Ekster makes two distinct versions of AirTag wallets. In this review, I’m going take a close look at the all-aluminum Ekster AirTag Cardholder.
If you’re interested in learning more about Ekster’s leather AirTag Wallet, you can jump to my review of that wallet here.
The Ekster AirTag Cardholder for 2023 is based closely on the design of the original Aluminum Cardholder that made its appearance in November 2020.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, Ekster made some design tweaks to create a built-in, integrated AirTag holder. And voila, they now have all aluminum AirTag wallet.
In terms of function, the original Aluminum Cardholder and the new AirTag Cardholder are identical. Except now, the AirTag Cardholder is trackable with Apple’s Find My network and Precision Finding on your iPhone.
Pop-up card ejector
Ekster’s claim to fame is their super smooth and reliable pop-up card ejection mechanism. It ejects up to 6 cards from a solid aluminum, RFID-protected case. These can be credit cards, debit cards, id cards, transit cards, or whatever cards you use the most.
The only requirement is that the cards are:
- made of plastic – paper cards and metal cards have tendency to gum things up
- the same size as a credit card
Honestly, I’ve loved Ekster’s card ejector system from day one. It’s smoother than any pop-up wallet I’ve ever tested. And I’ve tested a lot. That includes Secrid, which is Ekster’s closest competitor.
I wrote a comparative review of the Best Pop-up Card Ejector wallets here.
Ekster began using their card ejector system for the leather Parliament and Senate pop-up wallets when they were introduced in 2017. Since then, the card ejector mechanism has gone through several generations of improvements.
The Ekster AirTag Cardholder is all aluminum
With the new AirTag Cardholder for 2023, this rock-solid aluminum card ejector is still the cornerstone of the design.
But now, rather than wrapping it in top-grain leather like the Ekster Senate, Parliament, and the leather bi-fold AirTag Wallet, the AirTag cardholder has a standalone, all-aluminum construction.
Without the leather adding to the overall thickness, it’s also a more compact size. It fits the front pocket of my slim Levis like it was made for it. (Come to think of it, it was made for it.)
The card ejector case uses space-grade 6061-T6 aluminum which is an upgrade from the aluminum used in the Senate and Parliament. In fact, if you compare them side by side, you’ll notice that the AirTag Cardholder aluminum case is just tiny bit thicker than the leather versions.
Integrated AirTag Holder
The new AirTag Cardholder is closely based on Ekster’s Aluminum Cardholder. Why start from scratch when you can take a winner and make it even better?
The expandable aluminum backplate has a recessed area built in for Apple’s AirTag. Ekster basically drilled a hole in the plate and gave it a wide beveled edge.
They changed the elastic cash strap to a silicone strap and created a molded, built-in insert for the AirTag. The AirTags slips into this insert and the tension on the stretchable silicone band keeps it in place.
Ekster designed the silicone band to stretch enough to hold the AirTag and up to 9 cards underneath it.
The best thing about this new design is that it’s now a full-fledged AirTag wallet without losing any functionality of the original Aluminum Cardholder.
Looking for something other than the Ekster AirTag Cardholder? Check out my post about the 7 of the Best AirTag wallets here.
It’s just plain handsome
Because the AirTag holder is fully integrated, it doesn’t look like an add-on. The all-aluminum design has a modern sleek look to it with a manly sort of vibe.
I also like the way the shiny metallic top of the AirTag shows through and compliments the all metal design of the cardholder.
One other thing to consider is that the all-metal design lacks the inherent warmth of leather, so the aluminum always feels a little cool to the touch. Personally, that appeals to me, but it might not be for everyone.
The only drawback I see is that the AirTag cardholder only comes with two different color choices. As the AirTag cardholder gains popularity (remember, it was just introduced in July 2022), they’ll add more colors. At least, I hope they do.
If you think the all-aluminum design is a little harsh, you might try the leather Ekster AirTag wallet. The bifold leather design is “dressier” with top-grain premium leather that feels soft in your hand and in your pocket. Check out my review of it here.
How to use it
Accessing your cards and cash
Ejecting up to six cards from the solid aluminum case is really a no-brainer. Just press the slider button at the bottom with one finger and your cards pop out into a perfect fan each time.
My favorite part is that you can do this with just one hand—and one finger. There is no need to hold the wallet with one hand and press the trigger with the other. This frees up the other hand to quickly grab the card you want.
