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Leave It at Home

Sonja Haggert

MY WALLET WAS STOLEN many years ago when I was traveling on business. I had gotten onto a crowded elevator at my hotel. The last person to get on was a woman who pretended to get her heel caught in the elevator door.

The thieves were a young couple—and they were real pros. While we were focused on her, her partner proceeded to open the flap of my handbag and help himself to my wallet. Who knows how many others he took before they both decided to get off the elevator?

Even though I thought I’d taken great care to randomly jot down pin numbers and passwords on a cheat sheet, they had no problem deciphering how to use them. In a matter of minutes, they had charged $3,000 on a couple of my credit cards.

I was thinking about that incident after reading an article about downsizing your wallet. Some of the items we carry around could be a treasure trove for thieves.

Here are some things that should come out: extra cash beyond what you would need for an emergency, your health insurance card, credit cards rarely used or only used for online purchases, blank checks (who uses checks anymore, anyway?), receipts, store rewards cards, photos, library card and, yes, cheat sheets with pin numbers and passwords.

Why the library card? Thieves can run up fines on a stolen card, affecting your credit score. What if you have a medical emergency and need your insurance card? What if you’re out and about, and suddenly realize you need to go to the grocery store and want your rewards card? Due to a lack of space in my wallet, I used to keep a separate thin wallet with my driver’s license, insurance information and other items. That second wallet wasn’t stolen by the elevator thieves. Today, we can keep some of this information on our phones.

What does that leave? You might carry a small amount of cash for emergencies, such as for a cab that doesn’t take credit cards. If you’re traveling, you might also want extra cash to tip the bellboy or the porter. In addition, you’ll want the credit and debit cards that you’ll need that day.

While you’re at it, make a photocopy or take a photograph of the front and back of your credit and debit cards, as well as your driver’s license and your passport. If you lost any of these, that information could be invaluable.

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