How To Foil Pickpockets With The Best Travel Money Belt

A good travel money belt is a great way to keep your belongings and cash safe, and sometimes you need more than a purse. Here are the best money belts, based on price, comfort and effectiveness.

Many years ago I arrived in Beijing with a brand new passport, thrilled that its new number was easy to memorize.

In my carefree ignorance I stored my passport (and my money) in my daypack, which I confidently slung across my back like a DIY money belt… until I entered a pastry shop and noticed my daypack was wide open – and empty! 

Never again.

After a stern scolding from my embassy, I went out and purchased the best travel money belt money could buy. This article is the result: it lays out everything you need to know about keeping your money safe when you travel.

Travel is no place for anything you aren’t prepared to lose, because it could happen. But some things can’t be left at home.

So how do you protect your ID documents and cash from pickpockets in Paris, London, and other major tourist cities?

First, what is a money belt, exactly?

After my Beijing debacle, I learned my lesson and when I traveled across Africa overland, the single most important item I owned was my waist money belt, also known as a hidden travel money pouch, cash belt, passport belt, safety wallet or even a hidden waist wallet.

It isn’t really a belt at all (although these do exist, usually for men, in leather and with a zipper). Rather, it is a slim envelope-like pouch worn flat around your waist.

It’s actually a hidden money belt for travel, worn under your clothes, where no one but yourself can see it, and it will be one of your most important travel accessories.

4 different travel money belts for women
My women’s money belt collection – part of it, in any case. I definitely have too many of these! @WOTR

Money belt reviews: my top recommendations

There are plenty of belts on the market but frankly, of the ones I’ve tried, these two are the best travel money belts money can buy.

Why do women need a money belt for travel?

So yes, I use money belts for travel and no, they’re not for everyone. Here are both sides of the argument.

Pros of using a money belt

✅  No matter what anyone says, this is still one of the best ways to keep your valuables safe
✅  It’s out of sight, so harder for thieves to access
✅  It keeps your money, passport, and credit cards safer than your pocket or some most anti theft bags – and it keeps everything in a single place
✅  A ladies money belt prevents such common theft as grab-and-run
✅  Those who find it comfortable can just forget they’re wearing it
✅  It’s an inexpensive way to keep your things safe
✅  A female money belt is light and doesn’t weigh you down
✅  Some are waterproof, and keeping your papers dry is essential (though you can easily wrap your valuables in a small plastic bag)
✅  The RFID function on some belts helps prevent identity theft
✅  A money belt is a cheap insurance policy – low-cost, simple yet effective

And the cons of a money belt

❌  Some people consider the traveling money belt old-fashioned and would rather have something a bit more modern and stylish
❌  Depending on which one you choose, they can be damp and smelly if you wear them for a long time in the heat
❌  It’s not always easy to access, especially if you need your money in a hurry (which is why you should always keep a little bit of cash separately)
❌  It can look bulky if you fill it up too much
❌  You have limited space – great for little things but anything larger than a phone – and I don’t even recommend that – makes it too big for comfort
❌  It’s not really a secret because thieves tend to know where to look. That said, they may know where it is but are going to have a hard time getting to it!
❌  It can be downright uncomfortable if your silhouette is less than lithe – I’m a bit overweight and I have to choose my belts carefully (the ones I recommend above all provide a great fit but some other brands may have thin straps that can cut into your skin) 

Criteria: the best money belt for international travel

Each of us is built differently – and travels differently. So before you buy, here are some factors you should consider in your search for the best travel money belt.


The best travel money pouches or belts are made of a mix of lightweight cotton and synthetics, with a moisture-proof back. If it’s not moisture-proof, just wrap all your valuables into a zip lock bag before putting them inside your belt)

Some of the newest models have an anti-microbial back to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause odor or mildew.

If you only wear your traveller’s money belt for a few hours, you can afford to get a little sweaty. But if you plan on wearing it all day, that’s a different story.


Most belts have a main pouch for your passport and cards, and one or two smaller pouches for other cards and papers.

A waist money belt breathes because of the cotton, and dries quickly because of the nylon. It has a wide and adjustable elastic waistband, which I consider most important for comfort.

You might be willing to put up with a bit of discomfort to keep your things safe, but if there’s a constant rub on some part of the belt, you’ll end up not wearing it. Remember, hot, humid climates might mean chafing.

