/ Money

Have you ever lost your purse or wallet?

Whether we’re using contactless to buy lunch or our phones to pay for a train or bus journey, many of us are now cashless, relying on cards to run our daily routines. So how would you cope if you lost the lot?

I recently lost my wallet while walking home from the train station one night, including my credit and debit cards and my driving licence. Over the next few hours a stranger found my cards and fraudulently spent £200 on my credit card in multiple contactless purchases.

This was the first time anything like this had happened to me, so I was understandably worried about the following days and how this would affect my daily routine.

In the end I worked out I had to call all of my card providers/issuers and order replacements, some of which incurred a fee. But is there anything I could have done to make the process simpler?

Wallet woes

Unfortunately, the answer to this, on the whole, is no. Replacing everything in your wallet is a lengthy process as each card issuing authority has to be contacted in turn.

But even though the process can be long, it’s important to do each step in the right order.

So if you lose your wallet, before doing anything else, make sure to contact the police and report a theft.

Scarier than it sounds, this was an easy and quick process that protected my identity (along with giving me a chance of reclaiming the wallet, if it had instead been handed into the police as lost property).

Money matters

Your next priority should be to protect your money, so freezing your lost cards is essential. In the first instance, you should phone your card provider to report the stolen card.

I found that my providers were incredibly sympathetic and immediately helpful, freezing and ordering new cards while on the phone (it took no more than 10 minutes).

Many banks also provide the option to do so online or through their apps. As a Monzo and Starling user I was able to freeze the lost card and order a new one within minutes at the touch of a button.

What else did I need to replace? After cancelling my cards, my driving licence was next on my list. It was a straightforward phone call but there was a £20 fee for the replacement licence.

My EHIC was another card I’d lost that needed replacing with some urgency. This is, again, a simple enough process that you can do through the EHIC website.

Final steps

Preventing identity theft should, of course, be a big concern if you’ve had your wallet stolen. As well as by alerting the police, you can do this by monitoring your credit report for signs of ID theft.

For those who use it, re-registering your new cards with Apple Pay or Google Pay on your smartphone is an important step.

If you’ve registered your old card details anywhere, it’s important to update them to avoid any penalty charges such as late fees. If you’re a regular online shopper, you’ll need to change your saved cards in any online accounts.

Finally, why not treat yourself to a new wallet? Personally, it was an excuse to buy one I’d been eyeing up for a long time (always focus on the silver linings!).

Have you had a similar experience losing a wallet or purse? Did you encounter any problems? What advice would you give to someone in this situation?


You say “For those who use it, re-registering your new cards with Apple Pay or Google Pay on your smartphone is an important step“. In my experience, cancelling or replacing a physical card does not affect its Apple Pay counterpart, as it has a separate card number from the physical card. Don’t be fooled by the last 4 digits of the physical card number appearing on the picture of the card in the iPhone’s Wallet app; I’m referring to its real card number, which appears on paper receipts and in the Wallet app as “Device Account Number“. Some, but not all, card issuers update the last 4 digits displayed within the iPhone’s Wallet app when the physical card is cancelled and replaced. In my experience, American Express does so, but Santander doesn’t.

Not all receipts show the expiry date of the card used to make payment. After paying via Apple Pay on one of my Amex cards this week, I noticed on the printed receipt that the expiry date of the Apple Pay virtual card is 3½ years later than the expiry date of the physical Amex card that the Apple Pay virtual card represents.

I’ve also looked through Apple Pay receipts for non-Amex cards, but most receipts (including those for Amex cards) no longer show expiry dates.

I lost my wallet three weeks ago but did not become aware of this until I was planning to go shopping. The wallet stays at home unless I know I’m likely to need it and I carry a £20 note in my back pocket in case I need money. I immediately checked for transactions on my contactless credit card and debit card but none had taken place. I cancelled the cards and received replacements very promptly. I am convinced that my wallet will turn up at home though I have searched high and low. I have also checked with places I had visited, to no avail. I’m normally careful and have had the same credit card number since I applied for the card in the late 70s. I have not routinely carried my driving licence for years but I lost my bus pass, which cost £10 to replace and also lost some cash.

Chad’s experience highlights what can happen if a contactless card does fall into the wrong hands. When I received my replacement contactless debit card I decided to keep this at home because using a credit card is no longer subject to surcharges.

many of us are now cashless, relying on cards to run our daily routines.

