Would You Rather Lose Your Phone, Wallet, or Car Keys?

by Joel - Published July 6, 2020

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Hmmm. Interesting question.

Back in the day, my wallet was the most important thing I carried around. I still remember my first wallet, one of those waterproof tri-fold velcro ones that carried my student ID and some train tickets. (Maybe also a few cut-out pictures in there from skateboard magazines — you know, the important stuff).

But that was before everyone had cellphones. These days, my wallet is probably the least valuable thing I carry. Since the invention of Venmo, virtual insurance cards, virtual coupons, and “the cloud,” I don’t carry too much important stuff on me physically. It’s all on my phone.

Interesting question, though … what hurts more — losing your wallet, your phone, or your keys?

I think the question comes down to how hard it would be to replace each one. Let’s look at the time, effort, and money it would take …

Losing My Wallet

Things in my wallet right now:

  • Drivers license: Dang, losing this would suck the most. Just the thought of lining up at the DMV in Santa Monica makes me cringe. Even with a scheduled appointment, I’ve waited in line there for two hours. The ID card replacement would be a small fee, maybe $25, I’m guessing.
  • 1 x debit card: Pretty easy to replace. A 10-15 minute phone call to the bank and I’d have a new one in the mail in three days. No cost to me.
  • 3 x credit cards: Not hard to replace. It’s more a pain in the butt to change the CC *numbers* because my bills are auto-deducted on my main credit card. This is probably an hour or so of work. No cost to me.
  • $139 in cash: Oops, I didn’t realize I had so much on me at the moment! I usually keep about $60 in cash on hand — mostly for garage sales and quick Craigslist buys :)
  • The wallet itself: I’d say this would cost about $20 to replace and maybe 20-30 mins to search for a replacement. The one I have now I got eight years ago from a Kickstarter campaign — they promised it would last 10 years, and I think it will!

Losing My Cellphone

Right now I’m rocking an iPhone 6s Plus. Got this one about two years ago from a friend who upgraded to a new model. It was supposed to be a loaner, but I never got a new one and my friend never asked for this one back! Ooops 😊

Since I don’t have phone insurance or anything, I’d be up for the cost of a replacement:

  • New iPhone would be prob $400 to $600 depending on the model. The latest and fanciest versions don’t really interest me, and I don’t think I’d go with one of those payment-plans or lock-in contracts.
  • Secondhand, I’d probably fork out $100-$150 for someone’s old phone that still works. Could grab one online somewhere or ask friends if they have an old one lying around.

My last data back-up was a few weeks ago, but most of my apps and stuff keep data in the cloud so I wouldn’t lose any valuable information. For time to replace, I’d say it would probably take three to four hours to get a new phone, program it all the way I like it, and get used to the new operating system. Grrr…

Losing My Keys

This is an interesting one. Back in the day, keys to my crappy cars were just metal cut-outs. I kept a spare one duct-taped under the wheel hub! But now I drive a Pruis, which needs an electric wireless key. Key replacement options look like:

  • Get a *new* key from a Toyota dealer: Wow! Seems to be around $500 to buy and program a new key! I didn’t realize my Prius was such a rare, luxury vehicle.
  • Buy a replica FOB key online ($100 to $150) and get it programmed somehow by a local car repair place ($100 to $150). Still hurts!

The other factor here is *where* I am when I lose my keys. If I’m stuck in a random parking lot and need to get my car towed home, I’d be up for tow costs too! Probably $100 there.

All in all, here’s my replacement time and costs:

Lost wallet: 4-5 hours of work and about $180 to replace what’s in it

Lost phone: 3-4 hours of work and $100 to $600

Lost keys: 3-4 hours work and about $300 to $400 for a DIY replacement and car tow

Losing ALL three things: 10+ hours and $480+ minimum to replace all three. Ouch!

Well, I guess that answers the original question (for me at least!): What would you rather lose… your phone, your wallet, or your car keys?

At this point, the least expensive thing for me to lose would be my iPhone. Funny, because I would consider it my most valuable and most used item of the three. Weird!

What about you? What would you rather lose if you had the choice?

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 DJ @MyMoneyDesign July 6, 2020 at 6:51 am

That’s a fun question to start out the Monday morning. Who knew getting your car key replaced would be so expensive?

I would have said the phone too. But now you’ve got me thinking what a PITA it would be to lose your wallet and have to replace not just your cards and ID, but then deal with new CC numbers. Let’s hope that never happens!

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2 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:18 pm

Knock on wood! I know some people that have their credit cards attached to their phone… kind of like an all-in-one large wallet thingy. I guess if they lose one, they lose both! Ouch that would be a crap day (and expensive).

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3 Huong Meeks July 7, 2020 at 12:05 pm

That’s me- phone and wallet all in one. I think I would rather lose my car key- easier to replace and cheaper than my phone/wallet :) I didn’t know how many people keep cash on the wallet nowadays. I keep some on my car always, but not my wallet. Maybe I should rethink my strategy :) Thanks Joel!

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4 Joel July 7, 2020 at 2:23 pm

I need to re-think my cash strategy too! Cheers Huong :)

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5 Adam July 6, 2020 at 8:43 am

Refraining from driving anywhere except for groceries has really reprioritized what counts as “essential”. Pretty sure I could lose all three and it’d just be a minor inconvenience for a few days!

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6 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Yes, i know what you mean. Sometimes I feel like one of those old and retired people living in an all inclusive senior facility. I go for days/weeks with empty pockets and forget where my stuff even is. It’s pure bliss.

