Keyping it all together.
February 24, 2014 1:43 PM   Subscribe

After waiting at the bus stop for 30 minutes in the cold only to realize that I forgot my pass, I realized today that I need a way to carry my various keys (car, apartment, parent's house, work, PO box, garage) and cards (bus pass, student ID, work ID, gym card) with me in an organized way.

I currently have a clear plastic card holder that covers about 1/2 of the card (lengthwise) and leaves the magnetic strip exposed for swiping. I used this to swap out my bus pass or student ID, depending on whether I'm at school (need ID to access building) or commuting, but the issue is that it only fits 1 card at a time, and it's on a ridiculously long lanyard.

I'd love a keychain? cardholder? storing device thing? that I can throw into my backpack or purse and keeps all my important keys and cards together, but also makes it easy for me to access them when I'm in a hurry, in 20 below weather, wearing gloves AND mittens. The cards have to be accessible for both sliding/swiping (like a credit card) and touch (for the bus), which is why I've scrapped just keeping them in my wallet. Help me figure out a solution! What do the organized commuters and key holders of MeFi use? Bonus points for stylish/not ugly!
posted by gumtree to Shopping (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
For the purposes you're looking for, I'd be tempted to punch a hole through a nonessential corner and run a keyring through them. (Don't punch a hole in your ID.)
posted by phunniemee at 1:46 PM on February 24, 2014

So, I use a Coach Medium Skinny as my wallet. I keep most of my cards, plus cash, inside the zipper compartment, but it has an exterior pocket to keep one or two frequently used cards accessible. Bonus for traveling: The larger exterior pocket is just the right size for a passport.

I linked to the main Coach site but if you sign up at, you can get access to sales where you can usually buy these way cheaper. Mine was around $25 shipped.
posted by payoto at 1:49 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have two swipe cards for work, which means I can't keep them in a wallet. They have a small hole at the top so they can go onto a keycard holder. I use a small carabiner, which then attaches them to one of my belt loops. You could also attach the carabiner to your bag. The nice thing about this is that you don't have to detach them to use them, you just pull the whole thing out and wave/swipe the correct card, then stuff the whole thing back in your bag (or in my case, into my back pocket, still attached to belt loop).
posted by Joh at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2014

It is likely that your bus pass will work from within your wallet. Getting your wallet out every time you get on the bus is slightly cumbersome, but it's what most people here (Minneapolis) do. (I pull my glove off to get my wallet as the bus pulls up or right before I get on, depending on how many people there are.)
posted by hoyland at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is likely that your bus pass will work from within your wallet.

Something to be wary of: for cities that have newer systems that take credit card payments (like Ventra in Chicago) I have heard reports of people who tap their whole wallet getting double charged--once on their transit card and once on their contact-enabled credit card--by doing this.

I don't know if Minneapolis has that kind of functionality but enough places do now that you should be aware of it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

None of my cards have holes in them currently. I'll have to investigate to see if that's something I can do without damaging them.

Hoyland, I've tried this but my wallet (which is admittedly quite large/thick) prohibits the touch pad from reliably reading my bus pass.
posted by gumtree at 2:08 PM on February 24, 2014

What about something similar to what you're already using (a half-card holder) but in vinyl so they are thinner? Every card would get one, and could go on a fixed or retractable lanyard.
posted by muddgirl at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2014

Baggallini has so many cute, well-made options. Here's the wallet section, but if you're potentially looking to replace backpack/purse as well, here are the handbags with removable wallet.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:22 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a Baggallini bag once upon a time that came with a zipper pouch on a short lanyard with a clear card slot. Like the one here. The bag bit the dust, but I carry the zipper pouch in my current bag, with my bus pass in the clear part.

To get that form factor without buying a whole new bag, maybe one of the many Tom Bihn zipper pouch things plus a key strap (on that same page) would work?
posted by clavicle at 2:25 PM on February 24, 2014

If you're trying to keep things minimalist, I really like the Machine Era Company's wallets. Keep your most frequently used card on top, the rest are pretty accessible underneath; but i've never needed to do so with gloves on. Holds 6 cards and some cash pretty well.

