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Despite the rise in popularity of cardholders, money clips and smart wallets, the good old-fashioned bifold is still the Goldilocks of wallets. A bifold offers the security and spaciousness of a folding wallet, minus the bulk of a trifold wallet. Plus, bifolds keep cash easy to access, which, even in the age of Apple Pay, Venmo and crypto, is still something that comes in handy very often. But the bifold wallet has been content to rest on its laurels for a long time and has rarely been reinvented. That’s probably why there’s consistently been a lot of hype around Bellroy’s wallets. The Aussie brand has taken classic silhouettes like the bifold and zip wallet and tinkered with them enough to make them surprisingly interesting. The Note Sleeve is one of the brand’s most popular styles, and I’ve been using it daily for over six months to see if it lives up to the hype. Here’s our Bellroy wallet review, and what we did (and didn’t like) about the Note Sleeve wallet.
At first glance, it’s clear the Bellroy Note Sleeve is a good-looking wallet. It’s available in a wide range of colors, so you can easily find the one that suits your tastes. Basics like black and brown are there, but it’s well worth considering interesting-but-still-grownup colors like dark teal and blue. The brand’s name is subtly stamped on the lower right part of the wallet, and the wallet is available with contrast or tonal stitching across the sides. The sleek and minimal design is the perfect antidote to overly-branded designer wallets. Many of the colors have a two-tone design on the inside of the wallet for a little added visual flair. The leather feels soft and sturdy, and the stitching is secure.
You would think there wouldn’t be much to say about the inside of a wallet, but there’s a lot going on when we reviewed this Bellroy wallet. The wallet swaps out the traditional four to six horizontal slots for just three vertical slots. These three slots are perfect for your everyday cards. You can store your ID, debit card and transit pass, or whatever your three most commonly used cards happen to be. The slots have an angled design that makes it easy to quickly slide your cards out. Of course, you can store a lot more than just three cards, thanks to the pull tab.
The unique leather tab allows you to stack any less-used cards that you still might want to keep on hand. Simply pull the tab, and your cards pop out, making it easy to grab them and use them. By cutting down on unnecessary extra sleeves, you can store more cards and save space. Once you want to put the cards back, stack them neatly and push them back in. The tab will then slide back into place.
I was worried that this pull tab would be gimmicky, not durable or even hard to use, but it’s none of the above. The cards really are easy to take out and pop back in, and despite using this tab all the time, there’s no sign of the leather tab wearing down. The tab is simply a strip of leather held by a loop, so you can easily fix it should it get stuck (which it can do, but doesn’t very often). That said, the main drawback is that the tab works best with a certain number of cards in there. Less than two makes for a loose fit, while more than four can start to create bulk.
The pull tab isn’t the only smart storage, though. There are two hidden pockets in the cash sleeve. One tab is designed for business cards, allowing them to stay cleaner than they would be if they mingled with bank cards. I use them for health insurance cards, which are sometimes flimsier than plastic cards. In addition, there’s a coin pocket, which is protected by a flap. You can store quite a few coins in there, although this obviously starts to create bulk in the back of the wallet. Again, I thought the idea of hidden pockets seemed gimmicky, but they are genuinely useful.
As for the cash sleeve, it has a substantially taller design than your average bifold. That’s because it’s designed to be travel-friendly, allowing you to fit taller currency like Yen and Pounds. I’ve only ever used this wallet with American greenbacks, so I can’t attest to this feature, but it is good that Bellroy took different kinds of currency into account. The only drawback of this feature is that US dollars really sink into the deep cash sleeve, making them a little harder to access.
The wallet is also RFID blocking, but this isn’t a necessary feature when it comes to stopping real-world identity theft.
Of course, what makes for a great product goes beyond just the product itself. The leather is certified by the Leather Working Group, making for a more environmentally conscious leather product. If you’d rather stay away from leather altogether, Bellroy also makes the Note Sleeve in fabric. Bellroy is also a certified B Corporation, meaning it’s held to higher standards in terms of social and environmental impact.
The Note Sleeve is a great everyday wallet, and it has a lot of storage that’s space-saving and secure, yet easy-to-access. The leather is supple and feels sturdy, and it’s a stylish wallet thanks to the subtle contrast stitching, attractive colors, and additional details like a color-blocked design and a patterned fabric lining.
Bellroy Wallet Review: Should You Buy It?
As with any wallet, it really depends on your needs, but in my view, it’s a great everyday wallet. If you want to carry more than the two or three cards you get with a cardholder, then the smartly designed pull tab and hidden pockets of the Note Sleeve are an excellent way to keep cards close by and neatly organized. The versatility of the wallet allows you to carry a lot of cards, and you can comfortably carry more cards than you can with the average bifold.
The main drawback is that it’s not necessarily much smaller than a regular bifold wallet. Because the cards form a stack when the wallet is folded, it’s actually not as thin as some other wallets. Still, the cards fit neatly inside the wallet, so the wallet is streamlined and not bulky, even though it does have some thickness. Because the wallet is designed to be foreign-currency friendly, it’s also somewhat taller than the average billfold. That means that if you specifically want a wallet that’s thin and small, then you might be more comfortable with a cardholder. Or, go for one of Bellroy’s other wallets, such as the slim sleeve.
- Stylish design that comes in a lot of colors
- Allows you to store a lot of cards
- Hidden pockets that are great for coins and delicate cards
- At $89, it’s something of an investment
- It’s smartly organized, but not actually especially thin or small
What Are Some Alternatives To Consider?
The Note Sleeve is one of Bellroy’s most popular and smartly designed wallets, but it’s not the only option the brand offers.
Bellroy Hide and Seek
The Hide and Seek has a design that’s akin to more traditional bi-folds, with five horizontal sleeves. Of course, it still has tricks up its sleeve, and there are plenty of hidden pockets for more organized storage.
Bellroy Slim Sleeve
If you specifically want something slim, go for Bellroy’s Slim Sleeve, which holds folded bills, rather than full-length bills, to cut down on size.
Nomad Bifold Wallet
Bellroy isn’t the only brand doing smart storage right. Nomad’s Bifold wallet has a traditional folding design, plus one external pocket, making it easy to grab your ID or credit card without even opening your wallet. It’s made from premium Horween leather.
Herschel Hank Wallet
Herschel’s fabric wallet is a great, affordable alternative to more expensive leather wallets. It has three card slots and an ID window.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, although it's worth noting that studies have found little evidence of real-world crimes involving RFID skimming.
The Note Sleeve will fit in the front pocket of the average jeans, although it is somewhat thick and tall. If you prefer a streamlined wallet, consider Bellroy's Card Sleeve or Slim Sleeve.
Bellroy's wallets are more expensive than the average leather wallet, but they've been upgraded with better features for convenient carrying, making them well worth their price of entry.