Be Prepared for a Lost or Stolen Wallet

by Emily Guy Birken on January 24, 2013

Lost WalletLast year, on a trip back to my parents’ house in Baltimore, I discovered the day after my arrival that I had lost my wallet. It must have fallen out of my purse at some point while I was on the plane.

Luckily, the airline found it and sent it overnight to me, so what could have been a major headache was only a minor inconvenience. (All the money was still inside, too).

But not all wallet loss stories have such happy endings. While there’s no fool proof way of preventing the loss or theft of your wallet, there are things you can do to make the aftermath much less stressful. Here are three things you should do now to protect yourself in the event of lost wallet. You’ll be glad you did:

Photocopy and List the Items in Your Wallet

Your wallet is a gold mine of information about you, and in many cases, it is the only place that you keep that information. Rather than relying on your faulty memory to determine what was in a missing wallet, take the time now to photocopy the front and back of each card in your wallet and store them all in a safe spot (like your home safe). And don’t just focus on the big-ticket cards. Finding the information for your health insurance card or even your library card can be a headache after a loss.

In addition, on each photocopied sheet, write down the phone number for reporting a lost card. That way, in the event of a lost wallet, you won’t have to waste precious time looking up the contact information.

Take Sensitive Information out of Your Wallet

There are very few reasons why anyone should need to carry a Social Security card or birth certificate in their wallet. If you ever need to carry those items to fill out paperwork at a new job, for example, remove them from your wallet as soon as possible. The potential havoc that an identity thief can wreak using that information can be devastating.

Follow Your Grandparents’ Advice and Don’t Carry All Your Money in the Same Place

When my wallet went missing last year, I happened to be traveling with my husband. That was lucky, because I would have otherwise had no way of paying for anything on the trip. All my cash, my credit card, and my debit card were all in my wallet.

These days, I try to keep one card and some cash in a pocket, while the rest stays in my wallet. My grandma would be proud. She always told me to tuck some money away in addition to what I carried in my wallet, because “you never know.”

The Bottom Line

There’s nothing so stressful as losing a wallet. But taking reasonable precautions ahead of time can really help to mitigate the possible problems.

Editor’s Note:  Every time my wife and I travel overseas I go a little overboard with cash.  I will have some in my wallet, some in my suitcase, and my wife’s suitcase.  One night we were out late in Lisbon, Portugal and I even stuck cash in my shoe.  Overboard I know.

Does anyone have any other tips that want to add?

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Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom who is passionate about personal finance. She lives in Lafayette, Indiana with her mechanical engineer husband and her toddler son. She blogs about parenting at The SAHMnambulist and about the funny side of money at Live Like a Mensch.
  • Make sure to use the room safe in your hotel instead of just leaving money or cards in your suitcase. No need to tempt fate when there’s a lock available.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules

    We always forget to photocopy our things before leaving the country. Another thing we do is make sure that not one of us is carrying all the cash/cards so that way if one gets lost we still have a backup.

  • I need to make photocopies soon. I always forget!

  • AvgJoeMoney

    Great tips. You say “overboard”, Sean, but I think better safe than sorry. Now, if someone steals your shoe, your screwed….

  • Instead of loyalty cards, see if they have something that can go on your keyring. I always hate losing my loyalty pints!

    • I like the key tags as well but because my keys are always in my pocket when I am out I find that the barcode keeps rubbing off. Might just be the quality of printing though.

  • I only take what I need in my wallet and keep the rest at home. We have all the info written down just in case something happens. Mrs.CBB had her wallet stolen once and a credit card used around town so she learned her lesson.

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  • Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    That’s a great point about making copies of everything in the wallet…I’d never thought of that before. I also love the idea about putting cash in different places. Great tips!!

  • I’ve never thought about photocopying, that’s a good idea! I’m adding it to my to-do list. I also go overboard with cash when travelling, glad I’m not alone 😉

  • We keep a photocopy of our wallets in our safe. It is a nice back up to have. We also try to carry around only what we need to.

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