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7 Stevo July 6, 2020 at 10:16 am

Ha. When i read the headline, I thought ‘how inconvenient’. Tough question, but good thought analysis to go through! Keep an extra eye on all 3!

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8 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:26 pm

Losing things while traveling would be the worst. I carry a lot more cash when I travel, and it’s always tough to replace a phone while on the road too. It’s painful any which way I guess. Thanks, Stevo!

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9 Shawna July 6, 2020 at 10:17 am

I think I’d prefer to lose my keys – I have an extra car fob at home ;) The dealer gave me 2 when I bought the car! I’m sure I paid for it back then but that was 9 years ago so who knows haha

With ride share, I can quickly get home to grab the key and get back to my car.

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10 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Good call! I got a spare fob too, but I’m using the spare as the first one broke :( Maybe I should just repair it so I’ve got a backup.

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11 Steveark July 6, 2020 at 10:27 am

No brainer, the wallet would be by far the worst. First I always have at least $200 cash in it, sometimes twice that. Second drivers license and the concealed carry permit are a real pain to replace and there are some strict legal requirements if you lose a handgun permit I’d rather not run afoul of. Phones are completely backed up on the web and they are impossible to break into if you have them locked. Plus my phone insurance covers loss or theft so I could be back in business in two or three days and my out of pocket would be only $200. Car keys, well, we have at least two sets for each vehicle and I have a third fob that I could reprogram for one of the cars.

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12 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Sometimes wallets get returned… You might lose all your cash, but hopefully whoever finds it can give you back all the necessary ID’s. That would save you a lot of hassle.

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13 lisa July 6, 2020 at 10:51 am

I wouldn’t mind losing the phone. When mine finally gave out a few months ago, I went on ebay and got another. A darling candy bar style with a qwerty board. I can’t access the web, take decent photos, use apps or buy things. It saves me tons of cash and is so sturdy, the screen won’t break. It runs with 2G technology and doesn’t have GPS tracking…… Yessss

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14 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:36 pm

Haha! It’s refreshing to go old school! I do miss my old Nokia 5110 :)

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15 jolie July 6, 2020 at 11:54 am

I guess it would depend on WHERE the loss happened.

When my son was down in the US his vehicle keys were accidentally taken at a bbq (and never returned). Those keys cost $450 US to get a new set cut at a dealership.

Closer to home, less of a big deal to lose keys.

I would chose to NOT lose my wallet. To get all those cards replaced is hours on the phone, often waiting for a customer service rep. Been there. Did not love all the time it took to do it.

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16 Joel July 6, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Sometimes the time-suck hurts worse than the money. I know a few “rich” people that would pay others to make calls to customer service on their behalf, just because they didn’t want to wait on hold.

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17 Leslie July 7, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Definitely my iphone. It’s a 7 Plus, however, I also have a case that carries my drivers license, my debt card, and credit card. If I lost my phone I’d get a double whammy of wallet and phone!

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18 Joel July 7, 2020 at 5:41 pm

Ouch! How do you even order a phone without your ID and credit cards? That would be a long process to get your stuff all back in order!

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19 Debra Allen July 7, 2020 at 11:29 pm

Just yesterday, in Germantown, TN, someone I know
wallet-handbag was stolen broad daylight out of the walmart baggy. She literally fainted and was hospitalized. I guess the trauma and shock of the
incident. Wallet has my vote.

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20 Joel July 10, 2020 at 11:34 am

Whoa, sorry to hear about that poor woman! Losing stuff + a trip to the hospital :( A bad day all round

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21 Dragon Guy July 8, 2020 at 3:02 pm

What a great question! Even though the keys might cost the most (especially for us Prius fans), I think those would be the easiest to replace. Although it wouldn’t be good if our house keys were also on the same key chain! The worst to lose would definitely be the wallet, mostly from the identity theft risk!

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22 Joel July 10, 2020 at 11:37 am

Consider putting a bunch of fake ID’s inside your wallet… That way the thief won’t know which true identity to steal? ;)

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23 Dollartrak July 8, 2020 at 10:59 pm

Some days you just wish you had stayed in bed

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24 Joel July 10, 2020 at 11:37 am

Can’t lose anything if you don’t leave your room!

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25 Kelly July 11, 2020 at 12:12 pm

I lost my phone this passed October. Actually it was stolen out of my backpack while I was walking… but anyway. It actually took about 10 hours on the phone between the police and the service provider. I did have a lease on mine, so that played in a bit to the longer time, but I would NEVER want to lose a phone EVER again. It was a huge headache to deal with the repercussions and then having to change all the passwords that are stored on it as well was probably another couple hours of time. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!

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26 Joel July 12, 2020 at 10:34 am

Ah, sorry to hear that. I really hope future software security makes it hard for phone thieves to re-sell or reuse phones. If they were less valuable, there would be less theft.

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27 The Blogging Zoomer July 14, 2020 at 9:51 pm

This is great, definitely have to do the pat each pocket to make sure everything is all there! Love the content!

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28 Joel July 15, 2020 at 9:59 am

Hey Zoomer! Reminds me of the “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch” quote from that movie :) Always pat the pockets!

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29 Dollartrak August 4, 2020 at 12:02 pm

I think the phone. The Keys cost as much to replace and they are more work. The wallet is an identity theft issue.

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30 Joel August 4, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Identity theft would be a problem that could go on for years and years.

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