What To Do Right Now Before You Lose Your Wallet

by Hank Coleman

What to do before you lose your wallet.Have you ever lost your wallet? Of course it can be a traumatic event in anyone’s life. I can remember when my wife lost her’s at Walt Disney World of all places. She was lucky and someone had turned it into guest services. I’m probably going to jinx myself when I say this, but I have never lost my wallet…not once.

But, as most people can attest to, it may just be a matter of time. According to a report from CNN, less than 20% of all wallets that are lost are returned to the owner. So forewarned is forearmed.

Here are tips that you can use to make sure that if you lose your wallet it doesn’t completely ruin your financial day or worse end in identity theft.

Steps To Take Right Now Before You Lose Your Wallet

Make A List Of What’s In Your Wallet

What’s in your wallet? Do you even know what is in there? When was the last time you cleaned it out? I’m always surprised to find what is in mine even though I clean it out regularly. Knowing what you have in your wallet and what is missing if you lose your wallet will help give you a starting point to notify banks and other agencies.

Here’s a quick example of some of the random things that are in my wallet right now:

  • Driver’s License
  • Two personal credit cards
  • Two business credit cards
  • ATM Card
  • TWo car insurance cards
  • Concealed Weapons Permit
  • Starbucks Gold Card
  • Four loyalty cards
  • Two coupon punch cards
  • Folded up $100 bill for emergencies

Pair Down Your Wallet’s Contents

Just by going through my wallet every month or two, I clean out some of the crap that accumulates. You should do the same. Are you carrying too many credit cards in your wallet? You should look to leave a few at home. Not only will it help you in case you lose your wallet and have to report the loss to the credit card companies, not carrying cards can help you not to over spend as well.

Copy Front And Back Of Cards

Now that you know what is in your wallet, you need to make copies of all your credit cards, government identification cards, and other important papers. Like having a copy of your passport, having copies of your other important documents will help you in the event you need to replace them after you lose your wallet.

Have Backup Copies

One of the easiest ways to replace the items in your wallet if you lose it is to already have backup copies of your important documents and credit cards. I made the mistake of ordering a second driver’s license a few years ago and have kept that second copy in a safe place that is no where near my wallet just to be safe in case I ever lose my wallet. Many states make it very easy to replace driver’s licenses by just ordering it online. It may not be as easy to have duplicate credit cards since you will have to cancel the lost ones. But, that is another great case for leaving a few of them at home instead of carrying all of your credit cards in your wallet.

Enroll In A Lost Wallet Service

There are several credit card companies that offer help for their cardholders when you lose your wallet. It goes far beyond simply replacing your lost or stolen credit card from the company. With just a single telephone call, a credit card lost wallet replacement service can help notify all of your credit card companies and even request replacement cards on your behalf. American Express’ Lost Wallet Protector program can even help you to replace your passports, keys, mobile devices, warranties, and other items that can be lost when you lose your wallet or other valuables.

Download The Smartphone Apps To Help You

Last Pass Wallet is an easy-to-use, free smartphone app that stores the information that you carry in your actual wallet. The app allows you to backup and sync your most valuable personal information which will help simplify the process of replacing all of your identification cards and credit cards should you lose your wallet.

Smart Tracker Bluetooth Chip For Your Wallet

Wallet TrackR is a tracking device for your wallet. It is small enough to fit inside your wallet like a credit card would normally do. It uses Bluetooth to connect to an app on your smartphone. The app on your smartphone will send you an alert and make noise to alert you if it sees that you are starting to leave your wallet somewhere. I guess the trick here though is to never lose your smartphone and your wallet at the same time.

Protect Your Identity Before You Lose Your Wallet

Like networking for a job, the time for you to protect your identity from being stolen is not when you lose your wallet. You need to take measures to safeguard your identity and personal information long before you lose your wallet. This is why it is so important to limit the amount of personal information that you have in your wallet as much as possible, and never carry your Social Security card with you. I have joined LifeLock to help protect myself from identity theft. I really love the service that LifeLock has already provided. They automatically request your credit reports, disenroll you from the spam mailing lists, enroll you in their proactive identity theft protection, internet monitoring, address monitoring, loss wallet protection, and others. LifeLock also offers a $1 million identity theft guarantee. Get a 30-Day Free Trial + 10% Off Your Purchase of LifeLock ULTIMATE through February 28th, 2013.

Bonus: Add A Photo Of Your Kids

Believe it or not, but scientific research has shown that having photos of young children in your wallet increases your odds of having your lost wallet returned to you. Strangers are more likely to return your valuables after you lose your wallet if the can identify with you and your family, and photos of babies have been shown to be the quickest way to a speedy return of your wallet. It never hurt to keep a photo in there just in case.

