Home Credit Cards The Pre-Trip Wallet Shuffle

The Pre-Trip Wallet Shuffle

by joeheg

Before going on a trip, there’s a ritual I go through involving our wallets. I need to go through them, remove cards we won’t need when traveling and replace them with the cards we will or might need when we’re out of town. Unlike packing, where I have a list I’ve perfected over the last 20 years when it comes to our wallets, I have to wing it and make choices for each trip, because every time is different.

Here are some of the questions I ask. Did I use a card to book something during the trip and need it for confirmation? Are we flying on an airline where using the card for onboard purchases will give me a discount? Do I need a specific card to get into an airline lounge? Will we be buying groceries during the trip or will we be eating out all the time? Will we be renting a car? If so, I’ll need to bring a card that has primary LDW coverage as well as one that earns a good return on gas purchases.

While I’ve read about making a dedicated travel wallet so you don’t forget to bring any of the cards you only need when traveling, I’m more afraid I’d forget to put something in the travel wallet like my driver’s license or my insurance card. I don’t think Sharon would ever let me hear the end of it if that happened (Note from Sharon: No. No, you wouldn’t BWAHAHAHA!). As usual, I take two approaches to making our wallets because while I’ll bring a different card for each category, Sharon will only allow me to give her one to two cards at the most for her to use. As a result of this named the card in the front of the wallet she’ll use for everything and the card behind it for if the first one doesn’t work somewhere.

Joe’s Wallet

For this trip, my wallet is pretty straightforward. Here are the credit cards I’m bringing and what charges I’ll use them for:


  • Delta Gold SkyMiles Business AMEX – Discounts on purchases of food or beverages onboard Delta flights
  • Citi Premier – 3x ThankYou points for travel expenses (including ride-sharing services and public transportation) and 2x ThankYou points for dining and entertainment charges
  • Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant AMEX – Earn 6 points for every dollar of eligible purchases at participating Marriott Hotels
  • American Aviator Red Card – $25 yearly Wi-Fi credit and 25% rebate on onboard purchases of food and beverages
  • Bank ATM Card – which charges no ATM Fees and refunds me any additional charges from an ATM.

I also added these cards to my wallet:

There’s one more thing I added to my wallet: Plenty of singles

Captain Obvious Make It Rain

No, I’m not headed to go make it rain. I need money to tip the airport shuttle driver and to leave a tip for housekeeping. It’s one of the things I always forget to bring with me.

Sharon’s Wallet

I loaded Sharon’s wallet with the cards we’ll be using most this trip:


  • Barclays Arrival+ – I put this in front because when we’re together, I can tell her which card to use. When she’s off on her own, she’s not spending money in any bonus categories so earning 2x cashback is acceptable in that circumstance
  • Citi Prestige – It will be the card we use for our dining expenses because it earns 5X ThankYou points for those charges.
  • American Express Green Card– I let Sharon occasionally use this card for dining expenses as it now earns 3x Membership Rewards points for those expenses. Might as well keep AMEX and Sharon happy at the same time. (Note from Sharon: remember the old saying, my love: “Happy wife, happy life.” The green Amex STAYS) (Note from Joe: Yes, dear).
  • Discover – OK, you can stop reading here if you want. I just wanted us to have a card in case Chase or Citi shuts our cards down as this happened during a trip to Texas. Besides that, it will never leave the wallet.

I also put our MTA Metrocards in our wallets to pay for our subway rides in New York. The last thing I need to do is update our dining program accounts to make sure the cards we are bringing with us are set up to earn extra miles in case we happen to stop at an eligible location.

What do you before you travel? Do you need to rearrange your wallet or are a person who carries all of your cards with you all of the time?

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Jinxed_K February 15, 2019 - 2:13 pm

I do a credit card shuffle, but for a slightly different reason.
My usual wallet holds my cards and dollars fine, but it’s too small to fit any currency that’s taller like yen bills.
I have a passport holding wallet (which is huge and I don’t want to use it as an everyday wallet), so every time I go on an international trip, all my cards and cash go into that one and the card(s) without the foreign transaction fee goes on top.
Otherwise everything tends to stay put on domestic travel.

WR2 February 15, 2019 - 2:25 pm

I just have a ziplock bag full of all my travel cards that I never use in day to day life: hotel cards, PP card, passport, etc. If traveling international then I remove Chase Freedom or any other card that charges FTF from my wallet, and I’m on my way. No shuffling needed.

playalaguna February 19, 2020 - 3:52 pm

I keep a separate travel wallet, it has the basic items like a photo copy of my passport picture page, my passport card and an expired drivers license for an address. Credit cards are switched in as needed for the trip. Like my travel bag, the necessary items are my base and other items are added as appropriate.

In both cases, it less likely that things are forgotten and, or lost, that would be difficult to replace.

derek February 19, 2020 - 5:07 pm

I do the same thing in addition to leaving a few keys at home. My credit card shuffle is relatively minor. I have one business client for which I use a specific credit card because the client is a troublemaker and it is important to keep expenses separate.


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