Personal Finance 

Know What’s In Your Wallet or Purse

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I had lunch with my beautiful wife yesterday at a local Baja Fresh, it’s something we don’t do often because her office is 45 minutes away, but we were able to yesterday because she had an appointment in the morning. As luck would have it, after we had parted ways she discovered that she left her purse behind! Fortunately, either someone had turned in the purse or one of the workers there picked it up, but Baja Fresh had it secure behind their counter for me to pick up a few minutes later. Whew! Disaster averted.

That made me think about the importance of capturing a snapshot of your wallet or purse, on a monthly basis, in the event that you do lose it. The first thing my wife said to me, after she explained it was missing, was that this never happens to her and it’s been a very long time since she’s misplaced her purse like this (she didn’t bring up the fact that she misplaced her license for about a week!); to which I thought to myself, “Of course not, this isn’t supposed to happen ever.” This underscores the importance of having a snapshot of your wallet or purse on a monthly basis.

I don’t think you should photocopy everything, that’s a waste of paper and an increased security risk. For the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to say purse from now on since it would likely contain a superset of what would be in a wallet (yes, I just basically said people with purses, i.e. predominately women, carry more stuff than people with wallets, i.e. predominately men; get over the sexism! :))

Here’s what I propose:

  • Photocopy your license and insurance card. If you have any other important documents in your purse, chances are you don’t need them so you don’t need to carry them around. Birth certificates, social security cards, and passports are probably not necessary daily items, leave those at home. If you must have them, keep photocopies instead of originals.
  • Record last 4 digits and customer service phone numbers for your credit cards. In the event you do lose your purse, you will want a list of all the cards in your purse along with the phone number you have to call to report the card stolen. The last thing you want to do is have to look up the phone numbers, so have them handy. Also, most of the time you can handle all the cards from one issuer in one call. If you have 2 Citi cards, you can handle the loss of both cards with one call to the Citi customer service line.
  • Record the cards that are actually in your purse. This is crucial because you don’t want to cancel a backup card you have in your desk drawer unless you absolutely have to. This is the one thing you have to keep as fresh as possible.

Update: I forgot about this when I originally posted this but the logic behind photocopying your license was that, should you lose it, you at least have a copy. When people travel, they often take photocopies of passports. While it won’t be “official,” people are oftentimes sympathetic to your situation and will cut you some slack as long as you can prove you had a driver’s license once.

Some resources suggest photocopying the front and back of every credit you have, it’s something I’ve done in the past but soon realized was completely unnecessary. Why collect all that information when all you really need is the last four digits and a phone number?

Take a snapshot of your wallet today because you never know when you’ll accidentally leave it behind in a Baja Fresh. 🙂

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Know What’s In Your Wallet or Purse”

  1. Alex To says:

    I’ve been a regular reader of your blog but never contributed. Since I just created my “what’s in your wallet” spreadsheet for my family. Here are some tips for the spreadsheet:
    – List and group your items in a descending order of importance. After all, you want to report lost/stolen all of your credit cards way before a library card, right?
    – For credit cards, instead of recording the last four digit, write down the first 12. Why? Because the last fours you can easily get it by looking at your statements either by paper or online. Now you have full 16 digits, you can call the customer service and might be able to report lost/stolen by the automatic phone system. If you have to talk to an agent, she/he can quickly locate the account for you. Either way, you can report it a lot quickly then just with the last 4.
    – Scan your driver license and the like instead of copying to paper; keep them safe with you spread sheet(encrypted preferably).


  2. CK says:

    I keep a copy of my details in an email to myself on my Gmail account. That way I have access to the info almost anywhere. You of course could use any web based email or calendar for this.

  3. FMF says:

    I have this post of yours saved in Bloglines:

    Photocopy The Cards In Your Wallet

    It’s one of the best money tips I’ve ever seen.

  4. jim says:

    Alex To: Thank you for the insight of your process, I think many will find it useful too.

    CK: Excellent idea about emailing it to yourself, considering it doesn’t contain sensitive information (can’t do much with last four)

    FMF: Yeah, I remember writing that, but I think the fact is you don’t really need all that information off your card. You only need the last four and customer service numbers (CVV is 100% unnecessary for identification unless you’re buying); the other stuff still applies. 🙂

  5. Glenn Lasher says:

    It doesn’t hurt to simply photocopy everything in your wallet. If you photocopy both sides, then you get both the full account number, and also the customer service number and CVV for each card, and you can put that in a safe place.

    If you are the owner of an all-in-one scanner/printer/copier, as many people are these days, there is really nothing at all holding you back from performing this very simple act of self-preservation. It should take you less than two minutes. Make the copy, and put it in a safe place.

  6. jim says:

    Glenn: What’s the benefit of having the full account number and CVV for each card? I recognize that the security concern is probably overblown but I see no compelling reason to capture that information.

  7. Frugal Dad says:

    Great idea! We frequently think to inventory our homes, but not our own wallets. I’m glad your story didn’t have a worse ending. My mother left her wallet on a gas station pump once. We returned to find an empty wallet!

  8. Bob T says:

    I took my SSN card out of my and put it somewhere safe. Haven’t seen it since.

  9. I came up with the same trick CK mentioned when I went on my last international trip. It was very comforting to know I could access my passport, drivers license, and credit cards at any time while I was overseas. If anyone is concerned about your account being compromised, you could just embed the PDF inside an Excel sheet. Or I guess Adobe probably has some embedding tools, too.

  10. Glenn Lasher says:

    Jim –

    The point is that if you photocopy both sides of all cards, you have all of the information you could possibly need to recover from a lost card, and then some.

  11. jim says:

    Glenn, I understand that photocopying it will capture that information, I’m asking why would you need the full number and CVV? Once you know it’s missing, you would want to cancel it, thus rendering the original card inoperative. At that point, having the number and CVV is meaningless; you really only need the last four and the customer service number.

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