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Prevent Theft, Save Money While Traveling: Things to Keep in Your Wallet (First in a two-part series)


What should you carry in your wallet when traveling?

According to an investigation by Go Banking Rates, measures for preventing pickpockets and identity theft can also save you money while traveling. They share what they found with readers:

Travelers are victimized by criminals at much higher rates than local residents, according to a recent Wallstreet Journal report, making them more susceptible to financial crimes such a pickpocketing and identity theft. Travelers looking to protect themselves from these dangers need to take action by only carrying the most crucial items in their wallets. These precautions not only protect the financial safety of travelers, but are also some of the top ways to save money while away from home.

The threat of increasing pickpocket activity is concerning. For example, according to the UK’s Daily Mail“Invasion of the Pickpockets” report, pickpockets victimized 1,700 people each day during the summer’s London Olympics, an increase of 17% over the last two years.

travel, wallet, contents

Carrying the wrong things in your wallet can make you more vulnerable to pickpockets and identity thieves.

For travelers, knowing what to carry in their wallets, and what to leave at home, are key to avoiding the headache of losing wallets to pickpockets, and most importantly, avoiding undue risk of identity theft.

Go Banking Rates managing editor, Casey Bond, interviewed multiple travel and finance experts to find out what travelers should carry in their wallets and what they should absolutely leave out. Bond recommends that while preparing suitcases for upcoming travel, it’s crucial to prepare wallets as well. She advises, “Ask yourself if there’s anything inside your wallet that you would regret having included if it was stolen or misplaced. Saving money starts with practicing safety, which includes protecting your finances from excessive risk for fraud.”

Unfortunately, most fail to protect their actual wallets when traveling, which is even more important than finding the top flight deals and hotel discount codes.

One of the best ways to save money on travel is to proactively avoid the expensive consequences of carelessness. Knowing what to carry in your wallet while traveling — and what to leave at home — will eliminate the headache of losing money to excessive fees or identity theft while you’re away from home.

Important Things to Keep in Your Wallet


When traveling, whether domestically or overseas, it’s important to carry some cash for taxi or bus fare, tips and miscellaneous expenses that can arise unexpectedly. For instance, many restrooms in Europe require a fee to use — you wouldn’t want to be caught in need of a pit stop without a euro handy.

Limit the amount of cash you carry to the equivalent of about $50 — enough to get by in most situations, but not so much that you’d be devastated if it were lost or stolen. Be sure it’s the local currency and in varying denominations.

Money, cash

It’s important to carry cash when you travel, but opt for small rather than large bills.

Debit Cards

It shouldn’t be necessary to have more than one debit card on hand. The most important thing to remember is that you need to call your bank prior to leaving and notify them that you’ll be traveling, and for how long, in order to prevent a freeze on your card for suspected fraud. And to prevent actual identity theft when pulling out cash, plan your time so you can visit an ATM from a well-known bank and avoid swiping your card in isolated or otherwise questionable areas.

Credit Cards

A credit card is essential when an ATM can’t be found, or when you need to perform a large transaction such as placing a hotel deposit. However, limit the number of cards you carry to just two.

Chris Reining, founder of the personal finance blog, explains that he prefers to have two credit cards in his wallet when traveling, and from different issuers. “If you typically carry American Express or Discover, be sure to have a Visa or MasterCard with you as well,” he advises. “You don’t want to get caught trying to make a purchase where your only credit card isn’t accepted.”

Additionally, Reining recommends overseas travelers bring a credit card with an embedded smart chip. “Purchases based on the chip are common in Europe and Asia and merchants sometimes can’t accept magnetic-strip cards.”

Finally, watch out for foreign transaction fees. Carrying a card that doesn’t charge these fees can save you 3% or more on every dollar spent overseas.

Phone, address book

Many of us rely on our cell phones for numbers, but what if it’s lost or stolen? Keeping a few important phone numbers written down can be a life saver.


In addition to cash and cards, there are a few items you should consider keeping in your wallet when out of town to prevent the annoying problems travelers sometimes face from blowing up into huge, costly ordeals.

Phone contacts. Anyone who has ever lost a phone knows the disappointment of realizing that money and information is likely gone forever. However, when your phone disappears while you’re in a different state — or worse, a foreign country — losing access to important phone numbers can be panic-inducing. Robert Siciliano, an identity theft expert and consultant, recommends carrying important phone numbers in your wallet in case your phone is lost or stolen.

Blood type/Medical Cards. Seasoned traveler and healthcare professional, Sue diRosario, advises travelers keep their Red Cross blood type card in their wallets in case of a medical emergency that requires receiving blood. At the very least, have your medical and dental insurance cards on hand to prevent any delay in receiving care should a health problem arise while you’re away from home. — Casey Bond, editor

In Casey’s next installment, she’ll talk about the things you shouldn’t carry in your wallet while traveling.

Go Banking Rates is a national website dedicated to connecting readers with the best interest rates on financial services nationwide, as well as informative personal finance content, news and tools.

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Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at