February 27, 2014

8 Things to Keep in Your Wallet, and 3 Not to Keep

Read more about Lost Wallet: What To Do

As an accessory we touch many times a day, our wallets often suffer from neglect, prone to become a dumping ground for crumpled receipts, expired coupons and worn business cards for people we no longer remember. It's time to do a cleanup. We'll help you get your wallet in order with a list of what to keep in it – and a few things to make sure you leave at home.

What to Keep in Wallet

A photo ID card.

There are many situations that require a photo ID, from clearing security at the airport to opening a bank account. To state the obvious, you should carry a driver’s license if you have one. (Check that expiration date. We’ll wait.) If you don’t have a driver’s license, a state-issued identification card serves as a valid form of photo ID. DMV.org provides information-by-state instructions for obtaining an ID.

The right credit cards.

Put some thought into which credit cards you carry around. If you keep a balance on your cards, take the one with the lowest interest rate and lowest annual fee. And leave those with high balances at home, tucked away, until you pay them off. If you don’t carry a balance, use the card with the most rewards. Only carry department store and specialty cards when you plan to use them. That way, you can avoid carrying around extra bulk while also avoiding temptation.

Your bank debit card.

Carry your bank debit card with you for the inevitable ATM withdrawal. As a bonus, a debit card will help you avoid the temptation of running up your credit cards unnecessarily when a simple bank account deduction will suffice. Just keep in mind the extra protection credit cards will provide against your purchases.

Emergency cash.

Although using plastic works in most situations, there are still times when cash is king, like when a merchant requires you to make a minimum purchase before using a credit card or a taxi that doesn’t take credit cards at all. Use the zippered pocket or side slot in your wallet to hide a $20 bill. Keep it out of sight until the need arises.

Health insurance card.

Whether you’re simply going in for a checkup or need to make an unexpected trip to the emergency room, you will need proof of your health insurance coverage. Be sure to check your card occasionally to confirm you have the current information.

Emergency contact information.

A business address and phone number will ensure that anyone who finds your misplaced wallet can contact you, but in the case of an illness or accident, carry additional emergency contact info. Because of the heavy reliance on smartphones these days, many of us don’t even have the phone numbers of people we call daily memorized, so carrying a list of key phone numbers makes sense, even if the only emergency is a dead phone battery.

Critical medical information.

Along with emergency contact numbers, include relevant health information, such as a medical condition, drug allergies and a list of your regular prescription drugs. If you are under regular treatment, include the contact information for your primary care physician.

Regularly used loyalty cards.

Consider carrying a few rewards cards for the places that you frequent the most. Slip in the coffee loyalty card, your gym card and rewards cards for favorite restaurants, unless you can carry them digitally on your smartphone.

What Not to Keep in Wallet

And now for a few things you can leave out.

Anything that contains sensitive information.

While most of us know we shouldn’t carry our Social Security card, it’s easy to overlook the fact that a Medicare card shows SSNs as ID numbers as well. Photocopy the card, and black out the number. Other sensitive information you shouldn’t carry with you includes cheat sheets with passwords and PIN numbers.

Spare house key.

While it’s a good idea to have a spare key to your house and car, don’t carry them in your wallet. Should it fall into the wrong hands, potential thieves will have the key to your house and your home address from your driver’s license. Instead, leave the spares at your office or with a friend or trustworthy neighbor.

Gift cards.

Gift cards are basically the same as cash. If someone takes them, you may not be able to recover your money. Plan your outings in advance and carry only the gift cards you need.

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