How to Deal with a Lost or Stolen Wallet While Traveling

Losing your wallet or having it stolen at any time is frustrating and a bit scary. But if you’re traveling, the situation becomes even more dangerous. Whether you’re traveling out of state or to another country, dealing with a lost or stolen wallet will take time and energy, and you’ll need to deal with the situation as soon as possible.

If you’re wondering what to do if your wallet is lost or stolen while you’re traveling, here are some tips:

Where to Start: In the U.S.

According to the popular guidebook publisher, Fodor’s, the place to begin when you lose your wallet in the US is at the local police station. Even if you don’t suspect actual foul play when your wallet goes missing, you’ll need to create a paper trail of when and where you lost your wallet. Even if the police can’t actually help you get your wallet back, the paper trail will be helpful when it comes time to establish your identity – especially if you’ll need to hop on an airplane to get where you’re going next.

According to the Fodor’s article, you shouldn’t totally give up on catching a flight if you’ve lost your wallet. Yes, it’s much easier to get onto an airplane with your government-issued ID, but your ID may not be totally necessary if you’re staying within the US.

The key to getting home on time is to get to the airport extra early, so that you can go through extra security checks to try to establish your identity. And bring any piece of identifying evidence that you might happen to still have with you – family photos, unofficial IDs, credit cards that weren’t in your wallet, business cards, etc.

The TSA leaves it up to individual airlines whether or not to allow a passenger without proper identification on board, so you may or may not actually make your flight. But it’s worth a shot, at the very least.

Where to Start: In a Foreign Country

If you’re abroad when you lose your ID, it’s absolutely essential that you get to the nearest consulate or embassy as soon as possible. You can find a list of all US consulates and embassies at the State Department’s website, if you’re not sure where the nearest one is. If you can’t get to the consulate, call 1-317-472-2328 to contact the Department of State’s Overseas Citizens Service for help.

If your passport was with your wallet, you’ll need to go through an interview to establish your identity so that you can reapply for a passport. If your cash and credit cards are all gone with your wallet, you may be able to get a free temporary passport until you get back to the US, but you’ll need to pay for the privilege once you’re home.

General Tips for Your Lost Wallet

So once you’ve established your ID so that you can at least get back home, what are the next steps to take when you’ve lost your wallet while traveling?

The first thing to worry about is your actual bank account. Credit cards automatically have restrictions on fraudulent spending, so you won’t be liable for unauthorized charges that you didn’t actually make over $50 (with some cards, you won’t be liable at all). But debit cards have much stricter policies and depending on the situation, you may be liable for much more with your debit card.

So you’ll need to call your bank to freeze your debit card or close your account. If you simply let the customer service representatives know what’s going on, they’ll be able to talk you through what you need to do. Often times, your bank will just shut down your current debit card number and will reissue you a new card in the mail.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t worry about your credit cards at all. It’s also a good idea to call those companies to let them know what’s going on. Even though you have limited liability for fraudulent transactions, it’s still a pain to get them taken care of, so it’s best to cut off thieves before they charge your card at all.

Prepare Beforehand

The best way to deal with a lost or stolen wallet while you’re traveling is actually to be prepared before you even step out the door. There are plenty of great ways to keep your wallet from being stolen in the first place, and to make it easier to deal with if your wallet is lost or stolen. Here are just a few tips on preparing for this problem beforehand:

  • Get identity protection with a reputable ID protection company. This can make it so much easier, cheaper, and less time-intensive to deal with identity theft.
  • Don’t keep your social security number or PINs in your wallet.
  • Take photos of both sides of all your ID cards, your passport, and any credit or debit cards so that you have the account numbers and other important information somewhere safe at home.
  • If you can, get a second state-issued ID to keep at home in case you lose your driver’s license.
  • Choose credit cards with your photo on them – preferably on the front – whenever possible.
  • Clean out your wallet weekly to keep it from getting too fat – and more likely to be swiped in a crowd.

Preparation is the best way to deal with the possibility of having your wallet lost or stolen while you’re traveling. But if you haven’t done much preparing, and lose your wallet while traveling, at least you know where to begin in the process of putting your wallet back together again.

By Daniela Baker

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