Quick travel tip: Keep a backup credit card in your suitcase

walletMy friend and fellow Boarding Area blogger Seth, aka The Wandering Aramean, is currently on a trip to Montevideo. I always enjoy seeing pictures on Facebook from Seth’s trips, and today was no exception. A few hours ago he posted a giant bowl of barbecued meats, which made me hungry (not to mention envious of his awesome meal). Then just a little while later, he posted that immediately after lunch, he was pickpocketed.

Being Seth, he pretty quickly got a blog post up about chasing the guy who grabbed his wallet out of his pocket. He is the first to acknowledge it could have been way worse: the thieves only got about $60 in cash, not his wallet, credit cards, phone, or camera. I am very glad to hear that! However, it turns out that even if his credit cards had been stolen, he wouldn’t have been completely out of luck. See, Seth is a veteran traveler, and has been to more countries than anyone else I know. As a precaution, in case this very thing happened, he had two backup credit cards in his suitcase.

Now, I know that if you read travel sites they all recommend this kind of thing. Make copies of your passport and credit cards, and keep some money and an extra credit card in your suitcase. I’m pretty sure I did those things for my first international business trip seven years ago (which I guess technically means that I still have pictures of my passport) but haven’t really made the time for all it since. Which is so dumb! Stuff is stolen. Wallets are lost. Hotel rooms are broken into. I am so sorry this happened to Seth, but it is a great reminder to actually be prepared in case it happens to someone else.

Seth, I’m glad you weren’t hurt! Hope the rest of your vacation goes much more smoothly.

(BTW if you don’t read The Wandering Aramean, you should—it is highly entertaining.)

Readers, have you ever had your wallet stolen on an international trip? Do you take any security precautions?


  1. I took additional precautions when we went to Barcelona. Magellan’s sells handbags designed to be thief-proof. Accessing items inside the bag was a bit inconvenient but losing a wallet would have been more so. The bag was not expensive and the peace of mind was worth it. I also always have passport photos and a photocopy of my passport; I carry my husband’s and he carries mine. Ironically, the only time I have needed my list of credit cards (with telephone numbers) to shut them down within 15 min. was due to a theft of my wallet from my DC office. I guess that means I’m more cautious when I travel internationally (fairly often) than when I’m home.

  2. I haven’t had my wallet stolen, but my friend and I did get a camera picked a number of years ago. In hindsight, we figured the whole scheme out (of course!). Guy came up all friendly asking our names and telling what they were in the native language. Kept touching my friend, patting his arm, bumping into him, etc. After he walked away, we realized it was gone.
    I keep photos of my cards and passport in a cloud account that I do not have signed in on my phone. That way I can access it from anywhere in case something were to happen when I am not near my hotel. I also always carry my second passport and have it stashed in a pocket in my carry-on to be left in my hotel. Just little things but it makes me feel better 🙂

  3. You don’t have to have the card stolen to need a back-up. I was traveling in another state and was notified about unauthorized use of the card. They canceled my card and I realized I didn’t have a back-up. No problem, I had cash and was leaving the next day. All was good until thunderstorms hit Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Atlanta all in the same afternoon. I had to travel through two of these hubs and was pretty scared that I would be trapped without a hotel room.

  4. I would never leave a credit card in my suitcase unless it is in the hotel. Ever! A much better idea to leave all your credit cards (except 1) and passports in the hotel safe. If your hotel doesn’t have a safe then maybe hide in your suitcase. Also hide your laptops and all electronics. Most hotel thefts are crimes of opportunity, people see an open door (maid) and grab something visible.

  5. I always follow Rick Steve’s advice and keep my cc’s and pp as well as cash in a money belt. It can get bulky, but that’s what loose pullovers are for! After a day or so, you forget you have it under your clothes.

    There is also a clever one for men which hooks onto their belt with a camouflaged loop.

    We always carry photos of each other’s pp.

    I do like the idea of the cloud storage. We email our photos to ourselves.

  6. I would be very hesitant about leaving a credit card inside my suitcase in an unattended room, especially now:

    On a recent trip to Mexico, we experienced theft of small items from our room, that first made us question our own sanity. Chocolate bar gone from nightstand drawer? A pair of costume earrings gone from the dresser? etc. The hotel was very unhelpful. They offered to send their security team to “find your misplaced” items. When I kept returning to complain and ask for a different maid, they suggested to me we make the trek downtown and file a police report. Ugh. And this at a place that scans their employees in and out of the property through metal detectors and does hand searches of pockets.

  7. Your hotel safe is not completely safe from theft. Have you ever had to have a staff member come to your rom to reset the safe for you ? Well, they can.
    Although it is not foolproof, I do leave my valuables in the hotel safe usually, but I also leave other items that I want to secure inside a locked suitcase in my room. This is what I do when at a hotel without an in-room safe.

  8. I carry a small card case with cash, ID and 1 or 2 credit cards in my front pocket. My primary wallet, passport, extra cash and backup credit cards are kept in the room safe.

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