Why My Wallet Getting Stolen Didn’t Ruin our Trip

DocumentsWhile in Hue, Vietnam, my wallet got stolen. We are pretty sure we left it out in our hotel room one day, and didn’t notice it was gone until we were in our next city. There was no way to prove who took it, so it’s gone with no recourse. But I wanted to share with everyone why, because of some foresight and planning, this didn’t ruin our trip.

First, I don’t use my wallet anymore. I’ve found it easier, and more inconspicuous, to just carry cash in a pocket you can easily monitor (front breast if you have it, otherwise a single front pant pocket). In Asia, you never need an ID for anything, and no one takes credit card. So the only other thing I usually carry is my cell phone, for photos and navigation purposes. In Europe I switch to a simple money clip since credit cards were more accepted.

Second, the wallet never held all our cash, nor close to it. We always keep a stash of US dollars with us for an emergency, but we always figured the wallet would get stolen at some point, so we only kept some small notes (1s, 5s, and 10s) which we used more frequently. So even though we lost some cash, it was less than $50 total – a much smaller impact than it could have been. Instead, the large amounts of cash were spread out in several locked, inconspicuous locations.

Third, everything we have is redundant and has a backup. For every credit card that is in my wallet, Sara has a copy of in another location. We have copies of all our cards, and documented all of the phone numbers, security questions, etc, password protected on our computers and phones. And, for our primary ATM card (Charles Schwab), our secondary ATM card (Bank of America), and our secondary credit card (Amex), Sara and I have different numbers so if we lose one, we still have a backup.

Fortunately, I had taken my ATM card and our primary credit card out because we needed to use them that day (I suspect that’s why the wallet had been inadvertently left out). Once we realized it was missing, we only ended up needing to make three very quick calls: the first to the hotel to see if someone turned in the wallet (ya, right), one to Amex, and one to Bank of America. Fortunately, we only had to cancel my copies of the cards (Sara’s still work fine) and since we had all the info we needed at hand, it all took less than 15 minutes of Skype calls.

So, of course it was unfortunate to lose my wallet, but it didn’t ruin our plans or devastate our trip. Instead it was a minor bump in the road. We’d recommend everyone take the following steps if you’re doing any sort of long-term travel:

  1. Have redundant everything. We carry four ATM cards for two banks, each of which have enough money accessible in an emergency (but only a small amount, in case we get robbed). We have 4 credit cards with 3 different numbers. In case something goes wrong, we have a contact in the US that can call the banks and credit card companies on our behalf. The key is to make sure you have a backup of everything so any disruption isn’t a show-stopper.
  2. Document everything. We scanned all of our cards so we know exactly what they look like. We make sure the scans, as well as important info about each card and account, is accessible in multiple forms within minutes. When something like this happens, the last thing you want to have to do is struggle to find a phone number or remember a security code.
  3. Know what items are at risk. A wallet is an extremely easy target for thieves as they assume most people store their money there. Knowing a wallet was a high theft risk, we kept the value of the contents to a minimum, and keep our valuables in a much less obvious location.
  4. Don’t be stupid. Don’t flash your cash in public places, or wear flashy jewelry, or (in our case), leave your wallet sitting out unlocked in a hotel room. Up to this point we’d been careful, and because we were in a nicer hotel let our guard down.

By doing these things it makes it easier to accept that theft is inevitable, and the best remedy is having a plan to deal with it.

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2 Responses to Why My Wallet Getting Stolen Didn’t Ruin our Trip

  1. Pamela says:

    Very good ideas! I did get my wallet stolen while traveling in Italy once and it did just about ruin my vacation. Making note of these ideas for my next trip.