What are the best phone cases that incorporate a wallet? I look at the options.
Like self-driving cars, eliminating the need to carry a wallet has been a long held dream. Using our phone to replace a wallet has been a work in progress for years. The U.S. has been behind other countries, notably China, Korea and Japan in this regard. Most transactions are managed using “Super Apps” that allow transactions of all kind, from food to transit to medical.
We’ve gotten a bit closer to going wallet-less when Apple and Android introduced their virtual wallets on their phones, making it possible to pay for a real transaction with the tap of the phone. We’re doing it at restaurants, grocery stores and most everywhere, thanks to the new smart terminals.
But that’s still not enough to eliminate the need to carry a separate wallet. We still need to carry a license for ID, auto and medical insurance cards, and an occasional membership card. And then there’s the odd-sized Covid-19 vaccine card that’s required to show in some locations.
While we’ve not been able to eliminate our wallet entirely, it no longer needs to carry dozens of cards and bills. That explains the introduction of many new phone cases that are designed to replace our wallet, so we can carry one item instead of two.
Even Apple has weighed in with an accessory wallet for its iPhones 12 and 13 series with the MagSafe feature, a magnetic back used with a charger, car mount and other accessories. They offer a snap on wallet accessory, but it’s only capable of holding two cards.
I’ve been searching for a better solution for a combo wallet/phone case, one with a larger capacity. My criteria is is that it holds 5-8 credit cards and documents, holds a few bills, maintains the MagSafe functionality for MagSafe chargers, battery packs and car mounts, and fits in a front pocket. I’ve evaluated samples from a half dozen manufacturers and found some better than others, but none perfect. There is still room for an improved solution.
- OTTERBOX Style Folio Wallet for MagSafe – This is an unusual product that’s a combination cover and wallet that attaches to a MagSafe case, using the MagSafe magnets to locate in place. It’s made of vinyl that resembles leather. It’s expensive for what it is, $48, but it works very well and provides one of the most compact solutions. It’s advisable to use a screen protector to prevent scratches from the edges of credit cards.
- FYY Case is an inexpensive case, one of the thousands of iPhone cases found on Amazon that are often more imaginatively designed than cases from the more familiar brands. Its wallet is on the front of the case and snaps open for reveal a slip pocket for a couple of cards and bills and oversized documents. It’s unique solution but the case is very bulky and doesn’t hold enough cards for my use. $23.
- ZVE iPhone Wallet Case – is one of my favorites. It has a zippered wallet that’s about half the height of the phone on the back of the case. Cleverly, the case is hinged at one side, enabling it to fold away from the phone’s so the MagSafe can be accessed on the back. The wallet has plenty of capacity for 6-10 cards plus folded currency. The case is held in place by both the MagSafe and additional magnets. The main disadvantage is it’s bulky when you hold the phone in your hand to write email or surf the web, etc. As an experiment I cut the leather hinge so I could remove the wallet when I didn’t need it, but then the wallet no longer held firmly with the magnets alone. $46.
- LeatherSafe Luxury Book iPhone 12 Pro Max Wallet Case from Pad&Quill is a premium leather case made in the U.S. that has a wallet inside its front cover. It’s one of the highest quality cases considering its materials and construction. While it’s designed to work with an Apple MagSafe charger, it’s unlike other MagSafe cases. It has a deep cutout on its back for the charger to fit, but it didn’t work with my MagSafe car mount or MagSafe batteries. $72.
- The BookBook Case for the iPhone 12 and 13 series from Twelve South combines features of the Otterbox wallet and the Pad & Quill case. It has credit card slots and a stash pocket inside its front cover, providing capacity for up to 6-8 cards plus folded bills. The wallet is well constructed of leather. It also has a standard MagSafe case that magnetically attaches to the wallet. That allows the phone to be used with MagSafe accessories and easily fit onto a car mount. It’s still a bit bulky, but does the best job of meeting all of the requirements above. The back of the leather can fold to act as an easel, although the case needs to break in for it to work. The case costs $70, but first time buyers can get a 12% discount.
- The Vaja iPhone Wallet Leather Case is the most deluxe of all wallet cases and slimmer than most. It’s also the most expensive at $159. Available only for the iPhone 13 series.
My favorite is the BookBook case. It get lots of positive comments and queries, looking just like a small antique leather-bound book. It’s rugged and it holds all I need.