What's in my wife's wallet?

What's in My Wallet is a series of posts from WalletPop writers and editors that will help you maximize your financial self according to what you carry.

This isn't an entirely rhetorical question. On Wednesday morning, as my wife was carrying our daughter's stroller up the stairs at the 145th Street subway station, somebody grabbed her wallet out of her purse. About 20 minutes later, my wife noticed that it was missing. She called me, and we backtracked over her steps until we were sure that she hadn't dropped it. She then went to work, canceled her debit card, and ordered a new driver's license.

(By the way, I know how incredibly improbable it is that my wife's wallet would disappear at the same time that Walletpop was putting together a series on wallets. Still, it happened.)

By the time she canceled her debit card, the thieves had already charged several hundred dollars to it, decimating our bank account. While we don't know the details of all the charges, we did find out that they rented a car in Oklahoma, and that an accomplice used another stolen ID to pick it up. Luckily, my wife doesn't carry credit cards. Unluckily, she was carrying $70 to give the babysitter. Still, it could be a lot worse.

I've never had my wallet stolen, although I used to lose it fairly regularly. My most spectacular loss happened on the Washington, DC subway: grabbing something out of my pocket, I inadvertently dropped my wallet on a platform. A few hours later, I got a call from someone who had picked it up. I hadn't even realized that it was missing.

I was nervous about meeting the mysterious benefactor; as my sister pointed out, the guy could have stolen my wallet then arranged to meet me so he could beat me up, tag me with graffiti, steal my clothes, shave my eyebrows, and molest my dog. Admittedly, this seemed really unlikely, but I was still loath to meet a stranger in a secluded place, so we made plans to rendezvous at the Rosslyn metro station. It turned out that he was a nice, fairly ordinary guy. I didn't want to check my wallet in front of him, as it seemed disrespectful, so I offered him a reward, which he waved off. He shook my hand and ran off to catch his train. As soon as he left, I looked in my wallet. It still had all my cards, as well as the $20 bill that I had left inside.

Most of the time, though, my lost wallet would turn up around the house. The laundry was generally a good bet, as I would inadvertently wash my wallet at least once a year. On the bright side, this helped me clear out a lot of the business cards that I used to accumulate. It also made my folding money a little soggy, but oh so clean.

My solution to the wallet problem was to buy a money clip, which I did shortly before moving to New York. My money clip holds a few cards, and I change them regularly, depending upon my daily needs. Right now, it's holding my subway card, my debit card, my driver's license, my library card, and my eye insurance card (I need to pick up some fresh contact lenses). I carry it in my front pocket, and it's really hard for a would-be pickpocket to remove it without catching my attention.

When my wife discussed this robbery with the police, they seemed utterly unsurprised. Vulnerable woman? Dressed in business clothes? Of course they stole your purse; next time, get one with a zipper! Oh, and welcome to New York!

On the other hand, our bank, Chase, was incredibly aggressive about the identity theft. In addition to calling the police, they immediately opened up another account, free of charge, transferred our funds over, and issued us new cards. In fact, even before my wife reported the loss, they had already called us: when I got home from searching the local subway station, there was a message on our phone asking us about our unusual expenditures.

They aren't even going to hold us responsible for the charges.

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is. Overall, we've been really lucky: my wife knew what was in her wallet, our bank has been amazing about the whole thing, and we realized that her wallet was stolen before the thief could do much with it. It's nice to know that Chase is on the ball, and that they are so decent about this sort of thing. Not to sound like a commercial, but I feel reassured by their behavior on this matter, and will definitely continue to do business with them. I will also continue to keep my money in my side pocket, and will encourage my wife to do the same. Maybe I can talk her into carrying a money clip!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea.

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