We’ve all been there. You’re ready to pay for a coffee at the counter, you reach into your pocket for your wallet, and you come up empty. Is it in my car? On my my dresser?
Obviously, your ritual morning pocket pat-down didn’t work – you’re officially missing your wallet. Don’t panic. I’m here to help.
Follow these 7 steps to find your lost wallet.
1. Take A Moment to Relax
Once you notice your wallet’s little disappearing act, alarm bells are probably ringing off in your head. It’s an understandable response but give yourself a moment to relax.
- Take a deep breath. Panicking will only cloud your thinking and hinder your search.
- Do a quick breathing exercise or a short five to ten-minute meditation. Close your eyes, draw a slow, steady breath in through your nose and gently exhale through your mouth.
- Focus on this process rather than the worst-case scenarios running through your head. You’ll soon feel more relaxed and ready to take up the search.
2. Remember the Details
Retracing your steps is all well and good, but odds are that won’t be helpful. After all, if your search was that easy, you wouldn’t be reading this guide. You’ll get a lot further by imagining the context. Try to remember any details from when you last saw your wallet. Paint a rich mental picture.
- Do you remember the pants you were wearing?
- Do you remember what you were eating or the smells that surrounded you?
- Were you listening to music or watching television? What song? Which show?
3. Try to recall a distraction
A distraction from your usual routine can cause you to misplace more things than any other factor. We all try to put things in the same place each time so that we don’t lose them. But one distracting activity or a combination of events can turn order into chaos.
So think about what events might have thrown you off your game and where you were when they occurred. Where were you headed when something distracting happened?
Then look for your wallet in “weird” out-of-character places where you might have left it. Try to focus on where your usual routine was interrupted and how you would have reacted.
- Did you leave it on the hood of your car while you put the baby in her car seat?
- Did you decide to change clothes at the last minute?
- Did you lay it down when you were gathering multiple bags of a carry-out order at a local restaurant?
- Did you break your routine and take a different car to work or carry a different backpack or bag?
4. Check the Usual Locations
It goes without saying, but first check for your wallet in all the go-to spots.
- Do you often keep it on the dresser or in a desk drawer?
- What about all the places you’ve accidentally left your wallet in the past?
- Is there a certain place you always seem to misplace things?
- Have you checked your briefcase, lunch bag, and the daypack you never emptied from yesterday’s hike?
- Have you gone through all your pockets, including the ones you re-hung in your closet, put back in a drawer, or tossed into the laundry hamper?
Always zero in on those locations first, as well as your car’s console and glove box, and under the mess on your desk and dresser. Magazines, newspapers, and even iPads are notorious for hiding keys and wallets from view. Your wallet is likely closer than you think, so don’t accidentally look past the obvious.
5. Ask a family member or roommate for help
If you’re still coming up empty, try talking through your search process with someone else. Two heads are better than one and the other person might have some sparks of insight to contribute. This works particularly well with your spouse because he/she knows you so well.
Tell them what you have done so far and ask for suggestions. Everyone thinks differently. Sometimes they will remember where you were or what you were doing better than you can yourself. My wife has helped me to find things more times than I can count.
6. Search Methodically with a Fine Tooth Comb
Still empty-handed? it’s time to dig deeper. Search everywhere you can but be methodical about it. Don’t just automatically tear the house apart. The mess you create will just make finding your wallet or card holder harder while raising our stress levels. High blood pressure won’t help. Calm your mind first. (Re-read Step 1).
These two techniques really help me when I’m in panic mode.
- Take a quick walk outside to clear your mind.
- Lie down for a quick ten-minute nap to refresh your brain and reset your mood. (This works AMAZINGLY well!)
When you’re ready to start searching in earnest, begin at one end of your house or apartment and search room by room. Be thorough! Do it slowly and methodically.
- Look between chair and couch cushions, behind décor, on shelves, under bedsheets, inside wastebaskets, etc.
- Don’t forget to look outside in your garage, storage shed, patio, or inside the other car you rarely drive.
- Do you place online orders on your phone with your credit card? Where were you sitting or standing when you pulled out your wallet to place the order?
Only move to another room when you’ve done a thorough clean sweep.
