Financial Travel Tip #25: Carrying a Decoy Wallet

by Nora on April 21, 2012

Decoy Wallet: Last week we discussed cash-carrying tips and tricks, including a tip to not make your wallet easily accessible or visible.


Another way to fend off potential losses in the form of theft is to carry a decoy wallet. By having a wallet with a little bit of cash (this could be your spending cash for the day) plus a few cards that you don’t mind losing or which are duds (like video rental memberships and inactivated credit cards), you have something expendable should you be involuntarily parted with your wallet.


Your perpetrator won’t know the cards are useless until they’ve made their getaway, and you won’t have lost all your cash by handing over a “real” wallet with everything in it.


Just don’t look too enthusiastic or smug when giving it up!


Although you can make your own decoy wallet, beware of what card you use. For example, even inactive/expired credit cards contain private information you might not want to part with. For an alternative option, check out these ready-made Decoy Wallets!



Here are some more tips about how to design and carry a decoy wallet, plus some stories of those who have “been there done that” in the decoy wallet and theft department.

Travel & Money: Decoy Wallets




{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan April 21, 2012 at 10:25 am

Nice one Nora… This tip would come with some satisfaction when put into practice, fooling the bad guy. I almost had my daypack sneakily removed from the big bag in Buenos Aires. I felt stupid knowing I almost let it happen, but had a good laugh knowing it was empty!

Still working on iPhone security… not so sure a decoy iPhone would work!


2 Collin April 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

I used a decoy wallet occasionally. I would usually leave it in my guest house in plain site hoping that if someone broke in they would see the easy find, grab it, and run.


3 theprofessionalhobo April 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm

@Dan – Ha ha, yes; now we need decoy phones! Gosh, this is all getting a little complicated now, isn’t it!

@Collin – I hadn’t thought of leaving something “of value” out in my accommodation when I’m not there. Very creative!


4 Linda April 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Proved the value of this only a couple of weeks ago, when a pickpocket lifted my dummy wallet (presumably at a bus stop or as I was getting onto a bus, because I didn’t realize until later). I was able to shrug it off.

When I go away I try to leave something lying about at home on the same basis, too – a piece of jewelry which means nothing to me, an old laptop for instance.

The phone thing is infinitely more difficult and more annoying. I had my Blackberry lifted in February, and can’t afford another, but I used an old phone with a local SIM card when traveling last month, and I’m thinking once I get a decent phone again I might get a second SIM and use the old phone as a dummy too …. if anyone actually wants to steal an old Nokia that is!


5 theprofessionalhobo April 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm

@Linda – I still use a crappy old cell phone, but am considering a transition to an iPhone (thus amalgamating my current entourage of phone, iTouch, and camera). Problem is just what you say though – security!


6 santafettraveler April 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Great tips. Love the idea about the expired credit cards. Brilliant. Won’t shred the next ones to expire.


7 Ava Apollo April 23, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I would have never even thought of this, but it’s a great idea. I’m glad someone brought up phones as well. I am really unsure what to travel with – crappy and old or useful new smart phone. Keep the tips coming!!


8 Cheryl April 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Nice ideas from you all. I will certainly try the decoy wallet as I had mine lifted in Paris, and the very next day, in the same train station, a second attempt was made. Of course there was nothing to get on day 2.
I am interested in what security you are taking on cell phones as I will be traveling with an unlocked iPhone and it will be my lifeline!!

Cheers and safe travels!


9 theprofessionalhobo April 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

@Santafetraveler – I also find that since I’m an avid air miles collector, I also have quite a collection of airline mileage membership cards. These also make great “bulk” for a decoy wallet, since you only need to quote the number for points so it’s not a big loss.

@Ava – Let us know what you decide about the phone and how it works out for you!

@Cheryl – A potential “consolation” for traveling with an iPhone might be that they’re so prevalent. Just about everybody has a smart phone these days, so although people still want to steal them, it’s not like smartphones are any longer seen as an item that especially makes you a target for theft.
I dunno if I’m convinced myself, but it’s an idea. (!) What do you think?


10 Megan April 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

My father and I backpacked through Mexico for a month when I was 13. Despite his protests that I was going to lose it, I was carrying my life savings ($200) in a money belt, waiting for the right souvenirs to come along. A week in he got his wallet lifted on a crowded train, and we ended up finishing our trip on the cash I was carrying. And yes, I think I said, “I told you so” at least a hundred times!

To this day I keep my cash, cards, and passport in my money belt, and only a little spending money in my wallet. My smartphone stays at home.


11 theprofessionalhobo April 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

@Megan – You don’t find the money belt to be uncomfortable carrying all that stuff? I wear a money belt carrying my passport when I’m on the move between destinations, but I’m always happy to take it off as soon as I get somewhere.


12 Dan April 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

Hi Nora and Friends,
We were talking about smartphone security… I just found iPhone insurance that has me feeling a little better about the situation. The site is (not an affiliate!) although I saved 10 bucks by googling a promo code. They cover worldwide theft and damage with a $50 deductible. 1 year cost me $85 which saves $5 a month off the Verizon policy.

So although if it gets stolen I won’t have it for the rest of the trip, it won’t be a huge loss in the long run. Hope this helps!



13 theprofessionalhobo April 29, 2012 at 11:50 am

@Dan – You bring up a good point – about property insurance in general. For just over $100/year, I have all my valuable equipment (laptop, camera, etc) insured against theft and damage.
But even property insurance can’t dull the initial pain of losing a smartphone, especially if you’re in a place where it isn’t easily replaceable!


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