Updated November 2021
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Buying guide for best credit card multi-tools

The first pocket multi-tool was introduced by the Leatherman company in 1983, and was more or less an instant success. There are now many different variations from dozens of makers. The most compact and portable of these is the credit card multi-tool.

You might think that you couldn’t fit much into something that’s only the size of a typical credit or debit card, but the designers of these devices have shown remarkable ingenuity. A dozen or so tools is common, and the most complex we’ve seen contains 46. We’ve even heard of a couple currently seeking crowdfunding that boast 60!

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If you need a bunch of gifts for friends or colleagues, you can buy credit card multi-tools for about a buck each in packs of ten!

Key considerations


Fortunately, even the best credit card multi-tools are relatively low cost. They take up next to no space and are tremendously useful, so why struggle to choose just one? You can put a general-purpose model in your wallet or purse and maybe another in your vehicle glove box. You can buy a different one to go with your fishing gear or in the storage compartment of your RV. You end up with a variety of hugely practical tools for a very modest outlay.


  • Steel: Many credit card multi tools are made of a single sheet of metal, almost always stainless steel, which is tough, doesn’t rust, and shrugs off dirt. They may have a colored coating (frequently black), but that’s really just for branding purposes.

  • Durability: The thickness of the steel varies from one manufacturer to another, and it’s worth considering. If it’s too thin, the leverage required to undo a nut or open a bottle might cause it to warp, probably not enough to damage it, but enough to make the job more difficult and the tool uncomfortable to use. Quality doesn’t cost a great deal more. 

  • Hinges: Several of these pocket tools have hinged or folding sections that create a larger tool when opened, effectively doubling the size of a knife, for example. It’s important to look at the hinge section, to make sure it’s substantial enough for regular use. Some blades are removable, which could allow you to take the remainder of the multi-tool through airport security areas (depending on the other components).

  • Plastic: The other type of credit card multi-tool comprises numerous components, generally a dozen or more, that slot into a central section. The outer casing is usually plastic (some in a range of bright colors). While this isn’t as rugged as a steel sheet, it does allow the inclusion of things that simply can’t be created out of a single layer of material, such as scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass, a small ball point pen, compass, and flashlight.

Variations and extras

The basic flat, stainless steel credit card multi-tool generally has a couple of openers for bottles and cans, screwdriver and wrench sections, and a knife and saw blade along the side. They fill a multitude of general-purpose functions, which is why they’re so popular. However, there are a whole bunch of more job- or hobby-specific models that are worth considering. If you’re passionate about a particular pastime, it’s certainly worth doing some extra research to see what’s available.

  • There are multi-tools with multiple angle gauges and drill-sizing holes that would suit carpenters and people in other building trades.

  • There are multi-tools that are more focused on camping, hunting, or survival, incorporating everything from axe heads to fish hooks.

  • There are multi-tools specifically useful for owners of firearms.

  • There is a multi-tool that includes a set of lock picks, useful in an emergency or if you’ve lost the key to your tool box, for example.

  • You’ll also find a number of sets that include a credit card multi-tool plus other useful items. These range from sets that include a similar but even smaller tool to go on a keyring, or those that include a carabiner, money clip, emergency whistle, and fire-starting rod. They often come in a nice box that is ideal for gift giving (and just as good for Mother’s Day as Father’s Day!)

Credit card multi-tool prices

Inexpensive: The cheapest credit card multi-tools are found in packs of ten, which you can get for less than a dollar each. That’s tremendous value, but don’t expect great quality. There are usually one or two items of little practical use, blades need sharpening, and steel can be thin. There’s also a good chance that instructions will be in Chinese. Similar, but better-quality models are only $3 or $4 each, and even if you’re on a tight budget, you should spend that little bit extra.

Mid-range: For between $10 and $20, you’ll find a huge variety. In fact, most of the credit card multi-tools we’ve been talking about, regardless of how trade or function specific, fall within this bracket.

Expensive: There are a few credit card multi-tools in the $20 to $40 range. While you do pay a small premium for the big-name brands, these are also superbly made and, for many, worth the investment.

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Sometimes the number of functions is inflated with tools of little real-world use. Buying a multi-tool with fewer items — but those you actually need — could save you money.


Q. Will all these tools really fit in my wallet?

A. That depends on the size of your wallet! Seriously, though, while most are “credit card size” in terms of width and height, and many are as thin as a credit card, those that have removable tools or hinged sections have to be made a little thicker to accommodate them. So those might not slot in alongside your credit cards, but they’ll still fit easily into a pocket or purse.

Q. Can I carry a credit card multi-tool on a plane?

A. Given the variety available, that’s difficult to answer. If it’s got any kind of knife or saw blade, then you definitely won’t be able to. Some manufacturers tell you their tool is Transportation Security Administration (TSA) compliant in the product description, some provide information on their websites, but it will always be at the discretion of airport security personnel. At the very least, it’s likely to delay you, so is it really worth the hassle? It is perfectly okay to put one in your checked luggage, though.

Q. What does “tactical” mean when talking about credit card multi-tools?

A. Strictly speaking, it should mean that the tool can be used for firearms or other military equipment purposes. However, it’s frequently used to suggest strength and durability. While tools may live up to the billing, you do need to check the specifications carefully. It’s possible that it’s just a marketing gimmick.

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