I Made the Dumbest Mistake – Five Things I Learned From It

Earlier this week, I made the dumbest mistake… or at least my most recent one.

I have a history of doing really stupid things.

For example, when I was in grad school, I was running late driving from work to campus on an evening when I had a big exam. The campus was 30 miles – and usually a traffic-filled hour – away. It was raining and traffic was snarled – not moving at all. And I was starting to panic.

I watched as vehicles in front of me got off the freeway and drove to the access road by crossing a grassy sloped median.

I rashly decided to follow them, but there was one small problem – they were driving trucks and SUVs.

I was driving a small two-door sports coupe.

Guess who got stuck in the mud and had to call a tow truck?

… and had to sit stranded in her car in heavy traffic while hundreds drove by and honked?

… and received a traffic ticket for driving off the road?

… and missed her big exam?

Yes, I make the dumbest mistakes.

But this week I made the worst one in a while – I lost my debit card.

I’m fairly certain I didn’t actually lose it. In fact, I’m pretty confident I know exactly where I left it.

The thing is, I’ve done this a few times in the past year. Once someone chased me down in the parking lot to return my card. Several times I’ve had to return somewhere to pick up my card once I’ve retraced my steps.

This time, by the time I realized that I had done it yet again, I was already in another city. I decided the best thing to do was call the bank and cancel the card.

Along the way, I learned five things that helped me fix this quickly and with minimal collateral damage:

1. Have a way of keeping track of your recent transactions.
I have a habit of holding onto my charge slips. Once a week, I sit down and sort out expenses (personal or those billable/trackable for various ventures). I make certain they have cleared correctly and look for unusual activity. Since I do that, when I called USAA it was easy to walk through my last several transactions, confirm that they were all accurate, and ensure none were missing before they closed the account.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for an expedited solution.
Normally it takes USAA 7 to 10 days to issue a new card. When I pushed a bit, they said they could expedite one for me within 24 hours. I paid $8 to have it sent via FedEx to my hotel here in Las Vegas.

3. Create a transaction-related ritual for retrieving your card after a transaction.
That seems like an overly simple thing, but having a routine to not lose a card helps. Because I tend to get distracted easily, I’ve decided that I will now leave my wallet in front of me (instead of tucking it back into my bag) until the card is returned. This will be a trigger to remember I need to sign the folio and retrieve my card.

4. Design a process for routinely reviewing who has had access to which cards.
At the end of the day, my dumbest mistake was probably not a bad one to make – this time. I should have reissued my card already due to the number of retail data breaches at shops I frequent but I’d been delaying that due to the number of auto-pay transaction I have associated with that card. This reboot has forced me to look at some of those transactions and question whether they are expenditures I wish to continue to incur – so this may end up saving me a bit of money in the long run as I cancel a couple of subscriptions or other automated but optional expenses.

5. Have a sense of humor about hiccups.
Travel certainly teaches us all to have a bit of grace when it comes to things that happen. I’m not afraid to poke fun at myself because I know its only a matter of time before a newer “dumbest mistake” takes its place!

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  1. Good morning Jennifer, I’m sorry about your debit card. I look at problems like the glass half full. It could have been worse. You could have lost your debit card overseas where it would have been more difficult to get a new one over night or you could have had your entire wallet stolen and started racking up unauthorized purchases. Luckily none of those situations happened. Like everything in life, we learn from our mistakes and try not to repeat them later on 🙂

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