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What Do You Carry in Your Wallet When You Travel?

So just about the only thing I’ve learned from this is that figuring out what to carry in your wallet is more art than science.

There’s not much I change about the contents of my wallet when I travel abroad; if I do make a change, it’s usually to swap in a new metro card if anything. But generally, I take the whole shebang. (I did have one guy call me crazy once but my thinking is that the credit cards are usually easy to replace and I rarely carry large amounts of cash. I don’t see it any differently than losing your credit cards at home.)

Personally, I think it’s always a good idea to bring at least one credit card and one debit card, followed by a backup for each card, making it four cards total. Unless I plan on driving abroad, I’ll tuck in a spare, expired driver’s license as a backup form of ID. In retrospect, though, I should bring more spare U.S. cash than I usually do, which is usually nothing. But maybe I try too hard to be the antithesis of paranoid.

But I have no idea what other people do. To see if I could suss out some practical gems, I decided to round up a couple of hardcore travelers and asked them what they usually bring in their wallet with them on a trip. And interestingly, enough, no two answers were the same. But then again, everyone has different levels of caution.

Not everyone likes to attach their name to a blog post, so I’ve used the cities they live in to differentiate the answers. What do you like to carry in your wallet?

New York, New York

I take everything.

San Diego, California

I take out everything unless essential. What is essential? At least 2 credit cards, at least 2 ATM cards (I have 2 bank accounts) and at least $150 or so in US$. I also take my driver’s license, which I think might be useful if I lose my passport and I need to go to the embassy and prove who I am.

Hong Kong, China

I usually keep two separate bags and some emergency cash in a tampon. Before you look at me like that, I do that because most people wouldn’t want to go near that kind of stuff.

I also keep one form of ID, some cash, or one debit card or credit card in my day-to-day wallet. I may even bring travelers’ check in my emergency bag. Truth be told, it really depends on where I’m going.

Fontainebleau, France

I travel with a bank card to withdraw money, a credit card and a driver’s license for ID. If I go out at night whilst travelling, then just cash and a piece of ID.

Beijing, China

When I travel I usually load a money clip up with:

  • My Chinese bank card. Unionpay’s network is large enough now that I can withdraw cash from my Chinese bank account anywhere in the world with no trouble.
  • Credit card. Just in case I need to make an emergency helicopter rental or something.
  • Driver’s license (if I’m going to the States). Because people look at you weird if you show a passport for ID in the States.
  • Biz cards. Because you never know when you’ll need ’em.
  • If I’m traveling in the States I’ll usually throw in my American debit card too because paying for things with cash means I end up filling my pocket with pennies in short order.

The front gets stocked with cash from whatever country I’m visiting as soon as I hop off the plane (withdrawn from an ATM, not from a currency exchange stall).





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