As for keys? I use Bladekey, and clip it onto my backpack with a carabiner. Ever since switching over to these two little buddies, I feel alot more organized and have way less things to remember, and they keep things tidy.

Oh, I don't keep my car key (because I don't drive except for groceries on the weekends) or my parents housekeys on my keychain; just because I'm not really ever doing those thingsā€¦but the bladekey setup allows you to do that if you wish, you'd just need a bigger one.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2014

It won't connect your keys and your cards, but I swear by this iPhone case which connects my two most important cards (work ID and Metrocard) to the one item I never leave home without.
posted by telegraph at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2014

I use a Brahmin crossbody purse with keys attached to the pullout lanyard and bus pass/work pass tucked in the front pocket. My driver's license is in the front see through pocket of a slim Tom Bihn wallet like this one, with frequent shopper cards and credit cards tucked in order behind it, along with my folding cash.

Lanyards and Tom Bihn type pouches are likely to solve your problem.
posted by bearwife at 2:48 PM on February 24, 2014

I think I have the same lanyard/plastic holder thing that you have, and I have rigged it to work well. I bought enough plastic holders to hold each of my important cards - thus, I have separate plastic holders for my government ID, debit card, school ID. This sounds very bulky, but I don't find it to be so, and I haven't had any problem with them getting loose (and I basically never take them out because I leave the swipe side exposed). I used to only use one plastic holder and swap out the relevant cards depending on where I was going, but inevitably I'd forget to do it and then end up at the grocery store without my debit card, or whatever. Also, the lanyard I'm using is super heavy-duty, and not too long. I actually would recommend the ones that they sell at university bookstores (the obnoxious ones with the university name woven into the lanyard). They're just the right length and I have used the same one for years with virtually no wear (until it got stolen, and then I bought another). I know you can buy a Columbia one at the Columbia bookstore in Morningside Heights, and also a Harvard one in Cambridge MA, and you can probably find one at your local college bookstore (or online). They also sell the plastic holders so you can get more than one. So basically what I would recommend is to keep your current system, but upgrade the lanyard to something sturdy and shorter, and buy multiple of those holders. I have been using it for the same purposes as you and have had nothing but good luck with it.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2014

I have one of these ID card holders from Carolina Sewn. I bought it at my university bookstore. It has two sections for tap cards and a big pocket for slide cards. It also has a key ring attachment for your keys. I love mine. I've had it for almost four years, and it still looks (and works) great.

You can contact them to see if you can buy one from them directly. You can also buy them online or in person from approximately 80 bajillion different university bookstores.
posted by topoisomerase at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2014

I have this iPhone case which carries 4 cards (I know it says 3) - ID, bus pass, debit, credit. You have to pull them out to swipe but much easier than having them inside a wallet inside a bag. If you put your bus pass as the outermost one it will swipe. They make cases for other phone models too.

It works for me because I always have my phone with me, in an easily accessible pocket. I no longer carry a wallet about half the time (I do have a real wallet in my backpack, when I have my bag with me, with other cards and cash).
posted by amaire at 5:03 PM on February 24, 2014

My "unified solution" is a small crossbody purse that I do not leave the house without; even on days I'm toting around a backpack, the purse gets carried separately.

I have what Joh mentioned for my transit pass and work cards, which are both "tappers." Something like this carabiner combined with this badge holder. They attach to the ring on my purse strap for easy access, and most backpacks have similar rings. It sounds like your bus pass is a "tapper," so this could work for that; I'm not sure if that's the case for your student ID, work ID, or gym card. (Or if any of them are minicards that could go non-awkwardly on a keyring.) If they're sliders, could you just acquire more of the holders you already have, and replace the lanyards with cords of useful length to you?

My other cards are all "sliders" that are attached to credit or banks, and thus they remain in my wallet in my purse until needed, which is generally inside where I don't have to have mittens on. Said wallet lives in a specific pocket in my purse.

Minicards like my gym pass and grocery discount cards are key-size, so they go on a keyring with my keys. Said keyring attaches to a keyfob inside my purse that's long enough I can pull it out to open the door; when the keys aren't in use, they tuck into the inner pocket where the keyfob's attached.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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