Wallets are one of the key components of your outfit. Wherever you go, and whatever you plan on doing, you can’t leave the house without your wallet. It’s an item that has to suit your need, match your style, and be an everlasting companion to your daily life.
Choosing the right type of wallet is essential, but this task is getting harder and harder with the release of hundreds of new models every month. But even though there are countless different options on the wallet market right now, the top two contenders seem to stay the same for decades.
We are talking about bifold and trifold wallets, the two most popular types of wallets ever known to man. You see them everywhere. Almost every wallet designed during the past century was of this type.
This outright dominance of these two types also gave birth to one of the most heated debates in the EDC wallets world – which wallets are the best, bifold or trifold?
In this article, we will go in detail through all of the features, qualities, benefits, and downsides of both bifold and trifold wallets, what they offer and where they come short, and we will try to finally answer this long looming question, once and for all.
Before we go on with the comparison between bifold and trifold wallets, let us first cover some of their basic characteristics in order to get a better grasp of these two types.
Bifold wallets are basically the first picture that pops into your head when somebody mentions the term “wallet”. They are the classic, traditional folding wallets, with a design that strongly resembles a simple notebook.
These wallets have one fold and two compartments, one on each side of the fold in the middle. They usually feature a few small slots for cards, one wide slot for cash, and occasionally come with a coin pocket, see-through ID pocket, or a snap closing button.
This is, without a doubt, the most classic and well-known type of wallet known to man. In fact, when modern wallets were popularized and spread amongst the majority of the population in the mid-19th century, bifold designs were the only ones available for people to purchase.
Trifold wallets came on the scene sometime later, a few decades after their bifold counterparts. Once people got used to carrying their money in a pocket-sized pouch instead of their pockets, more and more inventions were introduced to the public.
A key characteristic of trifold wallets, as their name suggests, is that they have two folds instead of one, with three separate compartments in total. As such, they provide an extra side stacked with card pockets, while the rest of their features are roughly the same as they are on bifold wallets.
Differences between bifold and trifold wallets
Aside from the obviously distinctive appearance, bifold and trifold wallets differ in a few ways. You can notice many disparities in their designs, their size, the capacity they provide, or even the prices at which you can buy each of them.
Unlike modern minimalist and tactical wallets, which come in many different shapes and sizes, bifold and trifold wallets are mostly found in their standard designs – slim one-card pockets stacked on top of each other, and one or two wide bill compartments at the back.
The main difference between the two designs comes from the materials. Even though both are known as leather wallets, you can often find a bifold wallet made of other materials like metal or plastic.
The bi-fold design allows greater freedom during the manufacturing process, as you can fold any two plates onto each other no matter what they’re made of, but you can hardly do it with three.
Size and capacity
When you look at them unfolded, the two types are almost the same in size. They always come with similar width and thickness. The differences here are noticed when you fold the wallets down.
Thanks to the one extra compartment that folds onto the other two, trifold wallets are thicker than bifold ones but quite smaller in width. Bifold designs, on the other hand, are much slimmer and a better fit for your back pocket, but they will occupy it whole.
Capacity-wise, bifold and trifold wallets usually fit the same amount of cash bills and cards, although trifolds are usually known to have a couple more card pockets in them. You will also almost always find an ID pocket in a trifold wallet, whereas you’ll rarely see one in modern bifold designs.
If you need to use a lot of cards throughout your day, see my guide on the best wallets for many cards.
Wallet prices always vary based on which brand and what store you shop from. The general rule is that higher-quality products from well-known brands cost more, and that is usually the only criterion for ranking wallets based on their price.
However, when talking about the differences between prices of bifold vs trifold wallets, we can see some interesting trends. The best trifold wallets today are, in general, slightly cheaper than the best bifold ones.
A great trifold wallet from some of the most popular wallet brands will cost you between $20 and $50, with the most expensive ones going up to $90.
Bifold wallets, on the other hand, have a much wider price range as many brands offer multiple different series of similar designs. They can cost you anywhere from $40 to $200, depending on whether you want a cheaper or a premium wallet.
Advantages of bifold wallets
The benefits you get from a wallet will largely depend on the details in its design. But, in general, bifold wallets provide three main advantages over trifold designs:
- bifold wallets are slimmer – With one less folding compartment, bifold wallets will always be a bit slimmer and a much better fit for your back pocket. You can carry a bifold wallet in your pocket without it creating a bulge on your slim-fit pants, and it won’t damage your posture.
- Bifold wallets are easier to handle – Since they fold just once, bifold wallets are much quicker and more convenient to use than trifold ones, which you’ll have to unfold two times and go through the trouble of them flapping around in your hands.
- Bifold wallets don’t crumple your bills – or at least, they won’t crumple your bills as much as trifold wallets do because they only make one crease.
Advantages of trifold wallets
The capacity, looks, and style of trifold wallets that appeal to some people, might be liabilities to others. Nevertheless, all trifold wallets usually come with the following advantages over their competitors:
- Trifold wallets have more capacity – Although minimalist trifold wallets sometimes have less capacity than classic bifold ones, they generally fit more cards thanks to the extra folding compartment these wallets have.
- Trifold wallets look more compact when folded – The trifold design squishes these wide wallets into one slender item you can fit in literally any pocket.
- They are great front-pocket wallets – Thanks to their slim and slender design, trifold wallets can easily be carried in your front pockets, which brings two great benefits: you don’t damage your posture by sitting on them, and you keep them safer from pickpocketers than if they were in the back of your pants.
- Trifold wallets are generally cheaper – Yes, you can find a bifold wallet that is two times cheaper than a trifold one, but the best-selling trifold designs that hail from some of the most popular brands always tend to be on the lower price-scale, compared to their premium bifold counterparts.
What do people prefer?
We will probably never get the final and definitive answer to this long-going debate. As fashion changes more and more rapidly, and with it, wallet trends tend to reset almost every decade, the preference for bifold versus trifold wallets will always shift. At the end of the day, I don’t think we should be surprised if something altogether new surpasses both and becomes the most popular wallet design in the upcoming years.
But, as it stands, for the moment, bifold designs do have a small edge over their trifold competitors. They are the most popular and best-selling type of wallet for the past few years, and most people seem to prefer a bifold wallet over a trifold one at any given moment.
You can notice this by visiting the online stores of popular brands, or even the big retail stores like Amazon, where the options for bifold design trump all other wallet options, including the trifold ones.
We can’t say for sure why that is, but it seems that people prefer the familiarity of a classic folding wallet with two compartments, over the seemingly unorthodox design with three folds. Having a bigger variety of materials also gives bifold designs a huge edge. As the industry slowly shifts towards minimalist fashion, the ability to release metal wallets along with their leather products gives them a big advantage as well.