Losing your wallet while traveling can quickly suck all the fun out of a trip. You may lose the cash and credit cards you need to pay for lodging, transportation, and food. And being without ID can make it difficult to keep traveling — or get back home.
But hey, it happens. Especially when you’re dealing with jet lag, shuttling all your things from place to place, and getting distracted by new sights and experiences.
So instead of stressing, take a few deep breaths, and follow these steps outlining just what to do when you lose your wallet. And for bonus points, you’ll also learn advance planning to minimize the impact of this kind of loss. Here’s the scoop on:
• What to do when you lose your wallet
• How to get money when you lose your wallet
• How to be prepared in case you lose your wallet so your trip isn’t ruined
Stay Calm and Courteous
Wondering what to do if you lose your wallet? The first thing to remember is to remain calm and polite to those around you. Yes, it’s stressful and you may worry that your summer travel or holiday vacation is ruined. However, you’re much more likely to get help and find your wallet if you can think and act with a clear head.
Even if you have reason to believe that someone took it or perhaps found it and kept it, try not to lodge any accusations (at least, not without solid proof). That can make a distressing situation more combative.
You have likely put a good amount of time and energy into your trip, so you’ll want to focus on remedying this tough situation as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Steps to Take After You Lose Your Wallet
Now that you’re calm, here’s what to do if you lose your wallet while on vacation.
1. Rewind What Happened
Try to recall the last place you had your wallet to use as a starting point for recovering it. If you think you lost it while in transit (say, on a plane or bus), contact the crew, driver, or company and inquire about next steps.
The wallet may turn up, or there could be a lost and found where you locate it. As unlikely as it may sound, we know someone who recovered a wallet she left on a NYC bus — twice!
2. Notify Your Bank and Credit Card Companies
Unless you find your wallet right away, you will want to quickly contact your bank (or banks) and credit card companies about the cards in your wallet. This lets them know to freeze your cards so that anyone who tries to use them will be declined.
If your bank has a mobile app, you may have access to some type of card control feature. Log on to see if you can manually freeze them before calling your bank.
3. Contact the American Embassy
What do you do if you lose your wallet while traveling abroad? You definitely want to reach out to the nearest American embassy or consulate. Visit USEmbassy.gov to find an official list of all the American embassies and consulates overseas.
4. File a Police Report
It may feel like a hassle, but contacting the police is necessary for two reasons. First, they may be able to help you recover your wallet. But even if they can’t, your insurance company may require a police report when you file a claim.
5. Contact the Credit Bureaus
Once you’ve reached out to the local police, contact one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. You can initiate a credit or security freeze, which can help prevent identity theft. In other words, if someone uses any information in your wallet to try and impersonate you in order to apply for credit, they won’t get past the credit check.
6. Call the Airline Regarding Your ID
If you think you lost your wallet at the airport, it’s smart to file a lost and found report with your airline. You can still file a report even if you’re not sure where your wallet was lost.
You may still be allowed to fly without your ID. Just arrive at security earlier than you usually would in order to undergo identification verification.
7. Figure Out Work-Arounds
A lost wallet and its contents can be very disruptive, especially when traveling. If you can’t quickly locate your wallet, you will need to figure out how to pay for such vacation expenses as renting a car and paying for your lodging.
You may have access to cards via your mobile wallet. If not, a bank representative or your credit card issuer may help you navigate the situation, such as replacing a card via overnight delivery.
No matter how careful you may be, misplacing your wallet or having it fall out of your pocket or bag is always a risk. Here are some smart steps to take that can help minimize the risk if you do misplace your wallet.
Set Up Credit Cards on Your Phone
If you’re wondering how to get money when you lose your wallet, a good strategy can be to connect your credit cards to your smartphone’s mobile wallet ahead of time. That way, you can still pay for things wherever smartphones are accepted at a register. You can also likely use ridesharing apps this way as well.
Use a Tracker
Slip a small tracking device into your wallet to keep track of it whether it’s lost or stolen. The wallet tracker is paired with your phone so you can locate it as long as you have your mobile device with you. Some examples are Tile and Chipolo Card Spot, among others.
It’s smart to have photos on hand of the items in your wallet in case it gets lost. If you snap pictures in advance, you’ll have copies of all your IDs, health insurance cards, and even credit card numbers (including your airline credit card) available to quickly reference.
Gather Phone Numbers
You should also keep certain phone numbers in a safe location, including your bank and credit card customer service numbers, the digits for your health insurance company, and other emergency resources you may need.
Stash Some Cash Elsewhere
Keep back-up cash and a credit card outside of your wallet. (Bonus: You can still earn credit card rewards while finishing your trip.) There are tons of stealthy products available that are designed to hide your cash, like money belts, socks, and even underwear! Get creative so that you have access to some emergency money even if you lose your wallet.
Consider Travelers Insurance
Getting travel insurance through your credit card or other service can help you during a financial emergency. While lost wallet coverage may not be explicitly included, you may get lost baggage or luggage coverage.
What Not to Keep in Your Wallet
Protect yourself as much as possible by not storing certain vital items in your wallet. The impact of losing the following can have a major impact:
• Your Social Security card
• Your house key
• Insurance cards
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What to Do When You Get Home
If you’ve lost your wallet and followed the steps above, you’ll likely have asked your bank to ship replacement debit and credit cards to your home. Ask if there are any other actions you should take to keep your future finances secure. You can also file an insurance claim if you have any policies that cover personal property.
These moves can also help you rebound:
Check Your Credit Reports
Check your credit report to make sure there is no fraudulent activity. It may be worth enrolling in a credit score monitoring service for the next few months.
Contact the DMV
Go online to your state’s DMV to request a new copy of your driver’s license. You may need to submit the police report in order to get a new driver’s license number.
Notify Your Health Insurance Company
You’ll also need to reach out to your health insurance company if you lost your insurance card. They can send you replacements in the mail.
What Are the Odds You’ll Get It Back?
Interestingly, a benchmark global study showed that the more money in a lost wallet, the more likely it was to be returned. There are many variables involved, of course, including other contents (like your contact information) and the country you’re in.
Recommended: How to Save Money on Hotels
A lost wallet adds a lot of stress to a vacation. But understanding how to respond can help you resolve the issue more quickly and even prevent it from happening again. By contacting your card issuer(s), authorities, and other resources, you may not get your wallet back, but you will minimize the impact on your travels.
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Can you get on a plane if you lost your wallet?
It depends on the situation and where you are when you attempt to board your flight. That said, if you have your passport with you, you will likely be able to travel internationally or domestically.
Should you go to the police if you lose your wallet?
Yes, file a police report to help protect against fraud and initiate any insurance claims you’re eligible for. And if your wallet doesn’t contain contact information, someone may return it to the police.
Where do people usually return lost wallets?
People may try to find you via any contact information found in your wallet. They might also turn it into a police station or mail it to your home address.
Photo credit: iStock/dobok
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