TIP: One thing I’ve noticed with all Ekster wallets is the pop-up card ejector doesn’t like paper cards. The paper surface isn’t as slick as plastic, and the slide button can sometimes fail to retract and get stuck. For paper and metal cards, put them under the expansion plate in back.
The tradeoff with the Ekster AirTag Cardholder is that it’s about an inch longer and slightly wider than other AirTag cardholder wallets like Aviator, Ridge, Spigen, and Rossm. That’s the price you pay for the extra room needed for the ejector mechanism.
With quick access to up to 6 cards in the aluminum case, there’s still room for 9 more on the outside, underneath the AirTag. The expandable backing plate and silicone band that holds the AirTag can slide up and down to any position on the aluminum case.
Cash, folded over twice, fits nicely under the silicone strap on the opposite side. I prefer a money band rather than a money clip because it slides more easily in and out of your pocket.
The all metal AirTag Cardholder really strays from a traditional wallet in just about every way.
- Instead of exterior, interior, front, back, or bill pockets for cards and cash, there’s slim aluminum card case that ejects 6 cards
- An expandable aluminum backing plate holds 9 more cards.
- Instead of leather, there is high-grade aluminum throughout with a silicone band for cash, receipts, and business cards.
- A built-in silicone AirTag holder lets you use Apple’s AirTag tracker will keep you from losing your wallet.
TIP: I found that sliding the backing plate closer to the top works the best for me. When I push them out from the thumb slot at the bottom, they clear the top of the wallet better so I can use my fingers to fan them out.
I think the ability to carry an extra 9 more cards on the outside is huge. I don’t really have the need to carry a whole bunch of cards, but it’s nice to know they’ll fit.
Installing the AirTag
The integrated silicone AirTag holder and the recessed area on the backing plated fit the AirTag perfectly. It fits snuggly and securely, but it’s still easy to install it and remove it.
The AirTag doesn’t affect the ability to move the backing plate or manage the cards that you place between it and the aluminum case. But it does make the cardholder a little thicker.
In my experience, I don’t notice the extra thickness when I carry the wallet in my pocket. Because the AirTag is only about an inch across (and the wallet is 4 inches long), it only occupies about the 25% of the total real estate.
It increases the overall thickness of the wallet by a scant 1/4”, but only in a small area. Plus, the top of the AirTag is smooth and slightly rounded so it easily slides in an out of the pocket of my tight-ish Levis.
Using the AirTag
To explain all of the ins and outs about how the AirTag works is beyond the scope of this review. There is an excellent quick start tutorial from Apple support here.
In a nutshell, the AirTag helps you track your wallet two basic ways. You’ll need an iPhone 11 or newer (with Ultra Wideband) to take advantage of all the features.
- It helps you find it when you misplace it within Bluetooth range of your phone. From the Find My app, tap Find and the app will display an arrow pointing you in the direction of your AirTag along with the distance (down to a 10th of an inch!) as you close in on the location. Alternatively, you can tap Play Sound and your AirTag will play a sound if it is within Bluetooth range.
- It helps you find it when it’s lost outside of Bluetooth range. When you open the Find My app, a map should display the last known location of your AirTag. Then you can enable Lost Mode to help you locate it.
Should you buy it
I have been using Ekster wallets of all kinds for over 3 years, and I really love the new AirTag Cardholder. I like the way the AirTag holder integrates with the overall design.
Because of the plump and awkward size of the AirTag, it is very limited for practical use in 99% of wallets that exist today. For these wallets, credit card size trackers by Chipolo, Tile, and the solar tracker from Ekster would be better choices.
But the stylish cardholder that Ekster designed makes carrying the AirTag hardly an afterthought. The dedicated holder (or pocket, pouch, receptacle, whatever you want to call it) looks good and feels good in your pocket.
My favorite thing of all is that adding the AirTag holder doesn’t sacrifice any card ejector or card-carrying capacity. And it barely contributes to the thickness of the wallet. It’s really a win-win.
Buy it, if:
- you want a durable wallet made from aluminum with plenty of card capacity.
- you want the AirTag to integrate beautifully into the wallet design.
- you love quick pop-up card access with just one hand.
- you want Ekster quality.
Pass on it, if:
- you’re unwilling to put up with the occasional sticking of the card ejector.
- you’d rather have a leather wallet than one made of aluminum.
- you’d prefer an AirTag cardholder that’s more credit-card sized.