I was a little taken aback by this. I would never dream of going out with cash in my wallet (including a spare £20 note just in case I forget to refill it), coins in my pocket and I also keep a small tin of loose change in the car for parking.

I’ve never lost my wallet, which holds cards, licence, bus pass, as well as money, although it was once stolen. But, in John Lewis buying a suit last year, I’d put it down on a display when one son wanted to show me something. Stupid thing to do. When I realised and went back it had gone. Obviously looking worried, another customer asked if I’d lost anything. He’d handed it to a sales assistant who promptly returned it. A lesson learned. Well, ‘til the next time!

In looking for information on who doesn’t use cash, I came across this in the Guardian’s report. A bit disturbing?

Drug dealer
People always go on about how the cashless society will spell the end of drug dealing but although I started selling for cash on the street, my trade has been entirely online for the last couple of years at least. There are different ways customers can pay for drugs on the darknet. They can use Bitcoins, localbitcoins, virtual private networks or [an operating system called] Tails. Buying on the darknet is more risky for dealers than customers.
Compared to selling on the street, the darknet is easier and safer for me – and also more profitable because I sell in bulk rather than dealing with individual pills and small bags of weed. And because I’m selling in bulk, my prices are lower than when I dealt on the street, so it’s a win-win.

Oops – I would never dream of going out without cash in my wallet.

Malcolm, I am totally cashless, which means I pay for all retail purchases by credit card, usually Apple Pay. Despite this, I keep a £50 note, a €100 note and a $100 note in my wallet for emergencies. Although I have achieved 100% cashlessness in the UK for 4 years, I had to use the €100 note last week in such an emergency.

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This was another interesting comment:
John Montague, Big Issue managing director
Sellers are increasingly saying to us that they want to go digital because potential customers are increasingly saying they can’t buy the magazine because they’re not carrying cash. This is happening in every major city in the UK where we sell the magazine.

Enabling our vendors to move to a cashless payment system is our top priority for this year but we still don’t know how we can get it done. We’re in talks with MasterCard, Visa and the banks but the problem is finding a solution that works for all our vendors: a system that enables vendors to access their money immediately, so they can pay for a bed that night, rather than wait one to two business days for the money to land in their bank account.

We also need to work out what to do for vendors who don’t have bank accounts, and those who sell papers in areas with poor wifi connectivity.

Just as one comment, once they had waited the initial 2 days for money to “land in their account” they should then have no further problems paying for their accommodation – presumably with their debit card.

I don’t believe that £100 notes exist, Duncan, and from what I have been told, £50 notes are often rejected.

NFH would not be welcome in our local micropub, which does not take cards.

I read that some Scottish and Irish banks have issued them.

I remember the days when a fiver was a rarity – the lovely big white ones.

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If you look closely at what NFH wrote, you will see that he referred to a Fifty Pound note, a One Hundred Euro note, and a One Hundred Dollar bill. The Euro symbol looks similar to the Pound symbol on the screen. NFH made emergency use of the One Hundred Euro note.

I always have a pocketful of change when I go out and my debit, credit and store cards are not in my wallet, nor are my travel cards. When I lost my wallet a couple of years ago all I lost was some cash and some vouchers.

Buying a new wallet I was surprised how few were designed for the current notes format – most were too small. As it is I can only just slip a £20 note in the pocket flat and unfolded. Perhaps this is another sign that real money is going out of fashion.

At the moment debit cards are useful because there are plenty of handy cash machines around so NFH would be able to get some change before visiting your pub, Wavechange. Otherwise he would have to rely on his trusty £50 note.

I would be very surprised if the Pound and Euro symbols look similar on any screen, John. They need to have a distinctive appearance and they do on my screen.

I think you are right carrying around the minimum in your wallet. I did have my licence the only time I have been asked for it, but that was back in the 70s. When I buy rail tickets I put my railcard in the wallet but remove it when I get home. If I’m planning to go the the university I pop in my retired staff card, or if I’m heading for the library, in goes my library card.

Duncan – I know there are Scottish £100 notes and have seen one, just like I have seen English £50 notes. I have never used either.

In that case it must be my fuzzy eyesight! I do need to go to the opticians for a new prescription. Perhaps instead of the usual letters on the test screens they should have a set of symbols.

