A big, old-school wallet can weigh you down, both physically and emotionally — the opposite of what could be, in the immortal words of George Costanza, “an organizer, a secretary and a friend.”
An elegant solution is the minimalist wallet, a diverse category of lightweight, super-slim cases designed to accommodate only your most critically important items such as your ID, ATM card and some cash. The best minimalist wallet is one that combines durable construction, style and a size that forces you to be ruthlessly economic in your choice of what to carry around with you.
The minimalist wallet category itself has, ironically, become jam-packed with thousands of designs being sold online and in stores by well-known brands, high-end boutiques and Chinese upstarts. Most of them cost between $10 and $40. But there are plenty of wallets with a minimalist design that cost $100 or more — often built from heavy-duty materials, like high-quality leather, or stocked with extra features, like a bottle opener or multitool. So if you’re looking for a compact wallet with a slim design that does “more,” you’re not hurting for choices.
Though there are plenty of bifold and trifold thin wallet options, we’re mostly focused on one-panel design wallets here. These usually hold between four and 10 credit and debit cards, though some do it more artfully than others. Many come in a variety of fabrics and colors, and some are hybrids, which combine wallet and money clip or elastic band. Most offer some type of RFID blocking technology, which is advertised as a protective measure against electronic pickpocketing, like scammers skimming data stored on your contactless credit cards. (That may be an overblown concern, however.)
We’ve put them through their paces, with an eye on quality, durability, style, functionality and price. Take a look at our minimalist wallet recommendations below, which we’ll update as we test new products. And if you ditched your old, bulky wallet for one of these (or a similar thin wallet), tell me about your experience with it in the comments.
Minimalist wallets, compared
|Most minimal||Best $15 or less||Best warranty||Most extra features||Best luxury pick|
|Brand/model||Flowfold RFID Blocking Minimalist||Hammer Anvil RFID Blocking Minimalist||Buffway Slim Minimalist||Dango T01 Tactical Wallet||The Ridge Slim Minimalist|
|Buying info||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon||See it at Amazon|
|Dimensions (L x W x H)||4.2 x 2.8 x 0.13 inches||4.0 x 3.3 x 0.25 inches||4.4 x 3.1 x 0.25 inches||4.38 x 2.5 x 0.38 inches||3.4 x 2.1 x 0.44 inches|
|Capacity||12 cards||6 cards plus cash||8-12 cards||12 cards||12 cards|
Five of the 12 wallets we tested had essentially the same basic design, and there are dozens — if not hundreds — of nearly identical models, all made in China, listed on Amazon. They generally cost between $10 and $15, though some colors, patterns and fabrics are more expensive than others. They’re all about the size of a deck of playing cards, though they measure about 0.25 inch thick. The five we tested all have their (odd) brand names embossed on them:
Each of these slimmer wallets had the same basic elements: two or three card holder pockets on each side; a transparent window that lets you flash your ID without removing it; an inner space that can be used as a cash pocket or to stow a few more cards; RFID blocking on its card sleeve to block electronic pickpocketing of your credit and debit cards; and, in the case of the Zitahli, a magnetically attached money clip. (Though that company claims its clip can safely hold up to 25 bills, when I put just 10 folded bills into it, the magnets failed to connect.) But my top choice overall is the shorter, wider Hammer Anvil; I don’t mind that it lacks the ID window, which, for all of its practicality, I find tacky and not befitting of the top wallets for men (or women, minimalist wallets are for all!).
I also really like the $12 Kinzd, which has a slightly broader design that separates it from the cookie-cutter field. It has a terrific inner pocket — which is closed on one side only, allowing you to open it up wide — that comes together firmly with a satisfying magnetic snap.
Continuing from above: The Zitahli Slim & Minimalist Front Pocket Bifold Wallet, Buffway Slim Minimalist Front Pocket RFID Blocking Leather Wallet and Chelmon Slim Wallet RFID Front Pocket Wallet are more or less identical, and if you’re looking for a cheap, nondescript minimalist wallet (with RFID blocking), honestly, any of them will do. But note that the Buffway minimalist leather wallet provides a generous 12-month no-questions-asked replacement policy, making it my top choice for the habitual wallet-loser.
Flowfold’s design is supremely minimal: It’s extremely thin and weighs a fraction of an ounce. The one pocket design can fit up to 12 cards — or fewer, with some money — and that’s about it. Unlike most of the other wallets, however, it requires eight cards or a wad of money to work properly; it won’t securely hold just one or two cards and still block RFID signals properly.
But it’s exceptionally durable; the one I bought several years ago has held up exceedingly well. (Full disclosure: Flowfold is headquartered in southern Maine, where I live, and I am acquainted with folks who work there.)
