What to do if you lose your wallet while travelling

Co-author: Dhayana Sena 

Losing or having anything stolen is horrible but, when it’s your wallet, it can be incredibly inconvenient as well. Here are some things you can do to minimise the financial and emotional damage caused after losing your wallet. 

What To Do If You Lose Your Wallet 

It’s the ultimate nightmare for even the most experienced traveller – losing your wallet to theft, negligence or plain bad luck. Losing credit/debit/travel cards, various IDs, or cash can ruin your day, or even your entire trip if you’re seriously unlucky. 

While there’s nothing you can do once your wallet is lost or stolen, there are things you can do to minimise the financial and emotional damage caused – and by the way, make sure you have a good travel insurance policy as the absolute first point.

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If you do lose your wallet while travelling, first of all, be calm and logical and follow these four steps.

Step 1: Take inventory

Think carefully about what was in your wallet, and make a list. Knowing what you’ve lost is important, because you then know what you have to address and/or replace. Ideally have a list (and photocopy) of all cards that were in your wallet (yes, it would be great to be that organised).

Step 2: Cancel all your cards

If your wallet has been stolen, then so have your bank cards, and whether you had credit, debit, or travel cards, they need to be cancelled ASAP. The person who made off with your wallet (or the person who finds it if it’s lost) can have a field day with your holiday funds if any of your cards have a wireless chip allowing anyone to use them. Either call your bank to cancel the cards, or use your bank’s app to lock the cards until they’re confirmed lost/stolen.

Step 3: File a police report

In many countries, the local police may not be able to do much for travellers who’ve been the victim of petty theft, but it’s still worth finding the nearest police station and filing a police report. If your wallet is handed in to a police station, you’ve got no way of retrieving it if you haven’t filed a report and description of the wallet and contents. 

Filing a police report is also a requirement under some travel insurance policies, so make it a priority.

Step 4: Call your travel insurer

It’s generally a good idea to lodge any insurance claims as soon as possible, to avoid any complications or issues with your claim. Most policies will state that claims should be filed “promptly” or “as soon as possible” – this can mean within 24 hours, so make it one of your first ports of call.

The loss of one’s wallet can also (understandably) lead to the loss of one’s composure, but it’s worth trying to keep yourself together, as that’ll definitely improve the chances of you finding your wallet.

5 tips on how to avoid losing your wallet

Wouldn’t it be excellent if you never lost your wallet to begin with? We can’t guarantee theft protection, of course, but we’ve listed off some preventative measures for you to take on your next trip, to help reduce your chances of losing your wallet. 

Tip 1: Consider where you keep your wallet

A lot of people keep their wallet in their back pocket, but it’s incredibly easy for a prospective thief to grab your wallet from there. Consider keeping your wallet in your front pocket, or even buying a thief-proof money belt or neck wallet. These can comfortably and discreetly sit under your clothes, and won’t be easily spotted by thieves. 

Tip 2: Invest in a decoy

If you’re feeling particularly worried about pickpockets and theft, buy a second wallet and fill it with out-of-use and expired cards, and a small amount of cash. Keep the decoy in your pocket and put your real wallet somewhere more discreet/hidden. 

In the unfortunate event that you are pickpocketed, or even mugged, you’ll lose the decoy wallet, but not anything important or valuable. 

Tip 3: Be extra vigilant in certain situations

High-density public areas and public transport are two situations where you need to be incredibly alert regarding your wallet and possessions. Don’t pull out your wallet in these places, or even fidget with it in your pocket; this will show prospective thieves exactly where your wallet is, making it that much easier for them.

Tip 4: Have short straps

If you have a purse or bag, shorten the strap until it’s tight to your body. This will make it much harder for a thief to snatch the bag by breaking the strap. 

Also try to bring the bag to the front of your body, so that it’s in your sight. If you have a backpack, try and wear it on your front.

Tip 5: Leave your wallet at home if possible

If you’re simply going for a meal or a coffee with someone, don’t bring your entire wallet, only what’s necessary. Some cash and maybe a credit card is all you’d need to take, and your wallet can’t be stolen if it’s safely locked in your room’s safe. Of course, if your room doesn’t have security measures (such as a safe) then taking it with you might be a better option…

Preventing your wallet from being stolen requires careful consideration, but the time (and possibly money) spent on securing your wallet will pay off in the form of a happy, safe, uninterrupted trip.

In addition to utilising the steps above, you could also put your mind at ease by ensuring you have adequate travel insurance to protect you from unforeseen circumstances. Use Canstar’s comparison tool to find the best travel insurance for you.

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