The Ekster wallet. What the heck is it?
First a little background. Men and women have been losing their wallets (and valuables) for as long as they’ve been carrying them around in their back pocket. While security is obviously a concern, the bigger concern is more of a nuisance or annoyance…you’re without all of your stuff! Sure, nowadays you can cancel your cards, order a new license (sometimes you may have to go in to actually take the picture again – what a whip!), and the cash we typically carry is minimal. All that said, it’s a real hassle to do all of that, then have to navigate the next 10 days without everything.
The solution? The Smart Wallet. Smart wallets seamlessly integrate with an app on your phone via a GPS card or imbedded chip. We like the card because it you can remove it and it can double as a briefcase GPS or whatever other item you want to track temporarily.
Ekster is one of the pioneers in the smart wallet revolution. Founded in 2015, by two friends out of Amsterdam and a Kickstarter guru, Ekster was born. They were tired of the endless line of boring options in the EDC wallet space. They wanted to address the problem we mentioned above – losing your wallet, but also all of the other issues that are important in the world of everyday carry. The wallet had to be slim, high quality and “look” awesome. As you’ll see in our review below, they were successful. They’ve grown from a startup to a company that supports more than 15 families. Let’s dive into two of their most successful wallets launched, the Ekster Parliament and the Ekster Senate.
The Parliament and Senate have a big brother / little brother relationship. Well, not really, but one is a bit more beefed up version of the other.
Ekster Wallets | Senate vs. Parliament
What we’d like to do is take a look at both wallets at the same time. It’s helpful to have both of them in front of you when you’re deciding on which one is right for you. Specifically, we’ll examine them both across four major categories Size, Durability, Aesthetics & Function. In our opinion, these four items are the most important factor(s) when deciding on a new wallet.
The Senate wallet measures as follows:
Senate – Length: 4 in Width: 2.4 in Depth: .3 in.
The Parliament is almost identical in terms of length and width, it’s just a bit thicker in terms of depth, measuring:
Parliament – Length: 4.2 in Width: 2.4 in Depth: .3 in
For both wallet dimensions, we’re talking just slightly larger than your standard credit card, which means they both fit snugly in your front pocket without much notice. The wallets are a “bit taller” than your typical card because of the built in release mechanism, but more on that later.
Bottom Line: The difference here is minimal in terms of size. Although the Parliament is almost twice as thick as the Senate, we’re talking .3 inches here…which is almost negligible. We wouldn’t make a decision based on size alone. Especially when it’s less than half an inch.
Durability is obviously important when spending money on anything, but especially important when spending money on something you use (or carry) every day. These Ekster wallets are well made. I’m not saying they’re family heirlooms or anything like that, but you can reasonably expect to get years out of them before it’s time to move on. Quite honestly, do you have a nice pair of jeans or shoes that you’ve had for 15-20 years? We didn’t think so. A nice wallet is very similar.
Expect to get 2-3 years out of it then upgrade or try something else. These wallets won’t crap out on you after 3 months.
We like Ekster because the focus is obviously on the quick release mechanism (keep reading), but they don’t skimp on their leathers. You can read about leather quality here. They use Top Grain Dutch and German leathers (and from our experience), they are top flight in terms of overall quality and aging. They will develop a nice leather patina over time and each wallet is unique, which you don’t see in typically in cheap, mass produced wallets.
Bottom Line: It’s a tie here. They both use the same high-quality materials and will age well.
At first glance, the Senate and Parliament from Ekster look very similar. They both come in the same color range which consists of the following colors:
Nappa Black, Roma Cognac, Classic Brown and Steel Blue (all below).
While they offer the same colors in the terms of color profile, where they differ aesthetically is the Cash Strap. On the Senate, the Cash Strap is completely on the outside, visibly shown on the exterior of the wallet. On the Parliament, however, the Cash Strap is neatly tucked away behind bifold portion of the wallet. This is key because we love, love, love the Cash Strap portion – we’ll talk more about that in the section below. The benefit of having it hidden is that you 1) protect your cash 2) develop a nice patina on the exterior of the bifold portion of the Parliament 3) keep the cash strap from grabbing on anything in your pocket when inserting or removing.
Bottom Line: We like the Parliament here. It looks and feels nice in your hand with the bifold layout. When you add in the features we mention above, it’s a winner in terms of aesthetics, but not by much. Both wallets are easy on the eyes.
Here is where we’re going to start seeing some differences (yet similarities).
This is what the Ekster is all about (other than being a smart wallet) is fast access to your cards. That’s where the mechanism comes in to play. With the click of a tab/button/lever (we’re not sure what we want to call it) all of your cards effortlessly shoot out from being tucked away securely inside the wallet. The best part? They come stacked as though part of a pyramid, so you can easily choose which card you need for that particular moment. The only catch is that you can fit 5 cards in the mechanism, not 4, not 6. It doesn’t work well if you use 4, so we encourage you to use gift cards or something similar to fill it out with exactly five cards.
