How To Keep Your Money Safe While Traveling

Travel Tips

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By Ryan Gargiulo

I get asked a lot of travel related questions and there’s nothing that I love more than hearing from my readers.

Visitors submit questions to me on a weekly basis asking my advice on everything from destination specific advice to safety tips, accommodation and restaurant recommendations and so much more.

While I receive a wide variety of travel questions, there are a few that get asked over and over AND OVER again.

Instead of sending the same old copy and pasted reply to each and every one of you, I thought I’d go ahead and address one of the top questions I receive when it comes to money safety on the road. Sound good? Great. Let’s get cracking!

How Do You Keep Your Money Safe?

Great question! Back in 2010, I came up with a sneaky little system that involves carrying two separate wallets.

One dummy wallet, and one wallet that holds the majority of my cash, cards and other valuable information.

Yeah, I know you’re probably thinking “but, isn’t one wallet enough to worry about?”

Well, you’ve got a good point there but first let me explain why I carry two separate wallets and why I believe this is the absolute best way to keep your money safe on the road.

Have you ever heard of the saying, “Never put all of your eggs in one basket?”

Well, what the hell do you think you’re doing when you store all of your money and credit cards in one wallet or purse?

Putting all of your friggin’ eggs in one basket! C’mon people!

Smart Pocket Travel Wallet

First, let me go ahead and introduce you to a little something that I like to refer to as the best travel wallet ever invented!

Get this, it’s a simple vinyl wallet with a velcro flap and a really nifty little belt clip. It’s small, simple, minimalistic and everything I need in a travel wallet.

The Best Travel Wallet

Ah, the Smart Pocket! Well, at least it used to be called that. It’s now known as the “Fitness Wallet” (don’t ask).

Coincidentally enough, my mother gifted this awesome little wallet to me for Christmas way back before I started traveling.

At the time, I had no real use for it so I opened it up, took a look at it, and tossed it in a pile of junk in the corner of my room.

It wasn’t until my first backpacking trip to Europe back in 2008 that I picked up this dusty wallet in the corner and thought… “This wallet could potentially be the best travel wallet EVER!

I gave it a test run on my six month around the world trip back in 2010 and it hasn’t left my side ever since. God knows how many times it’s saved me from being pick pocketed on my travels.

Smart Pocket Travel Wallet
Here’s a detailed front and side view of the wallet.

As you can see in the graphic above, I place the majority of my cash, credit, debit cards, gift cards and my ID in my smart pocket.

Closing it up is as simple as pulling the top velcro flap over the front of the wallet.

Smart Pocket - Best Travel Wallet
Slipping the wallet into the waist of my pants…

The nifty little clip I spoke about earlier can be seen on the right hand side of the photo shown above.

This feature allows the wallet to slip inside the front of your pants over your belt as shown in the photo below.

Smart Pocket Best Wallet for Travel
Here’s a look at how the wallet looks when it’s all clipped into place. You can barely tell it’s there.

The Dummy Wallet

Now that you’ve seen my number one travel wallet in action, it’s time to show you what I like to refer to as the “Dummy Wallet”.

Have you ever thought of using a dummy wallet as a decoy to deter thieves from stealing everything you’ve got?

Well, the smartest thing you can do is carry a second wallet with enough cash.

Anywhere from $10-20 will work. You’ll also want to toss in a few old or expired credit cards, or in my case a few used gift cards.

Dummy Wallet Travel Wallet

A dummy wallet is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a thin, minimalist style wallet, preferably with a money clip on the front like this one that you keep in your front pocket with a small amount of cash.

Toss in a few expired credit cards, old gift cards, etc and you’ve got yourself a legitimate looking wallet.

As you’ll notice in the photo above, I pointed out the Mastercard Logo.

Why, you might ask?

Well, if you were a thief and you saw a wallet like the one shown above with some local currency on one side and a couple cards on the other, would you think that there’s any possibility that I’d have another wallet on me?

The answer is, of course not!

I purposely place the card in the wallet with the Visa, Mastercard, [insert your card company here] logo visible.

I know, if I was a thief, I wouldn’t think twice before running off with a wallet like this.

