I lose everything. Help me not lose my expensive season ticket.
September 3, 2017 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a 12-month season ticket for my new train commute. It cost a lot of money and I am very, very prone to losing things. How do people keep hold of these?

I lose everything, repeatedly and often. My usual tricks are to have a designated place for things at home/work, attach a Tile to anything big enough, and keep anything smaller in something bigger which it does not leave.

None of that seems like it'll work here. The card needs to travel with me daily. It can stay in my wallet between journeys, but for every journey it will need to come out of the wallet to go through the ticket barriers. This, in my experience, is a time when it's very easy to lose standard train tickets. Obviously 'put it back in the wallet straight afterwards' is the sensible answer, but I find in practice I'm usually so focused on getting to a train/getting through commuter crowds that I don't stop and don't think and I just shove my ticket in my pocket, between the pages of a book I'm carrying, in the nearest pocket of my bag, and so on, and totally forget about it until I'm on the train and a guard is checking tickets, at which point I scramble around in everything I own and mostly find it but sometimes don't.

I can't afford to do this with the season ticket. Lose them more than once or twice and you pay full price for a replacement. ARGH.

But, people use these every day! Millions of people! And I can't be the only forgetful one. So, how is everyone else keeping hold of their tickets?

note: any advice like "just remember to xyz" is not going to help. I already don't remember, that's how I lose stuff. :(
posted by Catseye to Grab Bag (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Will it fit into an ID badge holder-one of the ones that hangs around your neck or clips to your clothes? That is exactly how I have avoided losing my bus pass for 2 years. I keep it in my work ID badge holder and clip it to myself in the morning. I do this when not at work as well.

You can stuff it into your bag once you are safely at work, put it back on for the commute home, then keep it in your bag at night (what I do) or hang it with your keys. Based on the number of ID lanyards I see on my commute, this seems like a fairly common solution, but YMMV.
posted by ailouros08 at 8:13 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

Is it a card with a RFID chip? Use a lanyard with a clear plastic id holder attached. You can keep it around your neck during your commute, and in general it would be easier to find if you stick it in your bag because of the lanyard.
posted by littlesq at 8:14 AM on September 3, 2017

My answer was going to be "most long-term train tickets let you register, so you can get a replacement if you lose the card"... but I see that may not be workable? Is there really a limit on the number of times you can replace your card? I've never encountered that situation in several cities worth of public transit subscriptions!

If so though, since the key point that you're worried about is the moment of passing through the gates, what about a lanyard to wear around your neck during your commute, or a retractable ID badge reel? If you carry the same bag every day, you could clip an ID badge reel to the inside of your bag, and the transit card could always be attached.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:17 AM on September 3, 2017

Does Tile work where you are? And if so could you use a hole punch to make a hole in the pass and put it on a key chain with a tile thingy?
posted by bowmaniac at 8:33 AM on September 3, 2017

I do have a work ID badge with lanyard so I could put it in that and this would probably make it easier to find than in my wallet. This would help! But alas I'd still need to take it out of that to get it through the ticket barriers (you basically feed it into the machine which reads it and spits it out again, so there's no way to leave it inside or attached to anything).

Is there really a limit on the number of times you can replace your card?

Sadly, yes. There's a new and improved system coming in but it's not going to be possible for me to use that until next year's ticket.
posted by Catseye at 8:36 AM on September 3, 2017

Whatever strategy you choose, for 2 weeks, I would plan to practice it with a cheaper card. Like, I would put it on my calendar and tell my close friends that I was practicing. And then every time I needed to use the card, I'd remind myself I was practicing, so I'd slow down and focus on every step (maybe have a mnemonic for them?), and be really happy each time I remembered all the steps.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure I could handle a 12-month pass like this, so I wouldn't buy one. (I don't take those loyalty punch cards from coffee places anymore, even when I go to the place every day because it's too annoying that I lose the cards. It makes me feel better to decline the savings in advance.)
posted by unknowncommand at 8:39 AM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Attach it to yourself via a retractable clip. Put the pass in a laminated card holder with a sturdy tab and clip that to your keys/key ring/bag/wallet/lanyard as apt.
posted by freya_lamb at 8:43 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have forgotten my credit card in restaurants before. To solve the issue, I make a point of leaving my wallet sitting on the table next to my right hand from when I take out my card to give the server until I sign the check. Could you do something similar? Wallet/purse open in hand, card out, card in machine, card back in wallet/purse, close up wallet/purse? Get in the habit of putting down what you are holding in each hand (bookmark in book, book in bag, etc). Practice until you have the discipline down, yea?
posted by Alterscape at 8:53 AM on September 3, 2017 [6 favorites]

But alas I'd still need to take it out of that to get it through the ticket barriers (you basically feed it into the machine which reads it and spits it out again, so there's no way to leave it inside or attached to anything)

Could you write something like "REPLACE" or "WALLET" on it in permanent marker, so that you're essentially being reminded every time you take it back out of the machine?
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 8:56 AM on September 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

The times I am most likely to lose things are:

Disrupted habits
Distracted brain

Each can lead to the others and the combination of all three is especially dangerous.

