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Image by Steve Buissinne
Your wallet was left behind at 204 River Road.
That alert, coming through while I was on vacation, reminded me how rarely I’m away from my wallet!
After almost losing my wallet (and all its contents) in 2022, I invested in one of those Air Tags. I inserted it into my tiny wallet that’s really just a credit card holder. And I synced it to my phone so that I get an alert any time I separate from it.
It came in handy a couple of months ago. I was at the post office and was sure I’d left my wallet at the UPS Store (my previous stop) when I couldn’t find it in my purse. I was panicking at the thought that I might have dropped it in the shipment box and it was now on its way…elsewhere.
“Wait!” I thought. “I can track it by the AirTag.”
I pulled up Find My iPhone, tapped on Items, and there it was…with me!
It was in the pocket of my cardigan.
My AirTag saved me a drive all the way back to the UPS Store, where I would have wasted precious minutes looking for it, only for me to go back to my car, search, and realize it was, once again, in the pocket of my cardigan.
(I really need to stop putting my wallet in my cardigan pocket!)
It all got me thinking about the various tools available to protect our wallets. There are quite a few–some I didn’t even know existed.
Gear to Safeguard Your Wallet
When looking for wallet protection gadgets, I noticed that RFID protection seemed to be a top priority.
RFID, short for radio frequency identification, is a technology used by scammers to steal card information. This is known as RFID skimming.
But a lot of the RFID skimming danger passed with the new chip cards, which contain chips that don’t transmit data that radio frequencies can pick up.
Contactless cards feature encrypted transmissions.
Does that mean RFID protection isn’t worth the investment? Not necessarily. But it does mean there are bigger concerns…like having your wallet physically stolen. Or losing your wallet and all the cards in it.
For that reason, I focused on tools to protect you from yourself (if you’re like me and repeatedly lose your wallet!) and pickpockets.
Here are some tools that can help keep your wallet and its contents safe.
1. Smart Item Trackers
Smart item trackers are so useful.
They use low-energy Bluetooth to share location data with nearby devices. They’re typically compact, making it easy to slip into a suitcase, laptop bag, or even your wallet.
I use an Apple AirTag, but there are so many other options. Look around for the best tracker for your mobile device.
Once you have your tracker, you’ll pair it with your phone. That pairing ensures you’ll be alerted when your phone separates from your tracker.
From there, your tracker will reach out to NEARBY BLUETOOTH-ENABLED DEVICES. This helps you identify its last known location so you can track it down.
Photo by EVG Kowalievska
2. Money Belts
Sometimes, having your wallet out in the open puts you at risk. For instance, you might be on vacation and concerned about being mugged or having your purse stolen.
That’s where a money belt can help.
These pouches are designed to tuck beneath your clothing, remaining out of sight but still accessible.
You’ll find money belts in a variety of designs and styles. It can be tempting to go for attractive patterns and fun colors.
Your money belt is supposed to hide. Go for something neutral that won’t show through your clothes…even when you’re on vacation and dressed in all white.
Next, consider water resistance. If you get caught in a rainstorm, you’ll want to make sure your ID, cards, and cash stay dry.
Lastly, pay attention to how much your money belt will hold. If you want to squeeze your phone or car keys inside, remember that this will create a bulge, even if you can find a money belt large enough to hold it all.
3. Anti-Theft Clothing
There’s no shortage of anti-theft clothing.
This type of apparel is mostly made for travel, but think about it. You’re heading out to the park with your kids or getting ready for a night on the town. How cool would it be to have a handy place to HIDE YOUR WALLET?
Here are some anti-theft clothing options:
- Pants: This tends to be one of the best options. If you carry your wallet in your pants. Anyway, a pair with hidden pockets isn’t much of a stretch.
- Vests and jackets: These usually come with multiple pockets inside. It’s a great solution for when you’ll be outdoors in the chilly weather most of the day.
- Bras and briefs: This isn’t the ideal solution if you need to regularly access your wallet. But if your wallet will primarily stay tucked away, it’s a great option.
- Socks: These aren’t ideal because they tend to be made for a few bills or a driver’s license. An entire wallet might not do as well.
4. Phone Cases
My husband keeps his credit card and driver’s license in his phone case.
He has a simple reason for that:
His phone is always with him. He might walk off and forget his wallet, but he won’t go far without his phone.
If that sounds relatable, a case that holds your cards might be the answer. There are three major types of these:
- Stick-on cardholders: You simply add these to the back of any case. They’re popular with college students, looking for a way to keep track of keycards and IDs.
- Compartment cases: This type looks like a normal case, but a door opens in the back to reveal a compartment that holds a couple of cards.
- Wallet cases: The emphasis is on the wallet with this case, which has multiple slots for cards and snaps closed around your phone.
