite a bit of thickness to a wallet, so the best models allow you to remove them when you don’t need them. Purchasing a separate insert will give you the same flexibility.
A pull-tab is useful when you want to carry a lot of cards with you but don’t need them very often. The idea is that you put your most-used cards in the regular pockets and then stuff a bunch of less-used cards in one large pocket. When you want to use one, you pull on a tab that sticks up out of the pocket, and all the cards slide up or out, depending on the pocket’s orientation.
Some people don’t like pull-tabs because they don’t care for the look of the tab sticking out of the wallet. You should also be aware that the tab is likely to fray or tear, depending on what it’s made of.
Besides cash and card pockets, you might also want a separate receipt pocket or two. You can stuff receipts in the pockets to record your purchases later or keep notes in the pocket for what you need to buy or do next. They keep your cash pocket or money clip free of random papers.
If you do want receipt pockets, just be aware that they will add an extra layer to the wallet, making it a bit thicker.
Talk about useful! Do you know what no one needs? Having their identity stolen. And unfortunately, you can be made a victim of identity theft without even removing the cards from your wallet. You don’t even to pull your wallet out of your pocket!
Because all of our credit, bank, key entry cards, and passcards all operate via radio frequency identification, someone with a remote reader can scan your cards and either make a copy of it or use it online to make unauthorized purchases.
RFID protection is a metallic mesh inserted between the layers of some wallets. It can block someone trying to read either just your financial and personal information (accessed at a radio frequency of 13.56 MHz) or also your key card and passcard information (accessed at 125 kHz). Those that don’t block the lower frequency allow you to use your key and passcards as you want to while blocking more sensitive information.
The downside to RFID protection is that the mesh does add a minimal amount to the thickness of the wallet. There are also many wallet models that do not include RFID protection. If the wallet you want doesn’t include it, you can purchase RFID protection sleeves to go over your cards. They do add to the thickness of the card, reducing each pocket’s capacity, but it’s better than having no protection at all.
You might want to close your wallet or a certain pocket of your wallet for security reasons or to keep everything in its place. Maybe you want a coin pouch and need to keep the coins from rolling out in your pocket. Maybe you want to hide the amount of cash you in the bill pocket. You might have a key holder wallet that requires snaps to close the wallet and keep the key clips from getting tangled.
Whatever the purpose, just make sure you’re buying high-quality hardware. Snaps should shut tightly and take some tugging to open them. Zippers should also close tightly. Too smooth of a close means too smooth of an open. You don’t want the zipper or snaps to come open on their own. Both also need to be securely attached to the wallet to prevent them from pulling away from the material as you pull on them every day.
Wallet inserts are for people who don’t mind carrying around a thicker wallet. You can store extra shopper’s cards, business cards, pictures, SIM cards, and spare keys all in the plastic inserts. They’re for people who visit a lot of different stores or have memberships to a few different facilities. They’re for people who like to look at pictures of their loved ones or show their loved ones off to others.
You’ll probably have to replace the inserts every couple of years when they tear, but they’re very inexpensive. Just make sure that the inserts in the wallet you buy are removable.
There are good points and bad points to each feature. If you’re a minimalist and want the smallest wallet possible, you’re going to want to skip all of the extra pockets. If you’re concerned about the security of your wallet, you’ll probably opt for zippers, chain rings, and RFID protection. If you’re looking for convenience of use, simply imagine using each of the features and decide which ones would be useful to you. It’s your wallet, and if you buy a high-quality wallet with the features you like, you might not ever need to be a wallet again.
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