So. Give yourself an extra ten minutes for your morning trip. Always. You can read a book on the platform, but a dropped transit card could cause you to miss your train. When returning home be ok with taking the later train. Do not rush to get the earlier train. Just don't, unless the thing you're rushing to is "worth" the cost of replacing the ticket.

I use a monthly metrocard when I can afford them. In order to not lose them, I always take the card out only in the station and I always put the card back as soon as I'm through the turnstile. It always goes in exactly the same wallet slot. Once I put it back I verify that it is where it belongs, all the way in, and secure. I don't leave the turnstile area until I'm certain that the card is where it belongs. To keep up this habit I do the same steps even when my metrocard is totally emptied after a trip.

(A brightly colored wallet can help with this if you have a purse that the wallet lives in. It's much more tempting to shove the card into a random outer or inner purse pocket if the wallet has sunk to the depths of a giant bag.)

And next year see if the math on buying 12 monthly passes is worth being less stressed out about the value of the yearly pass. You can store your 12 passes somewhere (I know, I'd put them somewhere so safe I'd forget about them) and re-up each month.
posted by bilabial at 8:58 AM on September 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

Make putting it back where it's supposed to go the path of least resistance. You say sometimes you slip it into the nearest of your bag - designate a bag pocket your ticket pocket.

I have zippered pockets on the outside of my purse. Metro pass lives in one of those. There are pins on this pocket so I can identify it by feel. It comes out, goes into the machine and then it's easier to slip it back into the still open pocket than put it anywhere else so that's where it goes even when I'm rushed and have my hands full and am juggling bags. If I'm really rushed and forget to rezip the pouch it's secure enough. Nothing else lives in that pocket so I don't have to worry about losing the ticket when accessing the pocket for someone else.
posted by platypus of the universe at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

What about attaching it to your belt with something like this retractable belt clip and a sleeve? This is how I carry my work badge, and I just extend it to scan it at the various checkpoints. When i'm done it just retracts to my hip and I dont even think about it at all. Im not sure if that will work for how your tickets are scanned though. Additionally, if you're super paranoid you could probably also attach a Tile to the clip as well.
posted by cgg at 9:07 AM on September 3, 2017

Give yourself more time so you're not galloping for the train, and put a reminder (or many) on your phone starting 5 minutes before the scheduled train arrival to replace your ticket in your wallet/lanyard.
posted by rtha at 9:14 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a vest with a few zippered pockets, I wear it whenever I'm going out, and there is a specific pocket with a zipper that never is used for anything except my transit card.
posted by geeklizzard at 9:24 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

You could also do this with a backpack - so for example my backpack has a special pocket for my work badge....It's crucial for me that it should zip since I am a bit careless and end up jumbling everything up.
posted by geeklizzard at 9:25 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I suggest, after choosing the One True Place you should always put the card back into, which is wherever makes the most practical sense, that you do your future self a favor and practice it at home. Actually do it over and over and over again, with all your stuff you usually have in your hands/on your shoulders/etc. Take it out, do the swiping motion for the turnstile. Practice the motion of putting that card back in its One True Place, long past the point where you feel ridiculous. Establish the muscle memory, so that you'll be able to do it while you're distracted.
posted by tomboko at 9:47 AM on September 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

I'm not sure what answer you're looking for. If you have to take it out of whatever it's in and insert it fully into the machine, there's no other answer than "put it back in something". A lanyard or a retractable belt clip are the best options. If it doesn't fit in a lanyard badge holder (for driver's licenses and things that suze), they make lanyard holders for passports that are slightly bigger. But really, if you already have a wallet, you should probably just use that. If your options are "put it in something I already have" and "put it in something I need to buy", just use what you have. There's nothing magical about a lanyard that will help you remember to use it.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:53 AM on September 3, 2017

Keep your wallet out while you are going through the turnstile.

Put it back in your wallet afterwards and your wallet back where it goes.

