Top 10 Wallet Essentials: What’s In My Wallet When I Travel

Travel cards, travel cards, travel cards! What else should you remember to pack in your wallet?

I’d like to think I have a pretty nice spread in my wallet for all my traveling needs.

With the cards and documents that I bring while traveling abroad, I ensure that all my bases are covered so that I’m able to optimize my travel points earning potential while saving the most amount of money. There ends up being a card for everything!

Here’s exactly what’s in my wallet when traveling, no matter what the destination is.

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Travel Wallet Essentials: What’s In My Wallet When I Travel

What's In My Travel Wallet

1. Credit card #1: Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve is my ultimate travel card. I’ve had it for years and I still continue to find so much value in it. I use it for all those travel expenses that earn me 3x points for every $1 spent.

This includes train tickets, flights, hotels, parking fees, and more.

The Reserve also gives 3x points for every $1 spent on dining, but as you’ll see below, my AMEX is my go-to card for dining!

With my earned Chase Ultimate Reward points, I’m able to:

  • transfer points to airlines to spend on award flights (this is the best value)
  • transfer points to Hyatt to spend on free nights
  • book hotels, activities, and flights through the Chase travel portal

Redeeming my points for experiences through the Chase portal isn’t the BEST way to get value from the points (something that diehard travel hackers would never do), but it ultimately helps to offset the total cost of my trips when I don’t feel like spending money!

2. Credit card #2: AMEX Gold

The AMEX Gold is currently my travel card for all other purchases, as this card gives me 4x points for every $1 spent on things like groceries and restaurants. A girl’s gotta eat!

Some may be wondering, why not use the Chase Reserve for everything? Well, since the Reserve pays out 3x points for dining/restaurants and 1x point for “everything else” (like groceries), I actually earn more points using the AMEX Gold for these categories.

Just like with the Chase Reserve, I’m able to use my AMEX points to book flights, hotels, and all that jazz with nothing but points!

Don’t you just love traveling for free? I know I do.

3. Credit card #3: Chase Freedom Unlimited

For everyday purchases that don’t fall into the above categories (such as gas, clothing, and entertainment), I have another credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited, that gives me 1.5x points per $1.

Just to make sure I have all my bases covered for maximizing points-earning potential, I’ll usually have this in my wallet as well.

This is the card that I use for random non-travel/non-dining things such as buying souvenirs, Target runs, holiday shopping, gifts, paying for doctor appointments, and more.

What other cards do I have?

Among my credit card arsenal is… you guessed it, another Chase card! I also have the Chase Ink Business Unlimited, which functions very similarly to the Chase Freedom Unlimited — but for business! I put all my blogging business-related expenses on this one, so it’s not usually used too much while traveling. I still bring it with me on my travels just in case.

So… why so many Chase cards? This question is easy to answer. I love Chase UR points! I find that Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points are so much easier to use compared to Amex ones.

4. Debit card: Charles Schwab Bank ATM card

My go-to debit card for any ATM transactions is my Charles Schwab Bank ATM card, tied to my travel-specific Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account.

I really only use this card when I’m traveling internationally. And sometimes when I travel domestically and find my bank NOWHERE in sight.

The #1 reason why I got this card is because of the fact that you can withdraw money out of any ATM in the world and any ATM fees incurred will be reimbursed to you.

There are so many instances where I’ve needed to pull out cash from the ATM’s, it’s unavoidable. No ATM fees means no worries about getting jipped by banks and ATMs when abroad!

Travels With Elle
Lounge access beats sitting at the gate for hours…

5. Priority Pass Card

For airline lounge access! Because who doesn’t like faster/better WiFi, free food and drinks, nap rooms, and showers?

I carry my Priority Pass membership card with me whenever I travel just in case I pop into an airport early or have a long layover in between flights. I can’t tell you how much more pleasant my time at airports has been since taking advantage of my lounge access.

I have had a Priority Pass membership since 2018, and I don’t think I’ll ever give it up! I love being able to gorge on lounge food/drink, shower, nap, and relax in peace before my flight.

If you’re wondering if this pass is worth it, it is — for some people.

I personally think PP is worth it if:

  • There is a lounge at your home airport — which means you can visit whenever you fly out of your home airport. For example, my home airport is SFO. There are currently more than 6 lounge/dining credit options depending on the terminal I fly out of.
  • You travel internationally a lot — the lounge options within the USA have gotten kind of lame, but are plenty amazing in other countries! Many of them have made-to-order entrees, buffets, showers, nap rooms, and full bars.

Pro Tip: If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (among a few other credit cards on the market), this membership is complimentary and you’re able to bring up to 2 guests into the lounges for free!

6. Student ID card

No, I’m not currently a student, but I do have my old student ID card!

This is a very welcome wallet addition when I plan on visiting paid attractions in a city. Major attractions often have discounted admission for students. Simply present the ID card if asked and save that money!

7. Health Insurance card

In case of emergencies; always good to carry all necessary medical documents.

8. Local currency

I always carry some cash because you never know when you’ll stumble upon a local farmer’s market or flea market. Bus stations often only take cash for bus tickets. Some hole-in-the-wall restaurants you’re dying to eat at may only take cash.

Having cash on hand is definitely very useful and I find more instances where it’s needed abroad compared to back home in the US.

bank notes travel cards
Don’t forget to bring cash! “Cash Only” is definitely a thing you’ll still encounter often when abroad.

9. Some USD tucked away

Just in case I find myself in a pickle, I’ll always have some of my home currency with me. Chances are, there will be some foreign exchange shop close by where you can change your money into the local currency for use.

10. A list of emergency contacts

This is something that I’ve nearly added to my wallet ever since I turned 30. And looking back on it, I was a fool to not have also done this in my 20s!

Carry a copy of your emergency contacts with you at all times (like in your wallet or taped in your passport), in case you need to provide this information to emergency responders. Make a list of emergency contacts, including your family, friends, and embassy, and carry it with you at all times.

Keep your emergency contacts up to date: Make sure your emergency contacts are up to date in your phone, and that they have all the necessary information there is to know, such as your travel itinerary and any medical conditions you have.

And that about wraps up what’s in my wallet whenever I travel.

If you have any questions about why I’ve chosen these travel cards or how to obtain any of them for yourself, please feel free to ask in the comments below or send me a message!

Are you packing for a trip abroad soon? Check out my post on how to pack smart and light for extended travel!

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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