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Losing My Wallet

Have you ever lost your wallet or purse? If not, have you ever imagined what you would do if you did?

So it’s Friday afternoon and I’m lined up (with my family) to get the H1N1 vaccine for the toddler. After the 5.5 hour wait (yes hours), I decided to drop my family off at home and run a few banking errands at the nearest BMO branch. After making the various bank transactions, I headed home to settle away for the night.

The next morning, I decide to do some online banking so I instinctively head to the counter top where I always leave my wallet upon entering the house. However this time, it’s no where to be seen.

“No worries, it’s around the house somewhere” I said to myself.

With that, I went to the possible wallet locations such as my jacket, office, laundry and even searched through the kids toys. Still no where to be found. As I knew that I used my wallet the evening before, there were very few options as to where it could be.

I’d like to say that I’m a positive person, but a feeling of panic started to well up in the pit of my stomach. I started to assume the worse. What did I have in the wallet? Who do I need to call to cancel all my credit and debit cards? Which bills use automatic payment via credit card? What about my prepaid mastercard? ID’s, MCP and cash!

While in the midst of my melt down, the phone rings and it’s the police! Luckily, an honest person found my wallet on the ground outside the BMO branch and brought it to the police station after they couldn’t get in touch with me via phone. When I went to pick it up, I was thankfully given the contact information of the samaritan which I used to offer a small reward as a token of my appreciation.

Although my missing wallet situation worked out, what if I wasn’t so lucky? Here are some ways you can mitigate the catastrophe in the case of losing your wallet/purse:

  1. Keep non essential cards out of the wallet/purse – For example, if there are credit cards or bank cards that you don’t use often, or even store cards that are seldom used, keep them at home.  I am an air miles collector, but I keep my air miles number in my cell phone but the physical card at home.
  2. Record all essential information – Credit/bank card numbers, expiry dates and customer support numbers. Keep it all recorded and in a safe place.
  3. Use a Service – There are services out there that keep all your card numbers in once place and make the cancellation/renewal phone calls for you.  However, this service can be replaced by simply keeping track of all your information yourself.

Back to the original question, have you lost your wallet or purse before?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Ray @ Financial Highway November 9, 2009, 9:50 am

    There was a time where I used to lose my wallet every other month, I usually lose it during the winter, when I wear layer on top of layer just not to freeze. I do exactly what you suggested, leave everything i dnt need out of it and keep all important info on my cell phone in case of a loose.

    glad you found yours loosing a wallet can be a hugeee headache!

  • This is why I signed up with ING Direct November 9, 2009, 10:35 am

    ahh man so many times I went around the house frantically looking for it, thinking I lost it. I couldn’t imagine losing it, it never happened to me. I do keep a list like FT suggested though!

    thanks for the post!

  • Kathryn November 9, 2009, 12:09 pm

    Great post with some valuable advice! I was mugged on a bus in India in 2002. My wallet was taken with everything in it. Fortunately one phone call back to Canada and my Dad (who I had set up as power of attorney over my accounts) was able to cancel all the cards and re-order new ones. I was so upset with myself for carrying all sorts of things in there I didn’t need and now needed to replace (SIN cards, OHIP cards, library cards, etc. etc) I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

  • Alexandra November 9, 2009, 12:10 pm

    Yes, I have lost my wallet once…what a hassle that was!! The bank cards and credit cards were pretty easy to deal with (I called and they just sent replacements in the mail), but replacing all my government ID was a real pain. The line-ups took hours, and as I had to pay to replace my driver’s license and health card on top of losing a day at work. The only card that wasn’t in my wallet was my SIN card.

    I still carry everything in my wallet though – I am just more careful about hanging on to my wallet ;-).

  • FT FrugalTrader November 9, 2009, 12:37 pm

    It was quite the scare, thankfully everything worked out for the better.

    Kathryn, you have more life experience than anyone I know! :)

  • Adam November 9, 2009, 12:56 pm

    I recently mis-placed my wallet and learned several things.

    SCOTIABANK does not let you put a freeze/hold on yoru credit cards. If you call them up, abnd you ask for a hold etc. the cardcannot be reactivated over the phone, and if you are unable to go into yoru HOME branch, you must cancel the card and wait for a new one in the mail. SO… if you are on holiday, you are basically screwed.

    CIBC on the other hand, you can call up and put a hold on yoru card while you search for your wallet, and a simple phone call with verification of identify, you can re-activate and start racking up debt again.

    Just super annoying,and for that reason I’m glad I have CIBC card whiel travelling.

    what about the other banks?