If you aren't prone to losing your wallet this should work because most ppl are freaky about losing their wallets and will therefore spend the time to put it away.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:11 AM on September 3, 2017 [10 favorites]

If you haven't already got one, the ticket desk at the train station will normally have a stack of railcard holders. Get one, give it a specific home in your bag/pocket/wherever. When you get to the station, find the holder, do the ticket business whilst still holding the holder, place the ticket back inside and keep it in your hand until you board and have (hopefully) a seat, then put it back.

I train commuted for ten years and I saw numerous people do this exact routine.
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:20 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

My Metrocard goes in a Tom Bihn Pocket Pouch that clips to a d-ring right at the top of my bag. Because it's open-top (the card fits in snugly and there are a couple of other cards in there, so not much risk of it falling out) and right there, it takes two seconds to slide it back in.

But really there's no magical solution here. You're prioritizing the wrong things on the platform if you want to hang onto this ticket. If you don't want to train yourself to pause briefly and slide the ticket back in the same exact place each time, which is something you can do through regular practice--your ignoring the ticket's location is also a habit you formed through repetition, you know--best not to re-up the ticket next time.
posted by praemunire at 10:21 AM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

As you approach the turnstile start singing this song to yourself (to the tune of Happy Birthday):

I'll put my train pass away
I'll put my train pass away
After I go through the turnstile
I'll put my train pass away"

posted by ewok_academy at 10:32 AM on September 3, 2017 [11 favorites]

If it is RFID, you can probably just keep it in your wallet.
posted by bizarrenacle at 10:50 AM on September 3, 2017

you basically feed it into the machine which reads it and spits it out again, so there's no way to leave it inside or attached to anything

It sounds like the physical setup of this train system prevents physical solutions like tethering the ticket to yourself. So that leaves behavioral solutions.

I'm usually so focused on getting to a train/getting through commuter crowds that I don't stop and don't think and I just shove my ticket in my pocket, between the pages of a book I'm carrying, in the nearest pocket of my bag, and so on, and totally forget about it until I'm on the train and a guard is checking tickets

This is great because you've identified the failure mode: you get distracted by the crowds or you hurry to catch a train, and you try to optimize by temporarily securing the ticket in a non-standard location.

ewok_academy's idea is a good one, and part of the point-and-call system used by Japanese rail operators to remind themselves of vital operations. Assuming this is some system where the turnstile sucks your ticket in and then pushes it back out at you, the three steps for point-and-call would be
  1. Look at where the ticket will emerge.
  2. Point at the ticket as it emerges.
  3. Say, "I must put that away."
And then, if it's possible, stand still and do that before you walk through the turnstile. Don't let people try to hurry you and don't hurry yourself. Make it a habit that you will not pass through the turnstile until you have secured your ticket.

If Londoners are anything like New Yorkers, they'll mostly figure out that it's faster for them to find another turnstile than to make you go through yours faster. A small handful will shout at you or push you. In my experience, this is actually helpful, not to them, but to you, because the stress of that interaction will create a more vivid memory of standing still and securing your ticket.

You mentioned putting your ticket into a book when you have a book in your hands. Force yourself to empty your hands of everything except the ticket and your wallet. This may require you to keep an empty shoulder bag on your person so you are prepared to carry more stuff without using your hands, or to put handheld bags on the ground while you operate the turnstile.

Also, have you mentioned your forgetfulness to a physician? Some forms of mild ADD manifest in adulthood as a pattern of misplacing things.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:05 AM on September 3, 2017

I'm not prone to losing things but YES any time a card is out of my wallet my open wallet remains in hand or on a counter until the cards are returned. (Generally waiting for my insurance card to be scanned or something.) just get in the habit of doing it with all cards and cash.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:34 AM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm prone to losing things myself. When using a subway pass my technique is:

1) While approaching the turnstile, remove my wallet from my purse. Hold wallet in left hand, get out pass with right hand.
2) Still holding wallet in left hand, use pass and go through the turnstile.
3) Return ticket to wallet
4) Return wallet to purse.

I lose things regularly to the point that I don't even allow myself to buy expensive jewelry, but I was able to make this a strong habit and I don't recall ever losing my pass. Decide on a technique that will work for you. You can practice with a cheaper ticket as suggested above, and you can also practice by visualizing yourself going through the turnstiles and returning your ticket to to the same pocket of your wallet. It might help to give yourself extra time for the first month or so, so that you can pause and center yourself and focus as you go through the turnstile.

You might also build in an extra step - once you are settled on the train, check your wallet and make sure your pass is in the right pocket. Say to yourself "My pass is in my wallet." (I can absentmindedly check something multiple times and forget the results, if I don't find a way to make myself focus on the action and make it memorable).
posted by bunderful at 12:37 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Have you checked whether your transit system has a means for registering the pass number? Where I live, you can go online and fill out a brief form claiming your card number, then you take a screenshot. If the card gets lost or stolen you just take that to a service counter and they give you a card back with the remaining fares on it.

