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Do you remember the old commercial featuring the actor Samuel L. Jackson for a credit card that had the tagline of “What’s in Your Wallet?” The company was trying to say that the card they were promoting had much more to offer than any other card you could have. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. But the bottom line is clear – there are some things we should have in our wallet for an emergency, and it isn’t necessarily any credit card.



A Driver’s License or state-issued ID card is important to keep with you. Most of us do this one without even thinking, but it is important, just the same.


Emergency numbers

If your cell phone doesn’t work, where would you find the numbers you need? In the old days, we tended to memorize important numbers. But now, we tend to rely on our phones to have the numbers. We don’t even see the numbers as we dial. We click on “John Doe”, and up comes his photo and it automatically dials his number – no need to even look at the number it’s dialing. If anything happens to your phone, do you have those numbers accessible another way? Emergency numbers – meaning those people you might need to contact in an emergency (which could be as simple as a dead cell phone battery) need to be accessible.



Having some cash is important. Some people make most of their purchases using a debit card, and that’s fine. However, studies have shown that using cash for purchases will help one save money. It’s a lot less easy to part with our cash than to use a plastic card that, while we know it comes from our account, still doesn’t feel quite the same as giving up actual cash. So having cash for purchases will likely save you money. It’s also important from an emergency standpoint. If there were an emergency that wipes out our infrastructure, what good will that plastic card do you? Until the infrastructure is back up and running, there’s not an ATM on earth that will give you money. You will probably also want a larger amount of cash somewhere else safe, but you should still have at least a few dollars with you in your wallet. And when the emergency is a smaller, more personal emergency, your cash can get you through. Vending machines still generally only take cash.


Debit Card

It is a good idea to have a debit card on hand for larger purchases. If you don’t have enough cash on hand, or prefer to save your cash for times when you can’t use a debit card, then a debit card will be handy.


Insurance Card

In an emergency, one of the things you will need access to is your insurance card. Whether it is a car accident, homeowner problem, or medical emergency, your insurance company will want to know asap that something has happened. Along with calling the insurance company, you may want to take pictures of all the damage (including all vehicles involved, in the case of a car accident) – the insurance company will appreciate them.


Medical Information Card

If you have a medical condition or an allergy to a type of drug or medicine, you should carry a card with that information. Someone probably won’t look in your wallet before they begin giving lifesaving medical attention, but having the information available is important for when they have time to look. Along with specific medical information about yourself, you should also have a list of any prescription drugs you take regularly. Update the list whenever the information changes.

You may have other “must haves”, but these are the basics important for everyone. Take a look in your wallet (purse, glove compartment of the car, etc.) and make sure that the important items are there. This is just as important of emergency preparation as the other things we traditional think of for emergencies — so make sure you have what you need.

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