Seven Things to Keep in Your Wallet & Six Things to Leave at Home

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7 Things to Keep in Your Wallet & 6 Things to Leave at Home

We’ve talked about account security and protecting yourself from identity theft on this blog, but now let’s turn to another topic: your wallet.

What should you keep in your wallet? And what precautions should you take in case it gets lost or stolen?

Here are the things I keep in my wallet:

  1. Drivers License
  2. A credit and debit card
  3. A small amount of cash
  4. Health insurance card (and dental and vision)
  5. Auto insurance card
  6. Health Savings Account debit card/ Flexible Spending Account debit card for medical expenses
  7. Rewards/ loyalty/membership cards (for restaurants, gyms, the local library, etc.)

Keep track of what you have in your wallet. This includes your credit card numbers and the numbers to call if something happens to your card so you can freeze your account. Keeping a complete list of the contents of your wallet will allow you to replace everything should it be lost or stolen, and will save you the trouble of looking up phone numbers to cancel cards later. An easy way to do so is to scan (front and back) all the cards in your wallet and then password protect the pdf on your computer.

I’ve read suggestions that you only keep 1 credit card in your wallet and the rest (if you have more) at home, for safety, and as backups should anything happen to the one you are carrying. I have also seen a suggestion that you keep $20 or so at home in case your wallet is stolen.

Once you’ve figured out what to keep with you, here are a few things not to keep in your wallet:

  1. Social Security card: a social security number is an open doorway to identity thieves
  2. Password cheat sheets: you don’t want to lose information over the internet if you lose your wallet
  3. Medicare card: make a photocopy and black out your social security number
  4. Spare key: you don’t want to give a thief easy access to your home; leave a spare key with a family member, trusted neighbor, or friend
  5. Passport: unless you are traveling outside the country, you should not risk carrying your passport around (and be extremely careful when you do carry your passport)
  6. Birth Certificate: similar to a social security card, you shouldn’t carry this around, but keep it stored in a safe place

I’ve also heard it advised that you only bring gift cards with you if you plan to use them on that outing, thus minimizing your losses should something happen to your wallet.

What if your wallet is stolen or lost?

  1. Cancel your debit card right away. Inform your bank that your card was stolen.
  2. Call your credit card company and cancel your cards. Inform them of the situation.
  3. Call the police and report the loss or theft. You probably won’t get your wallet back, but a police report (get a hard copy) will help if someone tries to use your cards or steal your identity.
  4. Inform insurance companies, reward card companies, the library, and any other places with your information of the loss.
  5. Inform your state’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles and get a new drivers license
  6. Request a credit report, and put a fraud alert on your account. A fraud alert is free, and lasts for 90 days. You will need to do this at all three credit bureaus: Equifax: (800) 525-6285 or Experian: (888) 397-3742 or TransUnion: (800) 680-7289 or
  7. If you were carrying your Social Security card, contact your Social Security Administration office and request a new card.
  8. Monitor your accounts and statements carefully. Identity theft takes time to resolve, so stay vigilant.

What do you think? Do you have any wisdom to share about what to carry or what to leave at home? Feel free to share tips about what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen.

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Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons license.

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Wealth Manager

Austin Fey is a Wealth Manager at Marotta Wealth Management, specializing in charitable giving and asset allocations. She is a regular contributor to our Marotta On Money articles, often giving advice to those just getting started in finance.

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2 Responses

  1. Frugalapolis

    Make sure you leave a phone number (google voice if you have it) somewhere in your wallet, so if your wallet is found the person can call you to set up return. Also the finder may attempt to contact you via FB private message so if you lose your wallet, put a plea out there on social media and you may just get it back.

    I have a wallet I found on the roadside while bike commuting with credit cards, DL, cash and more. The person has not returned phone calls or FB messages to retrieve it months later. I suppose I could take the cash and mail the wallet to the person, but just haven’t got around to it.

  2. Kent

    My wallet is pretty minimal as suggested. However I also keep a backup credit card and folded $20 bill tucked inside the silicone iPhone case that I use. I use a silicone case made by switcheasy that perfectly holds one card and a $20 because I often go out running or biking without my wallet.

    I also keep a second backup credit card well hidden in my car which has come in handy one in a while when I’m running an errand and forget my wallet

    I have also taken digital photos of the front and back of all my ID and credit cards and insurance cards which I store in Dropbox so I can access them anywhere if the card or wallet is lost