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5 steps to take if you lose your wallet on the road

July 30, 2021
6 min read
Woman withdrawing money from ATM
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While mobile payment services have risen in popularity in recent years, many of us still carry around a good old-fashioned wallet.

And when you travel, it's almost a necessity. After all, some retailers simply don't accept digital payment. But what happens if you lose that wallet and the many cards that are within it?

We asked readers in our TPG Lounge Facebook community what their strategies were should this worst-case scenario happen to them. Let's walk through five of the most important steps to take if you lose your wallet on the road, including some wise preventative measures.

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1. Use your card and banking apps to freeze accounts

If you lose your wallet, your first step should be to fire up your card and banking mobile apps and contact customer service.

The first card you should freeze is likely your debit card. "I prioritize canceling or freezing my debit card first as I know that my credit cards protect me so much better," TPG reader Tal Almany told us. Since your debit card is linked directly to your bank account, any funds charged or withdrawn will be gone until you can sort things out with your bank. Credit cards tend to offer much more comprehensive fraud protection so you don't have to pay for any unauthorized charges if your card is lost or stolen.

These days, most banks and issuers offer the ability to freeze your account directly within a mobile app. For those that don't, give them a call immediately and ask them to do so.

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But when it comes to freezing versus canceling, consider going the freezing, or locking, route first. "I freeze instead of outright cancel to give me some extra time to try and find the wallet while still providing peace of mind that nobody will be able to use my cards," says TPG reader Graham Jones. As Graham notes, unlike canceling your card, which means you'll have to wait for a new one to reach you, locking your account is like temporarily turning off your card. It remains open but unusable by anyone until you call your bank back to unlock it. That way, you can take your time looking for your lost wallet and if you find it, you can simply unfreeze your card. If you don't find it, then you can cancel the card.

Related: Credit card fraud: How to spot and report it

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2. Freeze cards with the highest credit limits

Generally speaking, it may be a good rule of thumb to cancel or lock premium rewards cards and business credit cards next. These cards are most likely to have higher spending limits than others. Some cards don’t have any preset spending limits at all.

(Photo by Ryan Patterson/The Points Guy)

Most Amex-branded cards, including The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card, fall under this category. With these cards, your transactions are approved on a case-by-case basis, so it may be wise to cancel these products in case your wallet falls into the wrong hands.

Related: Best credit cards with the highest limits in 2021

3. Only carry the essential cards when traveling

With the advent of digital wallets, it's a best practice to carry as few cards as possible, especially when traveling. That's becoming even easier both here in the U.S. and abroad thanks to the accelerating advent of point-of-sale terminals that accept digital payments.

Carrying cards in your digital wallet instead of your physical one minimizes risk. It's also more sanitary since digital wallets enable contactless payment, so you don't have to touch anybody or anything. Though if you lose your phone, that's another story!

"Only two cards per outing. The rest is on Apple Pay or on an as-needed basis," says TPG reader Jose Ramirez.

4. Have a backup card (or wallet) when you travel

(Photo by The Points Guy)

If your wallet is lost or stolen and all of your cards are in it, you’ll wish you had set aside at least one card for safekeeping. Therefore, the general advice is to keep your backup card somewhere secure, such as in your hotel room safe.

Some TPG readers and staffers also bring an entire second wallet with them.

TPG senior travel editor Melanie Lieberman usually carries a small card holder on trips that contains a credit card, a debit card, a nonessential ID and a little cash. Meanwhile, she also packs a full-size wallet for backup with a driver’s license, a second bank card and other credit cards, then stores it in the hotel safe in case of emergencies.

Related: Why you might want to pack 2 wallets the next time you travel

5. Get a Bluetooth tracker for your wallet

While this won't help in the case of theft, if you happen to lose your wallet, a Bluetooth tracker can come in handy.

"I keep a Tile Bluetooth tracker in my wallet and a note in the first flap with a phone number to reach me at should someone pick it up," TPG reader Mike Geng says.

Bottom line

Losing your wallet, whether at home or on the road, is a massive inconvenience.

But there are certain steps you can take both before and after it happens to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. From immediately freezing your accounts to keeping a backup card or wallet, these are simple procedures to get your life, and your trip, back on track without much hassle.

Featured image by Getty Images/Cultura RF
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more