7. Call Recently Visited Businesses
Absolutely convinced it isn’t in your house? The next place to check is your place of work. If it’s not there, then it’s time to jump on the phone and call the last places you visited during the day.
The best thing to do is ring up the last place you remember using it, whether that be the Italian place down the street or the grocery store. Sometimes these places will call if they find it, but don’t count on it. It’s better to be proactive and give them a call.
Better yet, drive back to the store, gym, or restaurant you last visited and talk to someone personally to see if some good Samaritan turned it in. Physically retracing your steps to these locations might help jar your memory. You might hit on a Eureka! moment when you see some familiar scenery.
8. Bonus: More places to look
- Check the fridge, freezer, and pantry. When people are hungry, there’s no telling what they might do. I have personally done this before.
- When searching your car, use a flashlight to be sure you have check every crack and crevice. Move the front seats all the way up and back. Check the sides of the seats and underneath. Check each door’s side pockets.
- If you mostly drive alone, check to see that your wallet didn’t fall between the passenger seat and the passenger side door. If you rarely open that door, a wallet could hide there for weeks.
- If it’s cold outside, check all your coats, jackets, and vests.
- If it was recently raining, check the pockets of your rain jacket.
- When checking an upholstered armchair, be sure to reach all the way down to the lining at the bottom. Tilt the chair partly back and look for a wallet-sized “lump” protruding from the lining. I found one here once.
- Look for all places that gravity may have taken it. In other words, the floor, patio, deck, porch.
- Never ever put your wallet on top of your car, even for a moment. It’s too easy to forget it when you drive away.
- Check the shoes in your closet in case your wallet fell out of a pair of pants that you hung up.
9. Extra bonus: Try these ideas to help find your wallet
- Check out the public Facebook group Hey, I found your wallet…
- Offer a $5 reward to your kids if they find it.
- Don’t buy a black wallet. It disappears too easily in the shadows.
- If you can’t remember everywhere you’ve been during the day, check your bank statement for the stores where you used your debit or credit cards.
What to Do If You Can’t Find Your Wallet
If your wallet is still MIA after all this, it might be time to throw in the towel. Our wallets hold so many important things in them: credit cards, IDs, health insurance cards, work tags, and maybe even social security cards. Losing even one of these puts your bank account and identity at a major risk.
The only thing worse than combing through your entire house, car, and office for your wallet is not finding it after all your efforts. It’s a horrible feeling, but it happens to all of us sooner or later.
Unless your wallet fell off a cruise ship into the Atlantic or was buried in an active lava flow, you have to consider the fact that someone else has found it. That said, you should probably assume that this person does not have your best interests at heart.
Depending on what was in your wallet, immediately contact your:
- bank (debit card)
- credit card companies
- state Department of Motor Vehicles (driver’s license)
- medical insurance provider (insurance card)
- auto insurance company (auto insurance card)
- place of employment (staff ID)
- apartment complex superintendent, hotel, gym (room, gate, building access cards)
- grocery stores, etc. to change information on cards that accumulate discount points
- membership organizations (membership cards)
- transit companies (metro, subway cards, etc.)
The most important thing to do is call the bank or financial institution that issued your debit card. Most credit cards have zero liability, but you can potentially lose a lot of money on your debit card if you don’t report the loss immediately. I wrote a guide on how to do that here.
Waiting more than two days and less than 60 to report a missing card will saddle you with paying up to $500 worth of fraudulent purchases. Waiting over 60 days could put all of the financial responsibility on you should anyone be using your money. Don’t want to be responsible for this? Don’t wait. Call your bank ASP.
In addition to everything already mentioned, you may want to contact your local social security office, police department, and national credit bureaus to cancel your credit cards, get a new social security card, file a police report, and order a credit freeze respectively.
Here is some contact information to get you started.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Do these things, too
It seems like a lot, and it is. But these aren’t the only things you should do after you accept your wallet is gone for good. There are also a number of additional steps you should also take.
- Set up fraud alerts. You want to avoid others opening up new credit lines or loans in your name. The best way to protect yourself is by calling one of the major credit bureaus and asking for a credit fraud alert. (See phone numbers above). It’s free for 90 days, so there’s really no reason to skip it.