Note that the Paperwallet Micro Wallet, profiled below, makes a great alternative to the Flowfold.
There’s something odd about a minimalist RFID wallet that includes a paracord tensioner. And yet, we have the T01, which covers the basics and then some. It’s extremely durable, handcrafted with “aerospace grade” aluminum — for those of you looking for a metal wallet — in the US, and can hold 12 cards (at least) plus a wad of bills in the included silicone band. And the T01 comes with not only a built-in bottle opener, but Dango’s stainless steel multitool accessory, which can be stowed in the wallet. (I can’t recall even one moment during the past 25 years when I needed any of those tools while on the go.) Of course, the multitool pushes the wallet’s total weight above 6 ounces, reduces the number of cards it can hold and won’t be happily received when boarding an airplane. But still, it’s a cool wallet for men who need tools on them all times.
Dango backs the T01 with a limited lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects and one year for defects in materials and workmanship.
Of all of the rugged minimalist wallets I tested, I found the Ridge Authentic to be the most flexible — ironic for a wallet made of titanium. But the sandwich design of the Ridge wallet securely accommodates one card as easily as it can 12, and the durable but pliable money clip holds one bill as tightly as a bigger wad. The cutout provides quick access to all of your cards, and the tough elastic strap that holds everything together inspires confidence.
This wallet is almost comically overdesigned, and you can use the included screwdriver (!) to disassemble the pieces, remove the money clip and bring the money strap to the exterior. That noted, there are numerous copycats selling on Amazon that might do nearly as good a job as the Ridge for about one-fifth of the price. Ridge makes this wallet in China but backs it with a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects, which seems about right for a $105 wallet.
Other minimalist wallet options
Though technically a bifold and not a sleeve, the Micro Wallet warrants inclusion here for its incredibly light weight. Made out of Tyvek — the synthetic material used to wrap buildings during construction, which is also water resistant — this bifold wallet weighs a mere quarter of an ounce. You can park a few cards in each of its side pockets or slots, and the cash compartment will hold as many folded bills as you can cram in. Whether it’s one dollar or a stack of 20s, however, this wallet will not stay closed when outside of your pocket.
You can get these wallets for $15 on Amazon (using the link below). But the company sells an array of quirky, distinctive designs on its own website. Paperwallet guarantees the Micro Wallet for 30 days — a shorter period than most other vendors. But I’ve been using mine for a couple of weeks and, so far, it’s held up surprisingly well. I’m curious to see how it does over the long haul, and will update this roundup in the future.
If James Bond carried a minimalist wallet, it would be Ekster’s distinctive but pricey Parliament. The main compartment securely holds one card to five cards, which fan out of the top when you push the nifty eject button. (It must be noted that there are a fair number of Amazon reviews complaining about problems with the button.) Concealed within the interior is an elastic band that holds money or additional cards. And the genuine leather cover flap — yes, technically, this could be called a bifold — has two more slots for additional storage. (There’s yet another slot on the back, too). Of course, if you pack too much into a pocket, you risk perverting the mission of the minimalist wallet. Note that Ekster sells a solar-powered, voice-activated tracker card that can help you find a misplaced wallet; it costs $49 on its own or $29 when purchased with a wallet.
Vaultskin’s tasteful Notting Hill wallet manages to cram a lot into a small package. The defining feature here is the zipper. For some, it will be a deal breaker — for its bulk, or whatever it connotes, style-wise — while others will find the security of a zippered compartment appealing for containing their credit and debit cards and money. If you’re zipper-friendly, there’s a lot to like. The exterior features three slots that can accommodate cards or money. A fourth hidden slot can store two or three more cards, which you can eject out the top using the genuine leather pull tab. The inside has two pouches, one of which snaps down, and a strap that can stow several more cards. There’s also a small key hook. Though it says “London” on the packaging, this wallet is made in China.
Thread Wallets’ Skinny resembles a fancy Ace bandage or compression sleeve. It’s made of a stretchy, elastic material, which can easily hold 10 cards and some money. It also has a small key ring. Though it’s billed as specifically “for women” — and it was my 10-year-old daughter’s favorite of the bunch — that seems a bit reductive. This would also be an excellent wallet for men. The only drawback to this simple, stylish wallet is that the excess material on the interior bunches up into a lump — a minor but considerable design blemish.
Trayvax’s Armored Summit Wallet delivers an appealing combination of ruggedness and extra features at a reasonable price point. It can hold up to seven cards and five bills, and like the Dango, it’s built from sturdy materials — steel and melonite, in this case — in the US. Also like the Dango, it has an integrated bottle opener. Still, Trayvax’s buckling strap is a deal killer for me. It’s nylon — not elastic — and I found it quite difficult to adjust when I needed to remove a few cards or make more room for additional money.