It's been about 2 years now since I ditched the old school bifold wallet and converted to using a slim leather cardholder for my cards and cash. It's a change I'll never regret.
You're most likely here as you're also considering ditching the pocket bulging, filled with nothing but receipts you don't really need to save, wreaking havoc on your lower back when you drive, bifold wallet. First, good choice. Second, what took you so long?
With more and more apps available for keeping track of points cards and many companies not even offering a physical card any longer there really isn't any need to have a wallet stuffed with 20 cards. Many of us also don't carry much cash, if any at all, reducing the need for a bifold wallet even more.
So how do you decide on which style of leather cardholder is best for you?
There are a number of factors you should be considering, none of which are "what high end fashion brand should I buy?", but I'll get into more detail on this later.
Form Over Function?
Never, never, NEVER choose form over function. It's something that is going to be sitting in your pocket, for the most part - so what it looks like should be the least of your concerns. This isn't to say the colour, stitching or design don't matter at all they just shouldn't be the main deciding factor on which cardholder you end up purchasing.
To start, take an inventory of your current card and cash situation. Really think hard about which cards you haven't used in the last 3 to 6 months, these cards can either stay at home or better yet be added to an app.
Once you know how many cards you will need to carry each day we then need to consider cash. Do you have to have cash on you at all times? Can you get away with a stash of a single fifty dollar bill or a few twenties? Or do you never need to carry cash?
Finally do you require additional storage for things like receipts, maybe tokens or coins for parking or tolls or possibly you play guitar and need something to always have a pick with you, yes that's a thing!
After you've decided on each of these you can now start to narrow down the massive selection of handmade cardholders you'll find when searching Google. Let's break this down a little more.
Cardholders For Only Cards
So you've taken inventory and you only need to carry some cards with you. This is probably the easiest scenario to find options for. You can go with something as simple as a card sleeve. These come in a variety of colours, finishes and designs but all of them have one thing in common, they're a single piece of leather folded over on itself. A good card sleeve will have a push notch at the bottom as well as some kind of cut out along the top edge to allow for easy access to your cards.
If you have a single card that you use quite frequently through the day you may even want to find a card sleeve that has a single outside slit to slide a card into for easy access.
The next version of cardholder that is mostly made to hold just cards is the fold or envelope card holder. This design normally comprises a single pocket again only this time there is usually a flap or fold over with a button, snap or strap to hold the fold over down. These can normally carry between 5 and 8 cards however, like most leather cardholders, you'll have to break it in to allow for easier access to your cards.
Another type of card only leather card holder you'll find is the dual slot. These too come in a variety of style with the main design concept being a taco type form with one piece of leather folded over another. In my opinion, after using one for a few weeks, these aren't the most secure type of card holder as there's nothing to hold the cards placed into the outer fold in place. I found that many times my cards had become loose in my pocket or fell out when removing the holder from my pocket.
Leather Cardholders For Cards & Cash
In this category you'll find literally hundreds of different design concepts. There are designs that give a nod to the classic bifold, like the Alder wallet from Sleaves, or designs that break the mold completely while still being highly functional, like the Aspen or Beech which both have different ways of storing your cash.
These types of wallets, that have space for both cash and cards, tend to have a little less room for cards. For the most part you'll find that you can get 4 - 6 cards in many of these designs.
Some designs will say they're meant for holding both, but it's a "kind of, sort of" type situation. What I mean by this is that the design does have room for cash but you'll need to double fold the bills to fit the space provided.
A really great option I came up with is the Oak cash and cardholder. This design has an outside pocket that fits half fold bills on one side and two card pockets on the other side with a inner slot for receipts or cards you don't use very often. This is my current everyday carry and I'm really loving the versatility of the design.
Extra Capacity Leather Cardholders
Keep in mind that we started this article considering the concept of parring down what you have in your pocket, however if that's just not an option for you at this time you can find some cardholders out there that look more like a wallet but have room for 8 - 10 or more cards, depending on the design and your needs.
A good example of this is the Ivy cardholder. This design comes in two different versions, one with a coin purse attached and one with two banks of cardholders. Each card slot could hold 3 to 4 cards giving a total capacity of up to 16 cards.
You Don't Always Get What You Pay For
Let's get back to what I said at the start, high end brands. While I can totally understand the status factor of pulling a Cartier, Gucci or Alexander McQueen cardholder out of your pocket - some of which can run upwards of $400 or more - in many cases these are made from bonded leather or extremely thin outer skins that have been glued to a non-leather backer. These cardholders normally last a few years with frequent use before falling apart or having the leather start to peel off.
A quality cardholder, made from veg tan leather, can and should last for years if not decades. A term you'll hear in the leather wallet and cardholder world is patina - and it's something many of us are proud to show off. Patina is the worn in look, the darkening, the shine that your leather cardholder gains after months, or even years, of regular use. It's a statement to the quality of the piece you have in your pocket. Something the vast majority of high end fashion brand leather wallets and cardholders will never see as they are just not made to withstand day to day use that most of us put leather products through.
Does The Perfect Leather Cardholder Exist?
I say yes, but you'll have to find out for yourself. Now here's the thing, this might require some trial and error. You might not get it right on the first purchase, hell you might not get it right on the 4th or even 5th purchase. I have a stack of wallets and cardholders on my dresser, some of which are only there for nostalgia, that I may go back to at some point but for right now what I carry is what's working for me now.
In order to find out I say you really have to commit to a few of things:
- Being open to not carrying around the same old pocket bulging bifold you've had since you were in your twenties.
- Changing the way you look at what you need to have on you daily - that hospital card you got back in 2013, does it really need to go in your wallet (totally not speaking from experience here).
- Sticking with something for 4 to 5 months to really get a feel for the design, give it time to really break in and see if it's capacity works for your needs.
As I said in the intro to this article I have been a cardholder carrier for just over 2 years now and you'll never talk me back into carrying anything more. I love that I can hold everything I need in my front pocket, no more having to pull my wallet out and put it on the dash on long trips, I also love that I only carry what I need now.
I promise you making the change is something you won't regret - once you find the right solution for your needs.