- Monitor your bank account and credit reports. This seems obvious but keep a watchful eye for any strange and suspicious behavior. If there is any activity you don’t recognize, report it as soon as you can.
- File a police report. Not only can this help to recover your wallet, but having a formal report on file with the police may streamline some of your other tasks.
- Replace other important cards. Wallets don’t just hold cash and a credit card. They also hold health insurance cards, driver’s licenses, school/work IDs, membership cards, and more. Keep in mind that these will need replacing, too.
- Focus on better habits. Lost wallets are a major pain. You don’t want to go through that again, so be mindful about it going forward. Keep a designated space for your wallet at home, always keep your wallet in a pocket or bag when you’re out, and routinely check these throughout the day.
- Buy a new wallet. With your previous wallet officially AWOL, you’re obviously going to need a new one. Something slim, modern, and (preferably) trackable would be a great investment.
Check out my article on How to Choose the Perfect Smart Wallet
How to Prevent Losing Your Wallet
At the end of the day, you don’t want to go losing another wallet. It’s too big a headache and puts way too much on your shoulders. Sometimes things just happen, but there are a few preventative measures you can put to work to minimize this.
- Avoid using back pockets. Your dad might swear by it, but I wouldn’t. Keeping a wallet in your back pocket isn’t just uncomfortable. It also opens you up to increased chances of pickpocketing or it falling out. Minimize your carry and keep it in your front pocket, purse, or bag if possible. This also makes double-checking more natural, since you usually keep your phone in these places, too.
- Double-check that you’ve got your wallet on you. Hyper-vigilance can be exhausting, but it pays off when it comes to keeping your important stuff safe. Especially important when out of the house, frequently check that your wallet is where it should be. Check before and after each business you visit. I always pat my front pocket to make sure it’s still there.
- Have a designated spot for your wallet. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is what my grandmother used to tell me. Don’t throw it on your desk one day then leave it somewhere in the living room the next. It doesn’t matter where you put it as long as you are consistent. Just be sure that the location is safe and easy to remember.
- Take photos of all the information on every card in our wallet. Keep them in a safe place.
- Buy a tracking device. Are you truly hopeless when it comes to losing stuff? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Buy yourself a good wallet tracker.
Click here for my BUYER’S GUIDE TO WALLET TRACKERS.[wptb id="7813" not found ]
- Create a mental checklist. For those who often leave their house without their wallet, this is an exceptionally important tip. Start creating a mental list in your head and go over it before leaving the house. Always ask if you’ve got your keys, wallet, and phone.
- Create a physical checklist. If you’re having trouble cementing this mental habit, try doing this physically. Leaving sticky notes at the front door or set a timed reminder on your phone.
What to Do If You Find Someone Else’s Wallet
All of this information is great for those who have lost their wallet or are wanting to prevent this from happening, but what should you do if you happen to find someone else’s wallet?
If you happen to find a wallet out and about, the first thing you should do is pretty obvious. Look around and see if you can spot the person who lost it. Can’t seem to track them down? Your next steps will depend on where you found it.
- If you’re in a business, pick it up and take it straight to the front office, to a manager, or someone else who is in charge. This will keep it safe and out of the hands of others who might not be good-willed as you.
- Stay highly visible while you do this and make it clear that you’re not trying to steal anything from inside it. Since most places have security cameras, this probably isn’t a major concern but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
In a situation where you’re out in a park or some other outside space, you’d be best to dial the police’s non-emergency line. Explain the situation to them and see if they can send someone over to pick it up. This is probably your best option, but you can take it to the station should the police not fulfill the request.
What if someone comes up to you and claims that’s their wallet? It’s tempting to question them to verify that they are the real owner. However, it’s smarter to just hand it over. Getting into an argument over property isn’t worth it.
Most experts advise not to post a wallet you found on social media. Yes, it could help you find the original owner, but odds are slim compared to the risks. You’re more likely to run into people with less than noble motives.
Likewise, you could risk compromising the real owner’s identity should who you’re talking to a scammer. Keep your search in person and leave it at that.