Or maybe just take a photo of the card if it has a number, and save that yourself, so if it gets lost you can prove you had it and paid for it?
posted by zadcat at 2:02 PM on September 3, 2017

For me, my wallet is exactly the wrong place for my pass. Wallet pockets are too tight, too much to do/remember when I'm in a rushing crowd, too much in my hands, unnatural motions, don't want both my wallet and my precious transit pass exposed and vulnerable to the same jostling.

I keep the pass in a slip pocket in my bag and it's one fluid motion taking it out, swiping, and returning it. The pocket is at the top of the bag and is big enough to get my fingers in and remove the pass by feel. It's never fallen out and I've never lost it.
posted by kapers at 2:07 PM on September 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

My current transit card, regardless of whatever city I'm in at the moment, lives in in a luggage tag holder attached to my bag. Permanent and sole place that never has anything else in it but the currently applicable transit card. If I'm in a "swipe" city, I know exactly where the card is to pull it out automatically for swiping; if I'm in a "tap" city, I just lift the tag holder up with the pass inside and tap it.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 2:24 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

The only system that has helped me reduce the number of times I lose my work RFID badge is to get a phone case with a card pocket on the back.

I've found that I unconsciously take lanyards off, and weather is variable enough where I live that I can't rely on being able to have any one item of clothing that I wear every day. My phone is always much closer to hand than my wallet, and it's much less complicated to stick my badge in that pocket than it is to dig my wallet out from wherever I keep it, open it, and put things back in it.
posted by mrmurbles at 2:29 PM on September 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

This may be unhelpful depending on what clothes you tend to wear, but most of my pants have a watch pocket that snugly holds 1-4 credit card sized things. I keep my transit card there or in a similar extra pocket when wearing things that don't have a watch pocket.

That said, most people here use lanyards. I know it isn't as easy for you since you have to take the ticket out of the pouch, but I have seen people with ID holders on lanyards that have an extra pocket on one side that would give you a super easy and accessible storage spot.
posted by wierdo at 3:09 PM on September 3, 2017

I'm seconding the bag or special clothing item with a specific zip pocket. This is like shoving it into a book or random pocket except it is a specific one, every time. (Otherwise you will lose it. And having entire wallet out could lead to other disastrous situations.) Previous to doing this, I actually used to buy more expensive metrocards (NYC) for shorter periods of time due to fear of loss.
posted by bquarters at 3:57 PM on September 3, 2017

Yep, what everyone else has said. This is how I handled it before upgrading to a smartcard earlier this year:

If you have an annual season ticket, and it's on paper (well, thin card), then you have a photocard too, and you will most likely have been given a cardholder to keep them in - a flimsy plastic thing with two or three clear plastic sleeves in it. Step 1: Keep the ticket in that so that it's always with the photocard. (Over time, it will come apart. Replace it. People are always giving out promotional Oyster card holders, if one end of your journey happens to be in London.)

Step 2: The cardholder lives in a specific pocket of your bag. If your bag doesn't have a small zippered pocket suitable for secure storage of a ticket, get a new bag - it's cheaper than getting a new season ticket.

Step 3: The cardholder comes out of the bag as you approach the barrier. You have nothing else in your hands. You keep the holder in your left hand. Use your right hand to take out the ticket, put it through the gate, collect it again, walk through the gate (sadly, the suggestion that you put the ticket away first is a no-go, the gate will close again if you aren't quick enough), and put it back in the cardholder as you head for the train. You are now holding a cardholder, which is bigger and bulkier than a ticket alone, and - step 4 - you put that back in the designated pocket of the bag.

Step 5 is that when you get on the train (or just reach the platform, if the train's not there waiting), you check that the cardholder is in the pocket. If it's not there, you check other likely pockets, and if need be you get off the train again and retrace your steps to the ticket gate.

(Incidentally, it's likely that you'll need to replace the ticket before its renewal date anyway. Over the course of the year, you will most likely find that either the printing on the card fades to invisibility, which ticket inspectors will complain about, or the magnetic strip stops working. First Capital Connect used to advise that season tickets not be kept close to phones for the latter reason.)

Finally, when my line upgraded to "smart" ticketing (The Key), existing season ticket holders had the option of transferring their tickets straight away at no extra cost, rather than waiting for the renewal date; you may find the same is true on yours.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:02 PM on September 3, 2017

The best thing I've found is a phone case with room for a card. This one will work through the case so I never have to take it out (which is another great feature) and since I probably keep track of my phone more than anything else I don't really worry about losing it.