They both exhibit this functionality, so we’ll move on the next feature.
Card Case vs Bifold
The Senate is more of a traditional card case or card wallet. There is no open and closed part of the wallet, what you see is what you get. The Cash Strap fits nicely around the wallet (like we mentioned before) and it fits slimly in your front pocket. We have seen some users who swear by their card case – saying, “I’d never carry a TRADITIONAL bifold” or “Keep it slim for me”. We get it.
It will work well for those who don’t need to carry more than 5 cards, but if you have 7, 8 or even 9 cards that you carry often…you’ll run out of room. It’s really not necessary to carry a ton of cards, but it is what it is.
Some people just need to carry a few more. If that’s not you, then the Senate is perfect. If it is, keep reading below to check out the Parliament.
The Parliament has all of the cool functionality we mentioned above with The Senate – the awesome quick draw mechanism, the convenient cash strap for carrying bills/cash…but what if you run out of room? That’s where this wallet comes into the picture. The Senate is basically “turned into” a bifold wallet. You now have a smooth finish on the leather exterior, with two additional card pockets on the interior. This really takes it over the top having a couple of extra places to store cards, but still remain slim.
Bottom Line: Again, we know it’s a matter of preference, but we like the Parliament in terms of overall functionality. You honestly don’t sacrifice any of the “slim factor” and you get two extra pockets. We’ve carried wallets a long time and it’s a feature that we can’t really do without.
Where’s my wallet? | GPS Tracker
This is why we’re here, right? All wallets basically do the same thing…carry your cards and/or cash and keep said goods secure. The tracking feature on the Ekster is what separates it from the rest of the slim wallets. Let’s dive into what the tracker is and what it isn’t.
Ekster has partnered with TrackR™ to user a Crowd-GPS/Bluetooth Tracker in the form of a “wallet-sized” card. This card fits neatly in your Ekster Parliament or Senate to make the wallet that much more unlosable…is that even a word? They have an app that’s easily downloaded off the App Store or Play Store (iPhone or Android) and you can then connect your card tracker (wallet).
We knew what bluetooth tracking was, but we had to dig a bit to find out the deets on crowd-tracking. The gist of it is this…millions of people are using TrackR™ products to track their goods. They are in essence a part of a network or community that helps people find their stuff. Bluetooth tracking works if you’re within 50-100 feet of the product. Once you leave or lose your wallet and are more than the “Bluetooth” distance away from it…the crowd-tracking kicks in. You can see exactly where your wallet was last seen, but if someone else who has TrackR™ installed on their phone walks by your device, it will securely (and privately) send you an update as to the exact location of your tracker. The person who sent it will never even know it, they’re just doing a good deed by being a part of the network. (so people won’t steal your stuff)
If you’re within Bluetooth range, you can send a signal from the app to the wallet and it will actually start beeping. Wild! It’s not as loud as we’d hoped, but it compares to other tracking devices we’ve tested, such as the Tile (hint, this card is rechargeable unlike the Tile – just leave it out in the sun for a few hours (3) and you’ll have enough battery for a month!)
*You can use the tracker to find your phone too. The leather logo on the elastic band contains a hidden button. Press the button and app on your phone will send off a signal to help you find your phone.
If you have any issues pairing the device to your phone, simply check out the user manual.
Overall Ekster is a solid manufacturer. They’ve put a lot of thought and effort into their line of products and you can really tell. They are now on the 3rd version (3.0) of their wallet line and continue to improve with each release. We read through a ton of reviews (after we did our own so we weren’t influenced) and saw similar positive thoughts and similar concerns.
The average rating on Trustpilot (through the Ekster site) was just under 5 Stars.
~900 Reviews on Trustpilot
The average rating on Amazon was just under 4 Stars.
~150 Reviews on Amazon
To be transparent, some of the Amazon review had merit, but some did not. We noticed 2 & 3 Star for the customer being upset that it couldn’t hold more cash. We’re not really sure what they expected in a minimalist wallet? It easily hold a few bills, but if you regularly carry 8-10 bills, then the wallet probably isn’t for you. That said, most minimalist wallets won’t be for you to be fair.
Some of the users complained about the mechanism breaking. We didn’t really see this happening unless you are just rough with it. Some people are just hard on their stuff, but this something we wanted to make you aware of.
On Amazon, more than 60% of the reviewers gave the Parliament 4+ Stars, while closer to 50% gave the Senate 4+ Stars. The negative reviews on Amazon didn’t seem to match up (as a whole) with most of the other reviews we read through and our own experience.
***Ekster does offer a 1 year warranty on Manufacturer defects.
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