Why would you set your passport on fire?

Don't microwave your passport.  It is flammable!

Back when the United States Passports started using the RFID chips, there was a lot of controversy about them.  There was a worry that bad guys could read these chips and steal your information, so the internet started getting filled with the recommendation that you microwave your passport to kill this RFID chip.

I haven’t heard this recommendation in a while, so I decided to investigate.

Turns out RFID chips are flammable.  (language warning)

The original concept of microwaving your passport was so that you could essentially kill the RFID chip without technically tampering with the passport.  The RFID chip would be dead, but there would be no visible signs.

Unless you considered scorching and bubbling a sign that you microwaved your passport.  (Yes.  I believe that is a sign you microwaved the passport.)

Even a man trying to show how to do it correctly ends up with a scorched passport:

 

And it also turns out you have to explain damage to your passport in person, as this poor passport-microwaver found out:

For starters, my fifth passport was destroyed by fire. Not a house fire, nothing so tragic as that. I did it myself. Under my own volition. It came in the mail when I ordered it after my fourth expired on my 26th birthday, and I received it, held it in my hands for a few moments, and then threw it into the microwave, upon which it immediately burst into acrid flames.

Clearly I did not think this through.

After the fact, with a melted RFID chip and a charred passport stashed away in a shoebox under my bed, I discovered the State Department website warns that tampering with passports is a federal offense subject to 30 years in prison, right up there with treason and insurrection. 

As though in confirmation of my fears, the website noted that damaged passports had to be brought in person to a local post office for an interview before a reapplication could be granted.

 

So how DO you destroy your RFID chip?  My official advice is I do not advise you do anything illegal.  But before you try anything you heard on the internet, please watch a video of someone doing it on YouTube first.  If the “expert”‘s passport bursts into flames, I doubt you’ll do any better!

 

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discuss this post

  • Brian

    Why not just use an RFID blocking sleeve?

  • DaninSTL

    If I was dumb enough to damage my passport instead of putting into a metal coating sleeve to protect it. I would just tell them I lost it so I could get a new one.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      I don’t think people who didn’t think through the microwaving would think through the next steps the way that you have :P (I’ll note that you haven’t microwaved your passport yet)

  • Miles

    Global Entry is a voluntary US program for international travelers that lets them bypass the long immigration lines when they return to the States.

    Australian immigration has begun to accept US passport holders who have Global Entry, but only if their passport has a (working) RFID chip.

    Panama is working on a similar program for American tourists, and probably other nations as well.

    So, it’s wise to reconsider whether or not you want to disable the chip.

 
 

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