Personal Finance 

How to Deal with Losing Your Wallet While Traveling

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Costanza WalletAfter our inaugural Financial Contingency Plan series post, How to Recover From a Lost Wallet, a lot of you suggested I write an addendum to the post to cover the case where you lose your wallet while traveling. Whenever you’re traveling, one of the biggest headaches you can run into, besides an airline losing your luggage, is losing your wallet or having it stolen. It’s happens more than you like and while we loathe to think about it, a little pre-planning can make your life a lot easier later on.

The first step is to do everything I suggested in the first post and then, when you travel, make these arrangements.

Slim Down

Clean out your wallet of anything you won’t need for your trip, such as receipts, pictures, and other extraneous pieces of paper. You probably have a lot of loyalty cards and credit cards that will have little value when you’re traveling, remove those from your wallet too and put them in a safe place. You want your wallet to be as slim as possible so that if you were to lose it, or have it stolen, you lose as little as possible. Now keep a record of what your slimmer wallet holds.

While you’re at it, photocopy, preferably in color, your entire passport. If you lose that, having a copy will at least prove you once held a passport… which is better than nothing at all.

Carry a Throwaway Wallet

This is a safety tip I read for traveling abroad – keep a giveaway/throwaway wallet that has some money and maybe an expired credit card. This gives thieves, or muggers, a “good enough” take that they’ll leave you alone if you produce it. If you are robbed, they can take your throwaway wallet and be happy with the heist. You get to keep your main stash, your health, and you live to fight another day. You should, of course, not spend much on this throwaway wallet and the best ones are ones you can make yourself.

Find a Way to Get Cash

If you do manage to lose your wallet and all of your cash, you’ll need access to money ASAP. You have a few options here, fortunately you can research them when you’re not freaking out about losing your wallet:

  • Hide a spare credit card: There’s no reason you should carry every credit you have, so keep one spare card hidden in your luggage or where you’re staying. If your wallet is stolen, even while using a throwaway, you still have one card that you can use for the rest of the trip. Just make sure it’s not associated with a card in your wallet or it may be deactivated when you report the fraud.
  • Cash advance from your credit cards: Even if you don’t have your cards, you should have the customer service numbers written down somewhere safe. Call them and you can usually get a cash advance, it’ll cost you, to tide you over until you can return home. Some credit card companies offer travel insurance to protect against this sort of thing and will wire you money free of charge (beyond the amount wired, of course).
  • Contact family and friends: The same people you are telling about your trip should be the ones you reach out to if you get in a jam. I recommend using the phone as it’s now common for hackers to break into Facebook and email accounts to scam people. The other day my “friend” emailed me to say he was mugged in London, even though he was happily at home. His “kids” (he has none) were OK though, thankfully. 🙂

Outside of these tips, losing a wallet while you’re traveling, especially abroad, isn’t much different than losing your wallet at home. With some preparation, you can reduce the impact of losing your wallet by slimming it down and you can reduce the impact of being mugged by using a throwaway travel wallet. Regardless of how much you prepare, it’s always very jarring to lose something so private but you can make recovery a little easier with some extra work up front!

Do you have any travel tips for your wallet?

(Photo: shareski)

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “How to Deal with Losing Your Wallet While Traveling”

  1. billsnider says:

    I was jumped by a bunch of thugs in Rome and had my wallet stolen from me. So I know a bit about this.

    I would like to add a few more thoughts.

    Your suggestion about carrying two DIFFERENT credit cards in two different places is an excellant suggestion. That is what saved me.

    You should always carry your valuables “against your skin”. This means a money belt inside your pants.

    Carry lose cash in multiple places. This can be in your socks, in your shoe, in your luggage, etc. This saved me also.

    Report the theft to the ploice. My police report came in handy later on.

    Don’t carry a wallet. Makes things easier for them.

    Don’t wear valuables such as jewelery. You become a target that way.

    Do duplicate all records and have them in mother locations.

    Save traveling.

    Bill Snider

  2. CK says:

    A bit of cash and a backup credit card are always buried deep in my suitcase. Putting a large bill under the insole of your shoe is another good trick.

  3. Scott says:

    I like the idea of a throw away wallet. I think this would be a great tip when traveling abroad or here in the U.S.

  4. Dave says:

    My dad used to make me and my brother put our cash in our socks when walking around NYC when we were younger… got me thinking at an early age about protecting my money when I’m not in the safest of places.

    • Shirley says:

      By the same token, my mother always made sure we had a dime in one shoe. (Yes, telephone calls from a public phone booth actually were only a dime many years ago.) Parting comment was always “Got your dime? Call if you need to.”

  5. zapeta says:

    The throwaway wallet is a good idea. I may start doing that everyday.

  6. Shirley says:

    “You want your wallet to be as slim as possible so that if you were to lose it, or have it stolen, you lose as little as possible.” This one should be an every day habit.

    Since I simply must 😉 carry pictures of the grandkids, they are in a separate picture holder and I have one large ‘just in case’ bill behind one.

  7. jsbrendog says:

    my “wallet” is just the bus pass insert with license, 1 credit card, debit card, and insurance card and that is it. well, other than metro card but there is never more than $20 on it at any one time.

  8. Gasp! That title scares me so much I can barely bring myself to read the post!

    In the “throwaway wallet” department, when I used to travel I would take out everything but two credit cards (don’tcha just know that the one card you take with you is the one that will get refused because the card issuer gets suspicious when you try to charge at some Florida gas station), basic ID, medical insurance card, and emergency contacts. Then I put in just enough cash to cover porter’s and taxicab tips; restaurant tips go on the card. I use a cheap wallet from Target that I won’t miss if it gets lost or stolen.

  9. I really like the idea of a throwaway wallet. Thanks!

  10. CreditShout says:

    The idea of a throw away wallet is great. I actually don’t carry a wallet around. But everyone has a cellphone now a days. I have two. My phone that I actually use, and and old nokia phone that I keep in my bag in case I was to get mugged. It’s probably worth nothing since it doesn’t have a sim card and probably doesn’t turn on. The nice phone is hidden somewhere safe when I’m walking around.

  11. Losing your wallet is a devastating event, and it happens so fast. With a membership, our customers get tools, support, information and resources that are easily accessible. Plus, our 24-hour monitoring system will email you an alert notifying you of any new activity. It’s important to take your credit into your own hands!

    –Matt Bushendorf, Customer Care

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