I greatly prefer this method to phone cases that are more like wallets because sometimes all I need is my phone, my Tap card, and possibly a debt card or $20 tucked inside, so you don't start messing with forgetting to put it back or take it out.

If you're the kind of person who always (mostly) knows where your phone is then you'll always know where your card is!
posted by Room 641-A at 4:50 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Anything preventing you from writing a name and phone number on it in sharpie? In case you drop it.
posted by tilde at 5:56 PM on September 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

People on cruises will punch a single hole through their pass / door key and then hang it on a lanyard. Is there space enough to punch a hole on your pass where it would not interfere with the area that needs to slide through / be read? You could punch it and add it to your work lanyard that way.
posted by vignettist at 8:17 PM on September 3, 2017

I lost my credit cards all the time. I have a lanyard and I used an ID hole punch to punch a hole in my credit cards and attach it. I look for a spot on the card that won't interrupt me using it. I then have a card with a lanyard on it and I haven't lost one yet. I've been known to walk around Target with my debit card around my neck when I have an outfit on without pockets.
posted by orsonet at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2017

Is there really a limit on the number of times you can replace your card?

Sadly, yes. There's a new and improved system coming in but it's not going to be possible for me to use that until next year's ticket.

The article you link to is three and a half years' old. As the article references the now-defunct First Capital Connect, I assume you are riding with Thameslink and Great Northern. According to their National Railway terms and conditions (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/46571.aspx),
Lost or stolen Season Tickets or photocards

If you lose your Season Ticket or it is stolen, report this immediately to the ticket office where you bought it. You should also report this to the police. If you or we cannot recover the lost or stolen ticket, we will then consider an application for a duplicate ticket, if the original was issued for a period of one month or more. We do not issue duplicates in respect of lost or stolen 7 Day Season Tickets. We may ask you or others for information. There is an administration charge when we issue a duplicate Season Ticket.
We will refund (with no administration charge) the cost of tickets you buy while you are waiting for the duplicate ticket to be issued, if you hand these tickets in.
If you lose your photocard or it is stolen, we can issue a new one, for which a further passport-type photograph is required. If we need to reissue your Season Ticket, an administration charge will be made.
Please refer to National Rail Conditions of Travel; Conditions 39.1-39.4 for further details
39. Duplicate Season Tickets
39.1 If you lose or mislay a Season Ticket valid for one month or longer, or it is stolen, the Train Company or Licenced Retailer from which it was purchased, will arrange for a duplicate Season Ticket to be issued provided that:
(a) you report the loss as soon as you reasonably can and, if required, you give a reasonable explanation for the loss (some Train Companies may ask you to complete a form explaining the reason for the loss);
(b) you agree to return the lost Season Ticket to the retailer immediately if it is subsequently found;
(c) you pay the Train Company or Licenced Retailer’s administration charge, which will not exceed £20.
39.2 If you subsequently lose or mislay your duplicate Season Ticket or it is stolen, then a further duplicate Season Ticket(s) can be issued on the same basis as your rst duplicate Season Ticket. However, you may be asked to attend
a meeting with the Train Company or Licenced Retailer concerned to
explain the circumstances in which your duplicate Season Ticket(s) was lost. Train Companies have agreed a Code of Practice for such meetings, a copy of which can be found in Appendix C.
39.3 If the loss of your duplicate Season Ticket is a result of a theft, robbery, re, or other exceptional circumstances which have been reported to the police, the re service or another appropriate organisation, you should be able to obtain con rmation of the circumstances from the relevant authorities, (e.g. a crime number from the police) and provide such con rmation to the Train Company or Licenced Retailer issuing you with a duplicate Season Ticket.
39.4 Train Companies reserve the right to refuse to issue duplicate Season Tickets if they have reasonable grounds to believe that such requests are being made fraudulently. (http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/Conditions%20of%20Travel%202016.pdf)
I do not see a limit to how many times you can replace your card, unless fraudulent activity is suspected.
posted by standardasparagus at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2017

No not Thameslink, yes train operators can refuse to issue replacement tickets if they consider you've lost it more than a 'reasonable' number of times, and yes I've checked this with the train company in question. (Tickets are very low-tech and can't be deactivated remotely - for the same reason, just having proof that I've bought it won't count.) I appreciate this is not a great system, belieeeeeve me, but it's the one I need to deal with.

Thanks for all suggestions. It's currently sitting in a clear pocket in my wallet, and I'm trying to mentally enforce that this is where it 'lives' as soon as it's emerged from the barrier reader.
posted by Catseye at 5:26 PM on September 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

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