How to Know it’s Time to Replace Your Wallet

The problems we all have with the accessory we show off least.

I’m a wallet geek. (And I fully recognize that about myself.)

It all started a few years ago when I broke my back and had my wallet stolen in the hospital. I couldn’t keep sitting on my wallet with the back pain I was experiencing, so I put it on the table next to my hospital bed and an opportunistic thief saw their opening. Ever since that day I’ve been studying every wallet I can.

At first my goal was to find a wallet for myself that was thin enough I never had to take it out of my pocket, but very few wallets, even the “thin” ones, were actually slim enough to keep in my pocket. Of the few that were, none lasted long enough because they were made out of cheap materials that would wear out, stretch quickly, and need to be replaced way too often. One of the most popular slim wallets only lasted me 3 weeks before it wore out! Eventually I decided it was time to design a new one.

Throughout the development process in the last few years, I can’t tell you how many times a friend has pulled out a ratty, torn mass of leather and cards that’s three quarters of an inch thick to show me their wallet. I couldn’t (and still struggle to) believe so many people don’t know when it’s time to replace their wallet with something better. For that reason, I’m writing this article. It’s time we all recognize when it’s time to replace your wallet.

Reason #1: Your wallet is worn out past the point of no return

A few days ago a friend actually showed me that his current everyday “wallet” is actually just one half of the wallet he used to have until it ripped in two. Friends, there’s a time when your wallet has lived its life and needs to be put to rest. Believe me, I’m all for making things last as long as possible, and I would much rather repair a jacket or pair of shoes than replace them, but a wallet is a bit different. It’s one thing for a printed logo to rub off over time, but this small mass of material is responsible for carrying your money, your personal identification, and credit and debit cards that could cause serious financial problems and headaches if misplaced. There’s a point when a wallet is no longer able to do its one job: hold those things securely.

Maybe it’s ripped along the middle, the edges are coming unstitched, or the leather has stretched so much that the card pocket holds 4 cards now instead of just 1. Filling it with more and more cards just to keep the pockets tight actually exacerbates the problem rather than solving it as stretching just increases. Did you know leather can stretch up to 100%? (Spoiler: we solved this by backing our leather with a virtually stretch-proof material in our Stealth Leather wallet.)

Reason #2: Your wallet will hurt your back in the long-run

The younger we are, the less likely we are to realize this, but carrying a thick wallet can actually be pretty dangerous for our backs as we age. Because most people carry a wallet in their back pocket, they end up sitting on it for long periods of the day. The thicker the wallet, the more the sitting position is tilted to one side by the placement of the wallet between one side of the buttocks and the seat. This shifts the spine from its natural vertical position to an offset, tilted alignment that grows ever more serious over time.

Everyone who has ever carried a wallet has gotten uncomfortable at some point on a long drive and taken their wallet out of their pocket to set it in a cupholder or somewhere that wasn’t their back pocket. You might think it’s no big deal, but over the years, it’s unfortunately a medically recognized reality.

Anatomically, the Sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and connects the spinal cord to the hamstrings and thighs, right through each buttock, and connects to muscles all the way down to the toes. Because it is so large and runs such a long distance, it is pretty easy to pinch or irritate (medically diagnosed as Sciatica). According to the Harvard Medical School, as many as 40% of people experience Sciatica at some point in their lives.

Here’s where this applies to wallets. Remember when we were talking about spine misalignment due to one raised side held up by a bulky wallet in your back pocket? That can pinch the Sciatic nerve, and likely already is. Many doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists are now responding to and treating a diagnosis commonly referred to as “wallet Sciatica.” Their answer? Stop keeping a thick wallet in your back pocket.

You may have already experienced this firsthand. Many medical professionals we spoke with throughout the development process for our Stealth Wallet said they see it all the time in their patients — back and leg pain on whichever side of the body a thick wallet is kept in the back pocket. If you haven’t already felt the effects of spine misalignment and nerve pinching, it’s only a matter of time if you continue to carry and sit on a thicker wallet in your back pocket.

The problem could be solved by keeping your wallet in your front pocket, but is your wallet really thin enough to be kept there comfortably and in a way that doesn’t look really strange? If not, it’s time to replace your wallet. (By the way, the Stealth Wallet is really that thin)

Reason #3: It’s bulging in your pocket, and that’s not doing you any favors

GQ’s style editors take a definitive stance on the matter: “Dude: Bulging Pockets Make Your Pants Look Terrible.” The issue is so significant, they actually devoted an entire article to ways to get rid of the pocket bulge that is, in their words, “freakishly widespread, dangerously under-diagnosed, and needs to be stopped.” Unless you enjoy looking like you have a tumor on your butt, a wallet that bulges in your pocket needs to be replaced. Fashion trends come and go, but bulges where they shouldn’t be are never a long-lasting choice (see: shoulder pads). On top of that, aren’t you tired of getting holes and worn rectangles in your jeans where your wallet sits?

Reason #4: Your wallet is heavy and you don’t realize it

During development of the Stealth Wallet (and my general wallet nerdiness the last few years), we spoke with some backpackers who are big advocates of carrying ultralight gear. Many of them actually are used to carrying Ziplock baggies with their cards and cash instead of a wallet to save the weight. This is fascinating to look at mathematically.

Say you are going for a 3 mile run, which is much more attainable than the dozens or hundreds of miles many ultralight backpackers will go on one trip. If the average step is 30 inches and a mile is 5280 feet, that’s roughly 2112 steps. If your wallet weighs just 3 ounces more than it has to, multiplied by the number of steps you’ll take on a 3 mile run, that’s just over 19,000 ounces of extra weight you’ll have carried (1188 pounds!) in aggregate. Just think of the weight that equates to over the wallet’s lifetime of use. (If you were curious, the Stealth Razor Wallet weighs less than 0.2 oz).

Reason #5: It doesn’t keep your card data safe

There are credit cards in use today that emit a radio frequency identification for transaction processing. What that means is that they are effectively emitting your card data to any scanner looking for it. While that is great for having your card easily read when you are making a purchase, it also means a person with ill intent could scan for your card information and get access very easily.

It’s definitely up for debate how widespread of a concern this is with the number of those cards that are out there and the lack of reported cases of this kind of theft over the years. However, at the same time, the popular TV show Mythbusters tried to put it to the test and that run of the show was killed for murky reasons, and there are a ton of “how-to steal card numbers with RFID” videos on Youtube that collectively have millions of views and feature data readers that cost as little as $4. It definitely doesn’t seem like an impossibility or a settled debate.

Unless your wallet has an RFID lining material that blocks radio frequencies, it’s possible that your card data could be vulnerable to theft. I’d personally much rather have an RFID blocking wallet than risk having to go through the process of denying a charge with the card company’s fraud department, getting a new card sent to me, changing all of my auto-payments, and even worse, having to pay for a hacker’s purchase on my card. Because of that, we designed every Stealth Wallet to block the relevant radio frequencies and keep card data safe, just in case.

I hope this tutorial about how to know it’s time to replace your wallet has helped you. Really honing in on the features of the perfect wallet is what lead to founding Airo Collective and the journey I’ve been on the last few years. We launched the Stealth Razor and Stealth Leather wallets on Kickstarter in February, had several thousand backers help bring it to life, and it is the wallet that solves all of the problems above.

Check it out when you’re looking to replace your wallet at www.airocollective.com.

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