    -Adam

  • Jeff November 9, 2009, 1:27 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I especially like the keep the non-essentials in your cellphone. I’ve never thought of that and it would be much easier then trying to re-order 5-10 different cards.

  • trollmonger November 9, 2009, 2:02 pm

    I accidentally locked my keys in my car after fastening my young daughter in the car seat. I put the keys down on the car floor and somehow managed to lock the door. We were at home and my wife was home so I could easily retrieve my spares but ever since this time, I’ve made it a habit to place my keys on the roof of the car when fastening her.

    Well, one day I did the same thing with my wallet and proceeded to drive away. I was just doing a few errands around town and it wasn’t until my last one (fueling up the car in preparation for a weekend away) that I realised I didn’t have my wallet. I almost immediately remembered putting it on the roof. After quickly checking that it wasn’t still there, I proceeded to cancel all my credit cards. I always keep my most recent statement and these all have numbers to contact in case of loss or theft.

    During my panic to cancel all my cards, someone called me. I didn’t recognize the number and chose not to take the call so that I could continue cancelling the cards. Later I checked the message to find out someone had found my wallet at Yonge and Bloor, one of the busiest intersections in Canada and wanted to return it to me.

    She had found my number from a drycleaner’s claim ticket in the wallet. I wanted to reward her for returning it to me. There was no money in the wallet (she thought someone took the money and discarded it and was possibly concerned I would accuse her of taking it but there never was any). I had already cancelled all the debit and credit cards so I couldn’t get her any money. I offered to drive her home or to wherever she was going. I’m actually glad she refused. My fuel gauge was almost on empty. I probably would have had to borrow money from her to get back home myself!

    She told me her name. Of course I forgot it. I know she works in the Yonge Bloor area. Everytime I’m in the area, I look for her with the hope that I can reward her.

    A few years ago, I also had my wallet stolen from my car. Again I cancelled all my cards. While I was at the bank replacing my debit card, the police called me on my cell (I still don’t know how they got that number. They must have had it on file from a vandalism incident previously). They had recovered my wallet.

    It turns out the thief was trying to sell my credit cards to a woman on the street. The woman called the police. When they showed up, the thief ran, they chased him and recovered my wallet with everything but one of my cards. He had made a couple of small purchases on one card at Zellers I think. The one card that was missing, didn’t have any charges on it. I guess he sold it but the purchaser didn’t get a chance to use it since I cancelled the card.

  • AK November 9, 2009, 3:02 pm

    The scariest part about losing your wallet is if you are one of the folk who choose to carry both their Birth Certificate and SIN number with them.

    I have had more than one co-worker who has lost their wallets while carrying these items, and has ended up with their identity stolen and credit ruined (and it is no small task to get things resolved-it has been going on for years with one of them trying to prove it was not him who opened the accounts!)

    With those two simple pieces of ID, (at least in BC) you can get photo ID issued in the form of a drivers license or BCID (photo ID card if you don’t have a drivers license.) Once you have the photo ID and those other two pieces of identification, there is nothing stopping you from opening bank accounts or accessing current ones in the name of the person who lost their wallet (or had it stolen.)

    Yes, cancelling credit cards etc is a pain in the #$@, but replacing gov’t ID (like the earlier comment suggested) is even more difficult, and sorting out a damaged credit history is THE worst!

    That’s my rant about carrying your SIN & birth certificate in your wallet!

    …and on a side note about carrying extra cards for points, miles etc: On TV the other day they recommended photocopying the bar codes of these cards, then cutting them out and consolidating them (they laminated them of course.) Then you can leave the originals at home, your wallet is much thinnner, and the merchants can still scan the bar code to access your account. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it sounded like an interesting way to do it if it works!

  • David Hutchison November 9, 2009, 4:17 pm

    Putting hold on cards is easy (didn’t know until seeing the comment above that ScotiaBank won’t), but I have done so with PC Financial and CIBC – when I got a call from VISA saying my Royal Bank card was being used to purchase something unusual – and it wasn’t me. Obviously my number had been compromised.

    The good news? That was a few years ago and I have yet to take the hold off my cards. Only my wife has a working card now and our credit card debt has been eliminated.

    If I ever really need those cards I suppose I could reactivate (?) so they might still serve an emergency purpose.

  • Thicken My Wallet November 9, 2009, 5:09 pm

    I have left my wallet in my pants and washed them which is almost as good as losing it in that you destroy a lot of valuable information in it. You are right, there are a lot of non-essential things we keep in our wallets so I tend to cull it from time to time now.

  • Craig November 9, 2009, 5:40 pm

    I recently has my wallet stolen and did the same. I canceled everything right away and then worked on getting my life back together. You don’t need to keep much in there normally just the basics. Cancel cards, get new ones, get new drivers license.

