credit cards“Oh, for f***’s sake,” I snapped to myself at the cashpoint.

In the process of getting money out, I had somehow tipped up my purse and let all my bank cards scatter over the city-centre street.

When I bent to pick them up, more cards fell out. Then the umbrella handle I was precariously balancing under one arm came tumbling down, dumping some fresh rainwater over the problem.

Luckily, the two people next in line, an older lady and a younger woman in a headscarf, seemed amused by my potty-mouthed predicament and helped me scoop all my cards off the floor.

I thanked them and crept away in a state of vague embarrassment at not quite having this ‘being an adult’ thing down-pat yet at 34.

But I also had to wonder, why on earth did I have so many cards?

All in all, there were 20 bits of plastic in my wallet: four debit cards (including one for a recently-closed account), four credit cards, a few membership cards and a whole host of store loyalty cards.

Call myself a minimalist?

I can see how I got here. In my quest to battle my long-standing debts and get my money in order, I’ve tried just about every scheme going. I’ve opened balance-transfer credit card after balance-transfer credit card – moving my debts along like Sonic the Hedgehog jumping across collapsing platforms – all to avoid high interest payments.

I’ve opted into just about every store loyalty scheme going, even ones where I barely go into the shops concerned and will probably never amass enough points for a reward, in the hope it might just save me some cash, somehow.

And thanks to my habit of chasing new-customer bonuses, I’ve also found myself with far more bank accounts than is sensible or healthy. (I recently got a letter from a bank telling me they’re closing my account due to inactivity. I’d forgotten about the account completely).

But I’m thankfully moving into a different stage of my life. I’m finally going to be the person who has their shit together when it comes to money, and I’ve decided I need a wallet to match.

So I’ve embarked on the great financial declutter. When I got home, I tackled my cards straight away, cutting up some, closing down the accounts on others, relegating still more to a drawer so I don’t have to carry them every day.

I’m not there yet, but here are the six cards I would have in my fantasy, pared-down purse:

One credit card
Two debit cards – one personal and one joint account
Driver’s licence and breakdown card
Professional accreditation card

How many cards do you carry on a daily basis? Are there any unusual ones you couldn’t live without?

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8 thoughts on “ Card-tastrophe ”

  1. I’m trying to pare down. I have one debit card. Travel card and health insurance. But need to carry kids travel and donor cards x3 which adds up. Otherwise I’ve a little plastic pouch in my bag that holds library cardsx5 loyalty cards down to 2 and gift cards. I just canceled all the loyalty cards except for a coffee and book shop for school books but thinking that can probably go too if I’m honest. Like the idea of the wallet and phone case in 1 might be something to invest in. Keep paring down its great to just cash and free hands.

  2. Debit, credit, drivers license, car registration, health insurance, car breakdown service, organ donor and a membership card of a whisky club.

    That’s 8. It should go down more, to be honest.

    Tip: buy a tiny wallet in which you can’t carry more than the bare necessities

  3. Sjoerd de Haan’s tip about the small wallet is a good one. I’ve carried a wallet a little smaller than a traditional mens wallet for years now. It has a small zippered change compartment on the back, is a bifold with one side holding driver’s license and the other side having four card slots. It has a section for cash. I carry one credit card which I never use (it’s for true emergencies only), a debit card, a health insurance card for husband, son and myself and a roadside emergency card.Organ donor status is on my driver’s license. I have some memberships to a few places but don’t carry the cards as my memberships can be accessed by my phone number. I haven’t come across a loyalty card membership that can’t be accessed by your phone number so far.

  4. I did the just might save me money thing too but now, nearer to 30, I start to cherish my time more. It takes time to handle 7-8banks each month. Some cards are harder to cancel but I make sure I don’t pay fees.

    Well it may seems like a hassle now. I do remember that these cards have helped me to save money once upon a time and I couldn’t be so debt free now if not for some cards that offers good discounts. It’s still a wise banking choice at that time.

  5. Debit card, credit card, pre-paid credit card, photo ID, government health card, 2 different health insurance cards, blood donor card, library card

    While I need to own all of them, I probably don’t need to carry half of them in my wallet every day. But so far it’s been more convenient than trying to remember to take a card when I need it for a specific thing

  6. I’ve been using a tiny wallet for a few years now and it REALLY helps keep the clutter down. I carry my insurance CARDS (my employer issues one each for prescriptions, dental and health – ugh…), my debit card, one credit card and my FSA card.

    I also purchased something called a “Card Ninja” which is an elastic pocket that goes on the back of your phone. I keep my drivers’ license and my AARP card in there along with a stashed $20 bill for emergencies – i.e., I run out of cash…

    To conquer the loyalty card problem I’ve done three things:
    1) re-evaluated all the loyalty cards – if I do not shop the merchant frequently enough then I have closed it down. By that I mean I have contacted the merchant and asked them to remove my information from their records. I figure it doesn’t pay to have too much of my info floating about.
    2) I have downloaded an app called “Key Ring” – I can scan those loyalty cards that I use frequently (grocery & such) into it and most merchants can now just scan my phone’s image. This has been WONDERFUL and really helped me keep a fistful of cards out of my wallet. Don’t know if the app is available in the UK but I know there are other apps out there. This one just happens to be my favorite.
    3) Finally, I’ve taken advantage of the mobile apps for places like Starbucks & Dunkin Donuts. I don’t have to pull out cash or a credit/debit card to pay, they just scan my phone AND I get points which give me free beverages.

    Ideally, I try NOT to carry a purse. Purses are like cupboards for me – the more I can stash in them the fuller they become. :/ Pouches have been a big help here. I have “Work Pouch” which has my ID, office keys, favorite pen & my bluetooth (I use it most while @ work). I leave it in my work bag on the weekends. I have a wristlet that I also use during the work week with just my small wallet, room for my phone and some lip balm & hand sanitizer. For weekends I only use a SMALL crossbody bag. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and it seems to work well.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Claire! My mom used to have those moments rather often and they made me very anxious and worried, not everyone is nice enough to help you pick them up without trying to keep one or to two themselves, or take the chance and take all of them, which is maybe why I try to carry as little as possible in my wallet.
    I try the tip that others have already shared: Tiiiiny wallet. It doesn’t even have several compartments, so I can only carry my debit card, my joint account debit card, ID, student card (which is expiring this month and soon leaving my wallet) and gym card. There isn’t enough space for receipts so I have to be mindful of the ones I carry, and clean the wallet often.
    One unusual thing I carry when there is weird tension in the air is my residence permit, though luckily I have not needed it outside of normal travel procedures.
    Best of luck with getting to your fantasy purse!

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