[Update: A reader suggests zippered pockets to keep wallets from going astray. If not for pants, for a vest. But keep track of that vest. Another suggestion: put a tracking device in your wallet, like Tile. I have not tried it. The promo info shows a piece of square-ish plastic with rounded corners about a quarter the size of a credit card. It tethers to your smartphone by transmitting a Bluetooth signal up to 100 feet (about 30 metres). A smartphone app will show a map that locates Tile at the place where it last communicated with the smartphone. There's no GPS. One Tile for $25US, four for $70US. Tile's website is here. The Wall Street Journal has a review of Tile, and other tracking devices, here. A big downside: the devices run on batteries and those batteries die after about a year. In the case of Tile, you can't replace the battery yourself. You have to buy a new one at a lightly discounted price.]
While at the movies, I slouched in my seat. My wallet was in a back pants pocket and it slipped out while I slouched. When the movie was over, I walked out without noticing the wallet was no longer in my back pocket. I noticed when I reached for it at the bus stop. I felt a bit panicky while I reviewed where it might be. As I retraced my steps back to the theatre building, I reviewed the things I’d have to do if I didn’t find the wallet. I went to the cashier counter, which was, thankfully, not that busy because the big shows had already started. No one had turned in my wallet, but the sympathetic staff graciously allowed me to go back to the auditorium. I went to my seat, pulled out the mini flashlight I always carry and spotted the wallet under the seat. Much relief.
That episode set me to thinking about wallet safety and whether we really need to carry that much important stuff around with us, putting it at risk of being lost. Plus, these days, many of us carry two major league assets: a wallet and a smartphone.
For now, I’m reflecting on wallets. These are some of the safety steps I’ve come up with after a little research and brooding.
Always button the flap on my back pocket. I bought this style of pants specifically for the button flap. I’ve been pretty good with this since the scare.
Consider putting the wallet in my front pocket, despite the discomfort. I’ve experimented with this and have not embraced it.
Slim down the wallet, so less of my valuable stuff is vulnerable. I have done this.
Buy a slimmer, smaller wallet, one that fits in my shirt pocket. I’ve spotted ads from Bellroy extolling the virtues of slimness. Maybe. They’re a little pricey. And if I go travelling and have British pounds, which are big, there would have to be a lot of folding.
There’s the wallet chain, which I remember a slightly threatening guy in high school always wearing. From what I can tell, you have to buy a wallet and chain together, because ordinary wallets are not chain compatible. It could be stylish, having a chain attached to a belt that’s attached to a wallet. Attaching to a belt would be more secure than a belt loop, I’m thinking.
Wear a money belt under my clothing. But getting access would be a hassle, having to partially disrobe every time I need access. Could be a partial solution; keep a little loose cash in my pockets, slip into a toilet stall to pull more out of the money belt.
Wear a money belt atop my clothing. No.
Wear a money pouch around my neck, under my shirt. Easier access than a money belt. Maybe.
Wear a money pouch, a stylish one, around my neck but not under my shirt. I can see accidents happening with this, getting it caught when I close a car trunk, dipping it into food. Having it yanked off my neck by a thief. So, no.
Not have a wallet. Stuff loose bills into my pockets. Carry just one credit card loose, or not have one at all. Maybe on days when I don’t expect to make biggish purchases.
Embrace the smartphone era. Transfer more of my life to my smartphone. Use an electronic wallet app for payments. Copy my various cards into a card storage app. I’m tempted, but the world is not ready for this. A lot of stores in Victoria, maybe most stores, do not accept electronic wallet payments. Stores with payment terminals that accept “tap,” where you tap your credit card to pay, can theoretically accept electronic wallet transactions. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve paid particular notice to whether stores and restaurants offer this function, and most of the places I visited do not.
I am intrigued by two early efforts at electronic wallets that claim to offer high security. Royal Bank is testing a wrist strap that detects your unique heartbeat. That heartbeat needs to be present for a payment to be authorized at a tap terminal.
Apple Pay is further along. It’s only available if you are an account holder with certain U.S. banks, and if you use the latest iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. You make a payment by holding the iPhone up to a compatible payment terminal and putting an appropriate finger on a fingerprint scanning button on the phone. A one-time transaction code is transmitted, not your credit card number. No word on when Apple Pay will be available in Canada. More details about Apple Pay are here.
A story at nytimes.com reports that Apple Pay is getting more traction in the U.S. than previous electronic wallet efforts. But it's still miniscule.
The crucial thing with both the Apple and Royal Bank approaches is that they're faster, less complicated and more secure than using a traditional credit card. With Apple Pay, for example, there’s no need to unlock your phone with a code, launch a payment app, and answer questions before authorizing a payment. Anything that’s more complex and less secure than a chip credit card makes no sense to me.
Several Canadian banks have electronic wallets, but using them takes too many steps.
TD Canada Trust describes its offering here.
And here’s one from CIBC.
All this reflecting, sparked by me losing my wallet, if only briefly.
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