Surviving a lost wallet

Steps you can take to protect yourself and stay afloat.


There are few worse feelings than the panic that sets in when you’re looking around your room and can’t find your wallet or purse. Your credit cards. Your cash. Your ID. They all reside there, and it’s hard to survive without them. Plus, it means someone could be trying to embark on a shopping spree using your credit cards or other items.

Sadly, it happens to just about everyone. The good news is there are steps you can take to try to get back your cash and cards. There are also new ways to get by if you need to make do until your bank can send you replacements.

Step 1: Clean and call

Let’s be real — your room is probably not the most organized place in the world. Sort through your piles and check your pants or jacket pockets if you haven’t done that already. Then make a list of where you were during the day or night before, when you last remember having your wallet. Call friends and any restaurants or other spots you visited to see if perhaps your wallet just slipped out of your pocket and got left behind. If you were in a car, check under the seats or in the glove compartment.

Step 2: Accept reality and protect your finances

If it turns out your wallet or purse is really lost, you will want to quickly take care of the situation. Procrastinating only increases the chances that someone may try to use your credit cards. Make a list of the credit cards (don’t forget your debit card) you had, look up customer service numbers on the financial institutions’ websites, and start calling. Make sure to report the cards as lost or stolen, as opposed to cancelling the accounts. It’s a common occurrence, and the credit card companies know how to help you. It’s worth logging in to your online accounts to check and see if there are charges already showing up as pending that you don’t recognize. If you do notice any unauthorized purchases, bring them to the attention of the credit card companies.

Step 3: Protect your identity, too

In addition to reporting your cards as lost or stolen, it’s worth calling the three big credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can put a security freeze in place so that no new accounts can be created in your name without your consent. A fraud alert can help too. Follow one of these links to set one up:

Hopefully your Social Security card wasn’t in your wallet, but if it was, you’ll want to potentially take action on that front as well. You’ll also want to replace your student ID and make sure any money that may be associated with it (a meal plan, etc.) gets transferred and deactivated from your old one. And don’t forget to contact or head over to the DMV to replace your license.

Step 4: Keep living

While a lost wallet is a pain and certainly something you need to take care of, don’t let it stop you from leading your life. While you wait for a new debit card, you may still be able to access your money. You can always go into a bank and speak with a teller about your situation. Additionally, Wells Fargo is rolling out a program that will allow you to use their app to get a special code you can enter at the ATM to access your accounts even without your card.