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Clean Out Your Wallet [National Protect Your Identity Week]

Mmm. Wallet. by The Consumerist on Flickr If you have a “Costanza Wallet,” you know you need to clean that thing out! But even if you’ve just got a normal amount of stuff in your wallet, you’re probably carrying too much stuff in there. If you lose your wallet or it gets pick-pocketed, how much of your indentifying information is at risk?

Of course, you’ve got to carry some important stuff in there, or else what would be the point of having the wallet at all? But try to pair it down to just what you absolutely need. Clean out any receipts nightly, and if you put something in there just to use it that day, take that out at night as well.

What’s necessary for you is going to vary, but here are some guidelines for what shouldn’t be in your wallet:

Social Security Card: A locked fire-safe is the place for this, not your wallet! And really, how many times do you really need it? I’ve only used my physical SS card twice in my life: at the DMV. Don’t carry that thing around with you! If an identity thief wants to do more than just run up a balance on your credit card, your SS card is exactly what s/he needs.

Multiple Debit Cards: Debit cards are less secure than credit cards if they get stolen. Oh, I know, debit card companies will try and tell you that they’re “just as secure!” But think about it: if someone uses your debit card, that money goes straight out of your account. Then you have to file a dispute and wait for the bank to decide that the charge was fraudulent. While you’re waiting, that money is still missing from your checking account. With a credit card, you dispute before your statement ends, and you are never missing the money for the fraudulent charge. So carry just one debit card, if you need to.

Multiple Credit Cards: Yeah, you shouldn’t carry more than one of these, either. Chances are if you have multiple credit cards, you have a “main” one and then others for very specific purposes. Don’t carry those others unless you’re going out to do something that requires one of those cards. In that case, see if you can leave the regular card at home so that you’re still just carrying one credit card.

Also, scan every card in your wallet, back and front. This way, you’ll know what to report missing if you lose the wallet, and you’ll have the numbers from the backs of your cards that you’re supposed to call.

Bonus: What should you always have in your wallet? Baby pictures. A study in Edinburgh showed that pictures of babies in a wallet increased the chances that it would be returned if lost. Personally, I keep pictures of my niece and nephew in mine – because they’re cute and I adore them! I’m sure you’ve got some infant relative you can use as a security system in your wallet, as well.

Yeah, the cat in the picture is Captain Moneycat, the Consumerist cat. When I saw the picture was licensed Creative Commons on Flickr, I couldn’t resist!

7 responses to “Clean Out Your Wallet [National Protect Your Identity Week]”

  1. FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com

    LOL a Costanza wallet. A mini filing cabinet, really.

    I would never put my SSN card in my wallet, that is for darn sure… and I only have one credit card anyway, so no problem there

    Thanks for coming by the blog!! :)

  2. Kelly

    We have scanned copies of everything we carry in our wallets. The majority of stuff is loyalty cards.

    Thanks for the tip on baby pictures!

  3. Adam Luptak

    I recently upgraded/downgraded/bettergraded to a slimmer wallet, and cleaned it out to boot – removing loyalty cards to simply keep in the car, etc.

    I do, however, carry two credit cards for a good reason. I have a Discover, which I use most because they have the best rewards programs of the cards I have. However, I also always carry my Amazon Visa, because a small but substantial number of small businesses/restaurants don’t take Discover – I think Discover has some sort of licensing fee that some places are unable or unwilling to pay. Since I’m unable to remember which is which, and like to be able to change plans on the fly, I carry both all the time.

  4. Jesse

    Interesting stat there, so in that light, should we start leaving baby pics on our steering wheels to replace the Club as an anti-theft device? Or maybe in our sneakers at the pool, since we hide the rest of our valuables in there haha :) great post and props for the Seinfeld reference.

  5. Kyle Montgomery

    I think this is a great tip; it’s also something I really need to do. In fact, I was thinking about switching to a money-clip for a week just to see if I could. It would be interesting to go down to the bare minimum.

    Come to think of it, the scanned cards idea is a good one too.

  6. Aaron @ Internet Business

    I had lost my wallet once with my social security card… later on I found out that someone used my social security card to purchase more than 3 cellphone accounts. :(