I have probably set the zoom too low which compresses the symbols too much. Raising it from 75% to 90% makes a big difference.

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John – Although currency symbols can generally be distinguished there is the long standing problem of 0 and O. I assumed that when computers became popular the slashed zero Ø would take over. That did not happen, presumably because context generally provides a clue, but most of us will have struggled with serial numbers that contain either 0 or O.

In scientific papers and reports it is customary to use L to represent litres because the correct SI symbol is l and that looks like the number one.

Duncan – I am aware of the decision by certain police forces to carry out roadside vision tests if they need to stop a vehicle for poor driving or if involved in a collision. I did not realise this was at the behest of the DVLA although, if a driver’s vision is found to be substandard, the Agency is informed immediately. I did not think drivers were being stopped unless a road traffic offence had been committed. Since I am no longer driving this will not affect me but I think something like this is long overdue – there are too many drivers who appear not be able to see where they are going. Imagine what poor eyesight combined with liquor or narcotics can lead to; unfortunately, too often, it does.

I don’t need an eye operation, Duncan – my vision is good when corrected by spectacles but it is a long time since I had my last eye test and I have noticed recently that my vision has changed. I just need a new prescription, new lenses and new frames. And I shall not be going to Specsavers.

Is it not the DVSA [Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency] that is responsible for driving tests, including the vision component?

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Thanks, Duncan. That’s interesting. I had no idea, but it makes sense. I returned my driver’s licence so they can’t touch me for anything now.

The only excuses I can think of for continuing this off-topic line in a Convo on wallets are 1. my eyesight is bad and I can’t read the title or 2. It concerns driving licences that are kept in wallets and could get lost.

Standards of vision for driving
You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres.
You must also meet the minimum eyesight standard for driving by having a visual acuity of at least decimal 0.5 (6/12) measured on the Snellen scale(with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) using both eyes together or, if you have sight in one eye only, in that eye.
You must also have an adequate field of vision – your optician can tell you about this and do a test.

I don’t know what test the police do to check this properly, without using the services of an optician. I also presume the licence is suspended until the driver has a proper eye test and, if appropriate, buys secs or contacts..

Once you reach 70 you have to renew your licence Every 3 years using form D46P. This is a self-declaration, including questions about eyesight and health. So no doubt many drivers – if they can read the form – simply confirm their abilities are unimpaired.

If you wish to continue driving a minibus or a medium sized vehicle (3500 – 7500kg) you have to have a much lengthier form completed by your doctor and optician with appropriate tests.

Our eyesight can, at any age, change whether becoming more short or long sighted, the onset of cataracts, that we may simply not become aware of until we have an eye test. I’d suggest all drivers should be required to have such a test to comply with the standards required every 3 years to keep their licence.

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duncan, I’ve said nothing at all about disbelieving you. I’ve simply added a comment.

We could potentially visit this topic in the future (I’m often partial to a good driving debate!), but this one is indeed on losing your wallet, so time for a gentle nudge back in that direction I think 🙂

I used to work in a second-hand bookshop until 2017 and we did not deal in cards at all. For a small business with takings in the hundreds per week it made no economic sense to the owner. Our customers were quite happy apart from the oddity down from London who felt the customer dictates the payment policy to the shop-owner. Laughable lack of commonsense.

I do like to give small shopkeepers the option as how I pay to assist the economics of their business. Therefore I generally have say a hundred or two on me and some more at home to replenish. I do use cards for online and major shops.

For those who bank with TSB having a cash stash would seem a good idea perhaps.

Fortunately I’ve never lost my wallet, but these tips/processes are definitely helpful should it ever happen.

A big thanks to Chad for writing this one for us, and welcome to Which? Conversation! Chad joined our digital team back in April – I’m hoping he’ll be writing more for us over the coming months 🙂

Welcome Chad. I hope that your colleagues had a whip-round to restore your lost finances.

Is your digital team composed of specialists in the use of fingers?

I have a dislike of contactless cards, particularly as they are thrust upon one without the option of refusal. I thought that there was a limit to the number of transactions that could be made in any one day, and £200 is a lot to lose like that with no redress. Like many, I carry a lot of information in my wallet as well as cash for expenses under a fiver, however, last time I was in London, I had no wallet, one card and a few note concealed next to the body. Paying for anything was a pain, but I felt as secure as I could be, since robbers would have had to strip me to get at anything. I am aware of crowds and strange places. Having to cancel and re-order everything would be a nightmare for me since I don’t have phone numbers handy when out and about. Like everything else, one does one’s best and the rest is luck.