  • Briefcases November 9, 2009, 6:03 pm

    Losing a wallet really sucks. Not only do you feel worried that someone is using your id for shady purposes, but you also have to go through the hassles of trying to replace all of your wallet contents. Some of those cards like drivers licenses even require a fee to replace them. The only assurance we have is knowing that most banks will protect you in times like this.

  • Weera November 9, 2009, 7:11 pm

    Oh I have my stories about lost wallets too. Lost my wallet because of absent mindedness once (left it on the bank machine!) and it was returned to me with all the cash and the cards. Then I lost it again outside the emergency dept of a hospital while my mother was being admitted. It was again returned to me with all the cards and cash (but not before I canceled the cards). There are many more honest people out there than I thought existed. I am truly grateful for that.
    Years later, I had a friend who was quite absent minded herself and left the wallet lying around in public place. I warned her many times but she never listened to me. One day I wanted to teach her a lesson and hid her wallet behind the microwave of our lunch room. Bad idea!! I forgot all about it soon after. When she asked me the next day if I had seen her wallet, my lower jaw dropped to floor. It was too late, she had canceled all her cards. The wallet was still behind the microwave by the way… no one had taken it… whew!! I offered to pay my friend any costs associated with replacing her cards or other documents. She declined and was quite nice about it. I might not have been so nice if someone else did that to me.
    Few more years passed and I found an unlocked briefcase on the Toronto subway with a passport, SIN number and bank account info. I locked it and returned it to the Lost & Found. That was my turn to help out someone who lost sensitive information. I am looking out for more lost wallets with IDs so that they can be returned to their rightful owners. For lost cash (mostly coins) with no sign of their owners, I put them in a jar and donate it to a good cause at the end of the year.

  • Justin November 9, 2009, 8:15 pm

    I guess the lesson from this, is people should leave their Birth certificate, SIN card, at home at all times. There is never a need for this in daily life really..

    While traveling, people should only take the bare essentials.. only credit cards you need, leave BC, health cards at home. Only take passport, and specific travel insurance necessary ….

  • Ms Save Money November 9, 2009, 10:38 pm

    Thanks for the tip & glad you were able to get your wallet back, however, not all of us may be that fortunate. I will definitely go home tonight and record all of the belongings in my wallet.

  • Subversive November 9, 2009, 11:54 pm

    I don’t understand why you’d care if someone found your air miles card. More power to them if they want to use it!

  • Northern Alex November 10, 2009, 4:00 pm

    :) Yes, I lost my wallet once….. when I was 15 and I am scared of the idea of losing it again.

    But now 20 years later my mom still reminds me not to loose my wallet (and to close my jacket, because it is cold outside). :)

  • Will @ Cheap Date Ideas! November 12, 2009, 2:53 pm

    Lost my wallet last week! I was scared out of my mind

    Luckily, I built rapport with the people at the establishment and I was able to retrieve my wallet with everything in it!

  • Shawn November 20, 2009, 1:18 am

    Had my wallet picked from a secured pocket in China (Forbidden City actually) 4 weeks ago. I knew it was gone about a minute after. I immediately started searching the area, garbage bins etc because typically people dump them after taking the cash. A minute later someone was bringing it to the security people. $60 cash gone, but everything else was still there.

    My lesson: Don’t carry a wallet in cash-only countries, or even better carry a decoy wallet. A small bunch of bills with larger ones tucked away with documents in something like a money belt works even better. Even if they did go away with my wallet, I had split my contents up so I wasn’t going to loose everything. So much for the zippered pocket being secure!

  • cannon_fodder November 23, 2009, 11:26 am

    I’ve never lost my wallet and part of that is because I always put my wallet in my front pocket, never my back packet. I think it is harder for it to come out on its own or via a pickpocket.

    When I travel outside of Canada, I do a purge of all cards that I won’t need. If the family goes on vacation, I take all of the cards I don’t need and hide them in the house (I”ve sometimes used the freezer).

    I also copy certain information into my corporate blackberry that I carry with me but I don’t have credit card info per se. Just some affinity card numbers.

    My login info is stored in an encrypted file that I have on a USB memory stick for cards that I can’t remember the number for.

    I just went into TD branch on the weekend because I’d heard a rumour that they will issue you a chip based debit card if you go to the branch. They do not put your name on the card anymore and the number on the card has changed – means another one for me to memorize.

    I never carry around my SIN card or Birth Certificate and I don’t like to carry my passports with me when I travel – I’d rather keep them in the room safe but some countries I visit require me to have the passport on my person. Again – the passport goes into my front pants pocket.

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