The only downside to this option is that losing your phone will also lose your credit card and ID.
Photo by cottonbro studio
5. Lockable Wallets
When I hear “moneybags,” I associate it with someone with a lot of money.
“Okay, moneybags. Not all of us can afford $200 for dinner.”
But there is such a thing as a money bag. It’s a term used for a bag that banks use to move money from one place to another.
Why would you, a consumer, need a bag like that? Because newer versions can lock.
A lockable money bag is great for keeping your valuables safe while traveling. But you can take an even more portable version with you everywhere: a lockable wallet.
You’ll see these going by names like “pocket-size vault” and “locking code wallet.” The concept is the same across all types. You store your cards and IDs inside this small device, lock it up, and take it with you.
The downside of locking wallets is that they can still be stolen. If they’re out and visible, or you leave them behind somewhere, a thief might grab them and deal with trying to unlock them later.
Still, it could serve as a deterrent.
Tips to Safeguard Your Wallet
Whether you use gadgets or not, there are some things you can do to keep your wallet (and its contents) safe and sound.
1. Be Consistent
Whenever I’ve lost my wallet, I look for it in the same place: MY PURSE.
That’s where my wallet stays when it’s not in use. If it’s not there, I start to panic. Where could it possibly be?
(Okay, I know the answer to that. My cardigan pocket!)
Those losses had something else in common. In every instance, I was in a hurry, frazzled, rushing through my day. If I just stopped for a few seconds and put the wallet where it should go, I would have saved myself some severe stress.
Make a rule, and don’t allow yourself to violate it. Your credit cards and ID always go back to their proper slot as soon as you’ve used them. That wallet immediately goes into your purse or pocket or wherever it lives.
Don’t move until you’ve taken those steps. No exceptions!
2. Use a Chain
All my life, I’ve seen people using wallet chains.
In fact, they’re banned in some places because they can be used as weapons. But they are allowed on planes so that you can take them on vacation.
The concept of wallet chains is brilliant. They serve as a deterrent for pickpockets. But any tether will do, including a lanyard. The key is making it a little tougher for pickpockets while ensuring you’ll be alerted if someone tries to steal it.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
3. Don’t Flaunt Contents
When you open your wallet at the register, prying eyes are everywhere. One of the worst things you can do is show off that you have a large sum of cash inside.
But even if you live a MOSTLY CASHLESS EXISTENCE, thieves can get a lot of information from your behavior at the cash register. How many cards are inside? Where do you keep your wallet?
Once they have that information, they can follow you out of the store and grab it.
Be mindful of your surroundings whether you’re at the register or not. Note if someone’s nearby before you break out your wallet, and if someone seems to be eyeing it, take extra precautions as you exit the store.
And that brings us to a great way to keep your wallet in your pocket.
4. Use Contactless When Possible
In recent weeks, I’ve begun using contactless pay wherever possible.
Whether it’s Apple or Google Wallet, you can store your cards in your phone and use them without even pulling out your credit card.
Places like Starbucks, Panera, and McDonald’s even have their own apps that allow you to order and pay directly from your phone. Even at the drive-thru, I use the app to pay at Starbucks.
Aside from keeping your wallet in your pocket, there are some notable benefits of contactless pay:
- Convenience: I usually can get to my phone quicker than I can extract my wallet and card.
- Cost savings: Most of these merchants offer reward points for paying in the app. Once I have enough points, I get a freebie.
- No contact: During COVID, we took extra measures to reduce contact with others. But contagious diseases can spread at any time. When I pay using my phone, neither I nor my card comes into contact with card readers or cashiers.
- Reduced skimming risk: Card skimmers have become an ongoing threat to cardholders. Using contactless pay keeps your credit card out of readers that might have experienced recent tampering.
Of course, there’s also the fact that your wallet stays out of view of those around you. If you choose to conceal it or USE A LOCKABLE WALLET, you won’t have to deal with extracting it when it’s time to pay.
5. Consider Fraud Protection
Losing your wallet is a huge convenience, whether it’s misplaced or stolen.
But replacing your credit card and driver’s license is easy compared to identity theft.
If someone gets ahold of your wallet and its contents, what information is inside that could be used to commit fraud?
Your license has your name, address, and number that can be used for identification purposes. If you carry your Social Security number with you, a scammer could use it to apply for loans or make major purchases in your name.
Don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
If you’re concerned about identity theft, though, services like Aura, IdentityForce, and LifeLock can give you some much-needed peace of mind. They’ll not only help cover the cost if your identity is stolen, but they’ll also monitor you and let you know if fraud is detected.
Wallets can be prime targets for criminals.
But you don’t have to leave your wallet at home. There are some things you can do that will keep your wallet and its contents safe.
And with a bit of vigilance, you can keep prying eyes and hands away from your driver’s license and credit cards.
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