Hi Chad – Having lost my own wallet recently I wonder if we should be in control and be able to specify a daily limit on contactless transactions – either total amount or number of transactions per day. I feel strongly that the customer should be in control.

When contactless cards first appeared we were told that we would have to use the PIN periodically but in my experience this has not happened very often.

My daughter had a similar experience. She had a ‘small’ smartphone (Galaxy A3) in a phone wallet. Whilst at work, someone broke in and stole staff personal items (seen as shadows on poor CCTV).
The perpetrator shopped 3 times in a Tesco 24 hour store, each time just below the ‘contactless limit’.
But she reported the theft to the bank and mobile company immediately after work when the theft was discovered. The phone and sim were bricked by the phone company and the bank stopped the card and refunded the fraudulent transactions.
So she was only out of pocket for the stolen phone and her wallet, but it was a worry that she didn’t need. A minor inconvenience is that once the phone company brick your phone and sim, you can’t reclaim the number again!

I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience, Terfar. It is disappointing that losing a mobile phone means losing the phone number that many people will know.

How do one know the phone numbers of missing cards etc

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I have the numbers to report stolen or lost cards in my phone. It’s worth checking the website for numbers because they can change and sometimes there is a different number to call if you are abroad.

Maureen Thomas says:
8 September 2018

About a year ago I thought I had lost my handbag. Fortunately it was a false alarm, but it prompted me to scan and make copies of all the important cards and documents I had in it.

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My cards have been scanned too. After scanning I delete the security number in case that would help a thief misuse the cards.

I have entered all the lost or stolen reporting numbers in my phone list and I have a paper copy of the list in case my phone is lost or stolen. I have various other useful bits of information listed in the phone under false names with coded numbers. It gives me something to do.

I lost my wallet (I suspect that it was stolen) in Lisbon. I have card protection insurance with CPP. I phoned CPP and they took over the responsibility of cancelling all the cards (they have them on file) and getting new ones issued. They also reimbursed me for the cash I had in the wallet, and paid for a new wallet. There are other companies offering this kind of insurance, but I found the service I got from CPP to be exactly what I needed.

Glad you got Justice 🙂 . What does CPP cost you?

I’d overlooked that CPP was frequently mis-sold and is no longer offered to new customers.

If you’re already registered on EHIC, I thought it doesn’t matter if you actually have the card with you or not? You can ring them up and find out your registration number, and that’s all you need to go abroad?

Hi –
I used to use an AMEX card and used their one-call protection so that I could ring one number for everything if I did lose my purse – or if my elderly Mother lost hers too. (Other family members were allowed to be added). It was one small annual cost to insure like this.
I now don’t have an amex card and wondered if anyone knows of any other one-stop-shop please?

J Rutherford says:
11 September 2018

I keep cash and cards separately. My driving licence, season ticket and phone are also separate.I have had my purse stolen three times on the Underground or trains – but lost only cash. I carry a handbag with lots of pockets and so it is easy not to keep everything together.

I’ve always insured my cards and when I lost my wallet at the Hong Kong 7’s they did all the hard work of cancelling all the cards etc.Its expensive but convenient. The wallet reappeared later that day from underneath the very pregnant lady sitting next to me! But, of course, all the cards were already useless.

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, Alex.]

Have had a quick look at the comments below and am surprised there is no reference to the Sentinel system which enables one phone call to the organisation to set in motion the cancelationfof all your registered cards and requests replacements. Much simpler than doing it all yourself!

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Katherine says:
23 June 2019

I just had my wallet stolen. My bank cards were used to spend about £45 before I cancelled them all. Hopefully, that will be refunded by the bank. However, in terms of preventing ID fraud, I can’t see how to ‘keep an eye on my credit rating’ as you suggest, without signing up to a subscription with one of the three parasitical credit rating companies. I can’t see how it’s legal for them to hold our information, make money off selling it to other companies, and make money off us as well for the privilege of being able to see the information they are keeping about ourselves!

I hope you do get your stolen money back but you should expect some resistance from your bank. They will want to know full details of the circumstances in which your wallet was stolen and how the PIN’s were obtained.