Consider a lightweight money belt if you worry about carrying something noticeable around your waist.


It is relatively easy to access and usually large enough to hold a passport and other valuables. As long as you wear it low, it should be easy to disguise the fact that you’re wearing it. Halfway up your midriff means it will show.

Let’s be clear, though: thieves know when you’re wearing a money belt. Mostly, the risk of being caught trying to reach it is too high for them so they move on to easier pickings (like bum bags or a fanny pack).

If you happen to be traveling with a backpack, your money belt will be almost inaccessible to pickpockets because of the backpack over it.

If you’re carrying several credit cards, you’ll probably want some RFID technology to keep thieves from absconding with your identity. RFID keeps electronic devices from being able to read the smart chip on your cards – your credit cards, for example. It may not be foolproof and it doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it helps and I’m happier with this protection than without it.


What size are you? Money belts are fine for women who have relatively flat stomachs but as one who does not, I can only wear certain types of belt. Look for a slim money belt that is light and flat. I’m also not aware of any plus-size money belt. I’ve seen a few advertised but upon research, the pouch itself was large and that to my mind does not constitute a money belt adapted to a larger size woman.

Conversely, a small money belt maydoes not necessarily have a small circumference it may simply mean that the travel waist pouch part – the container for your valuables – is smaller than average. That’s fine, but you do need to be able to fit your necessities into it (your passport, credit cards, and possibly keys)…


What do you plan to carry in it? If it’s your passport, some bills and a few cards, you’ll be fine with a money belt. If you want to carry more, consider an anti-theft travel bag.


What kind of clothes do you wear? If you’re used to tight-fitting tops, the contours of your money belt will be perfectly visible – and perhaps a bit tempting. You might prefer one of the newer flat running belts, like the Eazy Mate.

What you’re really looking for is a discreet travel pouch that sits well against your body, not something that catches the eye and grabs a thief’s attention.


How long should it last? If you’re only going to use your belt for a quick trip to Marrakesh, that’s one thing. But if you plan to wear it across Asia for a year, you’ll need an altogether different level of quality.

And a piece of advice – don’t buy a flimsy one with poor buckles and zippers – it’s not the kind of thing you can pick up that easily outside an airport and once it’s broken, it’s gone.

Types of money belts

A few more items may qualify as money belts so they are worth a mention – but in my opinion, not appropriate for general travel.

  • I’ve often had questions about a women’s leather money belt, but I haven’t had much luck. This item, which is an actual belt with a zipper on the inside, is traditionally made for men but that shouldn’t stop you from wearing one if you like wearing belts I tend not to recommend tight belts because they’re not as comfortable for travel and also, to use these belts, you’ll have to fold your money tightly and believe it or not, some countries will not accept anything other than crisp, flat new bills. You’ll need belt loops, which you won’t find on skirts and many shorts. It might also chafe if your backpack’s hip belt rubs against it. I’d leave this one to the guys…
  • I also haven’t had too much luck with cute money belts, because my primary concern here is safety, not fashion. I really couldn’t recommend you wear a high-fashion designer money belt. It screams ‘I’m rich, mug me!’ and is designed to be seen, not hidden under your clothes. That defeats the purpose.
  • One that falls in-between is the waterproof money belt, which is mostly meant for water sports – some customers report using them for swimming and snorkeling, with great results. And while I’m sure this item works perfectly, I’m a chicken, and simply wouldn’t have the courage to take my iPhone under the water!

Money belt alternatives to hide money when traveling

If you’re still not convinced about money belts for women, no fears. There are plenty of alternatives to traditional money belts. Here are just a few.

Cross-body anti-theft purse

This may well be my favorite alternative. If I don’t wear some kind of traveling belt, I’ll be wearing one of these immensely practical bags. My favorite is the Pacsafe series, and I have THREE of them in various sizes and shapes. They lock well, are incredibly hard to get into for thieves, and are comfortable to wear. Find out about anti-theft purses here.

Travel pants with zippered pockets

This is another favorite of mine, especially if I’m in more natural and less urban surroundings, for example on a photo safari or hiking in a national park, where the last thing you want is a bag over your shoulder. If for some reason you don’t want to wear a money belt when hiking, these Clothing Arts pants for Women (which I have and love) are comfortable, they look good and are in my opinion the best anti-theft pants around.