Never Keep These Things In Your Wallet

And, of course, there are certain things that you should never carry in your wallet. It has been engrained into us from a young age, but here are a few just as a friendly reminder. You should never keep in your wallet…

  • Your Social Security Card
  • Any pin numbers or bank account numbers
  • Passwords
  • Extra credit cards
  • Other things that you do not specifically need

So, am I the only one who has NEVER lost a wallet? Is my streak in jeoprody now that I’ve come out and admitted my good fortune. Is there anything else that you do to get ready for the inevitable event when you lose your wallet? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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About Hank Coleman

Hank Coleman is the founder of Money Q&A, an Iraq combat veteran, a Dr. Pepper addict, and a self-proclaimed investing junkie. He has written extensively for many nationally known financial websites and publications. Hank holds a Master’s Degree in Finance and is currently pursuing his Certified Financial Planner credentials. Email him directly at Hank[at]MoneyQandA.com.


Hank Coleman has written 525 articles on Money Q&A. Learn more about Money Q&A on Twitter @MoneyQandA and @HankColeman.


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

John S @ Frugal Rules

Great tips! That’s just crazy that having pictures of your young kids will generally result in a higher return rate. What does that say that that works? Thankfully I’ve never lost my wallet, though I do need to make copies of the things you listed.
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Hank Coleman

Everyone loves to ohhh and ahhh over pictures of little kids. It tugs at the heart strings. When I find a wallet, I find it a little creepy looking through people’s stuff. There are a lot of personal things in a wallet. I think that you should just look at the driver’s license for the address and then stop. Maybe this just goes to show you that there are certain things that you should NOT carry in your wallet. I may just stop looking and throw the whole thing away if I get too creeped out.
Hank Coleman recently posted..What To Do Right Now Before You Lose Your WalletMy Profile

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Jon Haver

I’ve lost my wallet and it was and is still a horrible experience. I wish I thought of thease tips or had read this before hand. Its crazy when you go to get a new ID that you need to have ID to get it…it took me forever to get anything because I needed what I lost to get what I was after. If that makes sence. Again great tips.

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Hank Coleman

That’s a great point. It has got to be hard to prove you are you with nothing to base it on except that the secret phrases that have gotten crazy and over the top. No longer is it good enough to know your mother’s maiden name. Now you have to know where your parents met, the name of your first girlfriend, or how to spell the make and model of your very first car. I couldn’t spell Olds Cutlass Calais then, and I still can’t spell it now!
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Christian L.

Hank,
I forgot having a photo of kids in your wallet increases the likelihood of getting it back. I’m young and in no position to have kids, so I think I’ll have to find a stock photo of a baby to put in there.

Is that creepy?

-Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

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Hank Coleman

No, not creepy at all. That’s what I would do. Wasn’t there a Seinfeld episode where they keep the stock photo in the picture frame they had bought?
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Grayson @ Debt Roundup

I am going to have to employ some of these. I will check out amex,s service. I should place some copies in my safe.
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Christopher @ This that and the MBA

Wow that is pretty interesting having the pictures of kids in the wallet. Try to appeal to a thieves softer side.. :-) assuming it was taken..

I am really anal and i know every card in my wallet and the spot that it goes in my wallet. It drives my wife crazy when she needs ot borrow a card because she just tosses it in anywhere and I know its instantly out of place.

I like the idea of copying them…i am actually going to use the scanner at our house to scan them into a safe spot on the computer.

Great tips…you really need to be careful now a days, it is hard to see the good in people anymore when all we hear is bad stuff in the media…
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Julie @ Freedom 48

I love the idea of copying the fronts and backs of all cards. Not only do the cards have the account numbers on them, but also the phone numbers you need to phone to cancel the card! It only takes 5min to photocopy the cards, but it’ll save a whole lot of stress & hassle if your wallet is ever stolen.
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Fernando R

Great Stuff Hank, I have lost my wallet once in the past and I can say it was the biggest hassle to deal with. Replacing I.D Cards, credit cards, and loosing a 1903 silver dollar coin that I kept in it. I wish I would read this before my tragedy occurred, I would’ve taken that coin out and kept it at home. Luckily I noticed my wallet was missing with in 10 minutes and called all the agencies to cancel all my cards and just waited for the new ones to come in.

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Hank Coleman

You make a great point about not keeping anything that is irreplaceable in your wallet. I would hate to lose something that is one of a kind or extremely hard to replace.
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Sarah Park

I have never experienced losing my wallet as well. Nevertheless, I don’t usually take all my important IDs and too much extra cash.
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Cartitleloanstx

That are very nice information to save our wallet, But i have lost my wallet last time when i was at the air port and due to this i pay much more. but now i have read your article and keep all your suggestions in my mind.
But I’ll fine you why don’t you let me know before :P

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Michelle@PennyThots

I always found it interesting that on the back of a social security card, it says carry with in your wallet. I had carried mine with me and learned the hard way when my purse was stolen on the metra train. I have never heard of the blue tooth chip for a wallet, but it sure would have been helpful when I was in that situation.

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