Top 8 things to do before (and after) you stupidly lose your wallet

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A few days ago, I lost my wallet.  Understandably, I was pretty bummed… but I was also grateful that I had taken some steps ahead of time to minimize the damage.  So, without further ado, let me share with you some suggestions so you, too, can suffer less when you stupidly lose your wallet.

1. Don’t keep more than what’s necessary in your wallet.
This is the easiest way to avoid headaches.  You may have 10 credit cards, gas cards, etc., but how many do you really need to use on a daily basis?  Putting less in your wallet not only means less hassle when it’s is lost, but also less heft that you have to sit on (if you’re a guy) or carry (if you’re a woman, or a guy who doesn’t like to put his wallet somewhere other than his back pants pocket).

2. If you do keep gift cards / stored value cards on your wallet, make sure they’re registered!
Addicted to Starbucks and got a Starbucks card, for instance?  Make sure it—and all your other stored value cards—are appropriately registered so that when they’re lost, you don’t lose the money on the cards.


3. Start a document or note that you can access electronically where you can put critical wallet-related info… ideally something that also syncs with your phone.
You should write down what’s in your wallet and be able to access it from nearly anywhere.  You could use Google Docs or Google Notebook or even a (very, very secure, password protected) file on your Web server or file server.  Here’s what I do:  I have an “In my wallet” Outlook note that I update regularly.  I use Plaxo to reliably sync my Outlook notes between home, work, and laptop computers, and then I use my Treo’s software to regularly place that same info on my phone.  I don’t put credit card numbers or similarly private info in this note, however, since it’s possible my phone could get stolen, and I haven’t gotten around to passwording it yet.  I store that more detailed info on a file on a network drive.


4. Actually update this document.
Yes, you actually have to remember to update this document (or these documents) regularly.  Given how often I’m putting things in and out of my wallet (particularly since I travel internationally), this is more important than you might think.


5. Keep an emergency stash of cash at home and at work.
It’s amazing what a nice buffer of $60 will offer when you just need some cash to tide you over for dinner, or get you into a club to meet friends, etc.


6. Separately store a passport (and a photocopy of your passport).  Put a scanned copy in a secure location online and tell your family/best friends how to access it.
This is particularly helpful if you find your wallet AND passport stolen sometime, especially if you’re overseas somewhere like, say, Estonia (trust me, I speak from experience on this one!)


7. Make sure the info in your wallet includes your full name and phone number.
That’s important for obvious reasons.  Sure, some folks’ll say “don’t include identifying info!” but frankly, I’m more eager to get my wallet back than I am to prevent identify theft (which, IMHO, is a lot more likely via other means and from folks other than your standard pickpocket jerk).


8. Do some checks but don’t panic.
Before you start canceling all your credit cards:
– Check and recheck (and potentially call) obvious and non-obvious locations where you may have dropped, left, or otherwise abandoned your poor wallet.
– Look online right away to see if there’ve been any suspicious charges.
– If you have a debit card, I actually WOULD cancel that right away, since—as I understand it—you don’t have the same sort of protections on that kind of card as you do on regular credit cards.
– On the rest of your stuff, unless it contains info or access-rights that’d be treacherous to your well-being or others’, I’d sleep on it overnight.  I think you have something like 24-72 hours to contact your credit card companies before you’re held liable for fraudulent charges.  Why stress yourself out with extra work unnecessarily if you don’t have to?

Especially when, in my case, you discover your wallet inexplicably cowering under your bed and not really “lost” at all ;-).

11 comments… add one
  • Mr SEO Jan 11, 2007

    That is why my wallet has a chain on it 😀

  • Silver Jan 22, 2007

    Some years back, I’d just changed jobs and my new company flew me into Houston to work with their office there for two weeks.

    While there, I stupidly left my wallet tucked between the front seats of my rental. I attended a Halloween party that night, and the wallet was stolen from the car. Took hours to get the police to show up to file the report.

    Then, in the wee morning hours, I had to persuade the hotel front desk to let me into my room with no ID (my hotel keycard was in my wallet, of course!). I was completely gothed out, and so the desk clerk seemed mildly freaked out.

    Then, I spent hours trying to remember the issuing banks for my cards, and cancel them. I remembered all but one.

    I then called the airport and they would allow me to fly, using my police report as ID.

    Then, I got my company to give me more petty cash for expenses.

    When I returned, I got my bank to give me money on my signature!

    Replacing my Social Security card was the worst, though—I had to go in person. That card was only in my wallet because I’d just recently changed jobs.

    I got much better at keeping up contact info about all my cards, though!

  • Christina Jan 23, 2007

    This would have been nice to have read before I lost my wallet a few days ago. It could have been stolen but I’m starting to think it more likely that after 20 hours on a plane, I was just so out of it that I did something stupid like throw it in the trash with my coffee cup. The only real pain-in-the-ass thing is losing your driver’s liscense…

  • Phill Midwinter Jan 30, 2007

    Adam, as a search evangelist, it doesn’t look good when you loose stuff!

    Heh, just kidding, i hate asking people if they’ve seen it only to have the obligatory reply: ‘where did you last see it?’.

  • Ivan Feb 1, 2007

    Last wallet I used, I got from my girlfriend. It was to small 🙂 so I throwed it and now I have nothing to lose.

  • Jennifer Feb 9, 2007

    Not long ago, I got a friendly email from an acquaintance urging me and all other recipients to photocpy the contents of their wallets and keep the photocopies at home in a safe place.  This advice might have been good advice in the days of analog copy machines, but today’s digital, networked copy machines can keep digital images of everything copied on the network where it can be unsecure to system administrators, etc.  Similarly, I don’t think that it would be a good idea to take digital photos of your wallet contents because people tend to leave the photos on their cameras, where they can be accessed by a camera thief.  Therefore, I applaud Adam’s advice regarding keeping your information secure in your laptop or on your home computer where your family can access it if you are stranded somewhere without your wallet.  It may be more of a chore, but it’s worth it.

  • bobrains Feb 24, 2007

    Had a dream I lost my wallet last night, I woke up so freaked from the experience, I buried it in the back yard this morning.  That will teach you to get lost you stupid stupid wallet.

  • Rocky Mar 11, 2007

    Re: debit cards. You do have the same protections as you do with credit cards, but it’s a bigger hassle. Instead of not paying the credit card company their money, you have to fight with your bank to get your money bank.

    I always insist that banks not give me a vanilla ATM card instead of a debit card. That’s getting harder and harder these days.

    I also keep a spare ATM card in my luggage, just in case I get stuck in a foreign land without cash. (Don’t do this if you have a debit card.)

  • Peter Jul 9, 2007

    I think it’s easier to just not loose your wallet.

  • James Mar 23, 2008

    I choose tight Jeens to keep it safe,
    Well till now i have not lost any of my wallet and hope never.

  • Jack Jun 28, 2008

    Great article! The first thing i would do after losing my wallet is definitely panic lol
    I think the most important after you’re sure you lost it is to cancel the debit card then the credit card, but it’s a pain to get all the new documents after.

What do you think?