Hidden travel pouch or infinity scarf

This is THE solution if you’re going out, want to keep your hands free, and only need a secret stash compartment no one will suspect, a sort of women’s money pouch that looks like a scarf.

Wait – it IS a scarf! I love these scarves with a zippered pocket and have three in varying colors and materials. You can’t stuff them full because they’ll pull on your neck but you can easily fit in a few bills, credit cards and your passport – and then forget all about them. Find out more about the perfect secret pocket scarf here.

Money travel vest

This, I’ll admit, is one of my favorite bits of travel kit. It’s a lightweight vest (here’s the one I have) that comes with tons of pockets. That makes it nearly impossible for a pickpocket to find what s/he is looking for, especially if you place your valuables into one of the particularly well-hidden inside pockets. It also happens to look really nice one. One word of warning: they size small, so order a size larger than you usually would! And one more thing – if you’re flying on a discount airline that won’t let you bring an extra bag on the plane, just stuff the pockets. It’s like a stylish money bag – except you’re wearing it.

Even more money belt options

If you’re still not satisfied with these choices, don’t worry – there are more options to conceal your money.

  • You can always fall back on the venerable safety pin! That’s right – just pin a little cloth pouch on the inside of your clothes. I don’t like this because I’ve been stabbed by a pin and it’s painful. But if your pins are better behaved you might find this useful.
  • You can use a bra stash, which is a small secret pouch you can attach to your bra. These tend to be smallish and can comfortably contain a few credit cards, a bill or two, but little more.
  • Another option is the travel neck wallet, which is roomier than a bra pouch and hangs around your neck. The best travel neck wallet will allow you to carry your passport and a few other valuables without being noticed. All you do is slip it under your blouse, which makes it both accessible and hidden.
  • Other travel wallet options include the lacy leg wallet, the ankle wallet, and the wrist wallet. I think their names are self-explanatory and you might want to take a look at them.
  • There’s always something new coming out, like underwear with built-in pockets called Clever Travel Companion and a lightweight fitted waistband called Dovetail Travel in Peace, both of which can also carry your papers and money but neither of which I’ve tried. If you’re undecided, just check out the Amazon listings and see if there’s a sale!

Whatever you decide, your pocket or backpack or daypack are NOT the place to keep your wealth.

9 Money belt safety tips

  1. Never open your money travel belt in public. If you must delve into your money belt, go to the ladies’ room or other private place.
  2. And again, a lesson on how to wear a money belt for travelling: do NOT wear your travel belt outside your clothes – yes, I’ve seen this. It’s like putting a strobe light on your cash and yelling “Free money, come and get it!” It’s a hidden money pouch or belt – an under clothing money belt. 
  3. Another piece of advice on how to hide cash while traveling: don’t keep all your money in your money belt. Carry enough cash for the day in your bag so you don’t have to keep dipping into your secret stash. If you lose your money, you won’t lose all of it. Consider carrying an old decoy purse you can hand over if it ever becomes necessary.
  4. Always wear your money belt – especially when you sleep near other people, in hostel dorms or on public transport. Don’t leave it ‘safely’ in your backpack overnight and check often that it’s there. Keep your belt within sight in the shower (but keep it away from the water unless you choose one of the best waterproof money belts).
  5. Always put your money into your travel money belt before you leave the bank or post office.
  6. Your money belt is for money, cards, important phone numbers and passport. Any jewelry or other valuables should be left at home (except for a photocopy of your papers, which should be placed in your backpack or suitcase).
  7. And its follow-up: Don’t keep photocopies of your important papers in your money belt IF THE ORIGINALS ARE IN THERE TOO. If you should lose your belt, you’ll also lose your vital information. Always keep them separate.
  8. Don’t take your money belt off and stow it in your day pack if you get tired of wearing it. Yes – some people do that! 
  9. Beware of crowds. The likeliest places to be pickpocketed are those with plenty of people – buses, subways, festivals, concerts… any situation with crowds. (Speaking from experience here!)

Simple caution usually works better than anything else.

Investing in the best money belt for travel will give you peace of mind, but nothing is 100% safe and the more attentive you are, the safer your stuff will be. If you lose something, your travel insurance may cover it in part – but it won’t replace the cash someone else is busy spending.

Why would you travel without a travel money belt or travel wallet? Pin
Protect your cash and papers with a travel money security belt - pin
Avoid theft travel and pickpockets by using a travel money belt - pin

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