What you need to take out of your wallet or purse now and what should never leave it

Is your wallet stuffed with receipts and rarely-used cards? It could cost you dear.

Being mugged or even just mislaying your bag can be extremely distressing, not to mention costly. However, if you’ve left your purse stuffed with personal data, it can also cost you far more than your lunch money.

I recently read an article about the things you should never keep in your wallet and realised I’ve been carrying about plenty of unnecessary items.

Admittedly I’m not as bad as the one person in 10 who writes down their card PIN, according to a 2010 Which? survey. However, a quick root through my purse shows I have been leaving myself open to thieves who want to steal more than my emergency tenner…

An unused credit card

Since I left the security of a full-time job for the uncertainty of life as a freelancer, I have been very careful not to use my credit card.

I have only kept it open for use in dire emergencies, like the boiler exploding. I don’t use it for casual shopping and I certainly don’t need to carry it around with me.

So carrying it with me is an unnecessary risk. If my purse was pinched, I’d need to remember to cancel the card and I’d be at greater risk of fraud.

Not only that, it’s a real temptation sitting in my purse, especially when Christmas shopping. It’s safer hidden away at home, that way I can still use it when needed and if I was to mislay my purse I’ve got a working source of money I can fall back on until my cards are replaced.

Receipts. Thousands of ‘em

I tend to stuff receipts into the back of my purse and only ever empty it out when the zip is threatening to give up.

But receipts can include card details, giving a thief a chance at identity theft even if I’ve left my card at home.

Not only that, it increases my chances of losing receipts that I need, such as expenses I may need to prove to the taxman.

I’ve consigned my massive ball of receipts to the shredder and decided to get tougher in the future, including filing away important receipts immediately.

A password

I had forgotten I carried this, but tucked into the back of my purse was a scrap of paper with a password written on it.

Now, it wasn’t a current password, but it was a phrase that my current password is based on. I don’t even remember writing it down or why I made a note of it.

While thieves couldn’t have used this to access my email accounts, it would have been a good starting point. It also could have left me open to phishing attacks had they phoned and been able to quote a password I have used in the past.

My address

I don’t carry my address with me anymore, but I have done so in the past. A few years ago, I wrote my address in a work notebook with a polite ‘Please return to’. However, I then lost my bag, containing that notebook along with my keys and wallet.

I had to think about changing the locks on my door, at a cost of over £100. Fortunately, my bag showed up – but it illustrates the dangers of this ‘sensible’ precaution.

Mountains of junk

My purse also contained some astonishingly dated stuff. An old student union card that expired in 2005. A maternity exemption card that ended last year. A prepaid card that I’d used on my honeymoon two years ago, which shows my maiden name.

Not only is this stuff taking up space in my purse, it also gives an identity thief more information about me. And the more information they have, the more convincing they could be when trying to trick me out of more confidential data.

Knowledge is power, and I’ve been at risk of giving away a vast amount of information.

And what to add…

Having cleared some space in my purse, I’ve been thinking about what I should include.

It’s sensible to carry two different cards if you have them, in case one stops working and you need access to money. But more than that is probably unnecessary unless you have a very specific cards for different functions – for example a Santander 123 card to pay for petrol, a Tesco ClubCard credit card for supermarket shopping etc.

But there’s no reason not to have every loyalty card you can in there. The likes of Boots cards, Nectar cards, ClubCards (of the non-credit card variety) don’t carry any sensitive information, and mean you’ll be able to get a little back when you shop at the relevant shops.

As mentioned, it’s not a great idea to leave a note of your address, just in case your wallet gets snatched or lost along with your keys. But I’ve decided to leave a phone number so my purse is easily returned if it’s ever lost rather than nicked. I’ll just need to be extra wary of callers quoting my card details to me if my purse was stolen.

Business cards aren’t a bad idea either, they’re a quick way to pass on contact details to someone (possibly future client, employee or boss) and contain contact information that isn’t sensitive.

Do you keep anything you shouldn’t in your wallet? Have you ever written down a PIN and kept it with your card? Share your thoughts with other readers using the comments below.