Now, if you are ever in a position where you’re approached by a would be robber all you need to do is simply reach into your front pocket and pull out your dummy wallet.

Hand it over to the robber and as long as it looks like there is cards and money in the wallet, there’s a good chance they’ll be taking off with it like a bat out of hell.

But, what about pick pockets?

When it comes to pick pockets, they generally go things that are visible or things that are easily accessible to them.  

They watch you slip your dummy wallet into your front pocket and before you know it they’re slimy paws are in your pockets reaching for that wallet of yours.

End result? The pick pocket makes off with a few bucks and some expired gift cards. Haha, sucker!

Bonus: Toss in a little personalized hand written note telling your would be robber that he/she just got punked! Enjoy the $15 and the two expired Visa gift cards, pal!

16 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Money Safe While Traveling”

  1. I’ve been using a dummy wallet for awhile now – still haven’t had to hand it over, but it’s a great comfort knowing that if anything does happen, I can give that away and not feel bad about it.

    • Wow, great to hear from a fellow traveler using the same techniques as myself. Thanks for chiming in, I appreciate it! Also, I’m glad you haven’t had to hand it over as of yet. Safe travels! Thanks again John.

  2. Great recommendation Ryan. I’ve used this multiple times for travel based on your advice, and it’s worked great. I’ve wanted to order an extra one, but it seems that Amazon is out of stock unfortunately. Do you know where I could purchase another one?

    Regardless, thanks for the help!

  3. I never thought of using anything like this. I am currently planning my next vacation and have a few friends planning an overseas adventure this summer. I will have to try one of these techniques out and also recommend it to my friends. So far, I have been lucky and never had anything happen to me. At least now I know how to be prepared in case something ever does. Thanks for the great advice Ryan!

  4. Ryan,

    Great advice. I carry a “coin purse” that has two or three pockets in it. Having traveled all over the world, and interacted with those who have done the stealing of wallets, they usually wait to see you purchase something. The wallet you use to make your purchase is the wallet they want. Placing the larger sums of money in a hidden pocket is perfect, then make daily purchases via my coin purse. There is no personal information, no cards, no anything but cash in the coin purse, and thieves can have it. I love the fact you are helping travelers think ahead and be aware of their surroundings before they head out. Well done.

  5. Related advice: Safety Pins! We use dummy wallets too. Spending money for the day is not kept in the wallet so we don’t have to expose the wallet. But we keep the all our front pockets pinned closed. Crowded public transportation is a vulnerable spot so a pick pocket would have to really get up close and personal to unpin us. We ( I’m a 50 something woman, my son is in his 30s) also put something that looks like ID but isn’t. Don’t copy your driver’s license as it has useable info on it. Before traveling, empty your wallet of nonessential stuff (business cards, grocery cards etc) to slim it down.

    Women: get over the purse thing. A purse over one shoulder shouts “easy to take!” I use a small backpack with at least one of the straps pinned to my shirt. Inside the pack is another waterproof bag attached to the TOP of the bag so if the try to use the “bottom slice” on the pack nothing will fall out.

    When sitting somewhere and you need to take your daypack off, wrap the straps around you leg at your feet. Much harder to grab that way. Just remember it is there before you try walking again.

    Passports: in a pouch around our neck and the pouch is pinned to the shirt so they can’t just cut the cord around the neck. Waterproof pouches are better but a sandwich bag inside the pouch works too.

    So….safety pins. Cheap and simple. We do not travel without them.

  6. This is really smart! But I wonder if it would work for us ladies, who usually have a purse or bag of some sort…

    I always divide up my stuff, though. I take multiple debit and credit cards with me, and have them spread out in all of my stuff. I never take more cash with me than I think I’ll need in a day, and I only have 1 debit and credit card on me when I go out (travel days notwithstanding, since you kind of have to have everything on you on those days…).

    • Thanks a lot Amanda. It would totally work for both men and women. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t as it’s not bulky or uncomfortable to slip inside of your pants. That being said, if you find that slipping the wallet into the waist of your jeans doesn’t work, you can always find another place on your body to clip the wallet to.

      Taking just enough cash for the day (plus a little more) is one of the best tips going. Thanks for the comment.


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