Mobile wallets are gaining in popularity, so do you still need a nice leather wallet? You already carry your phone around with you. Why carry both your wallet and your phone?
Despite the convenience of a mobile wallet, we think you’ll still need a physical wallet for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use mobile wallets though. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the technology as it stands.
A mobile wallet is an app for your phone. We’ll discuss some of the most popular choices below. When you download the app onto your phone, you can then enter the information on your card into the app. You can store information for all of your cards. When you want to use the app to pay for something, you open it on your phone, select which card you want to use, and then hold your phone over the card reader. Easy-peasy.
Security. The risk of using a traditional wallet is that it can be lost or stolen. When that happens, your cash is gone, and someone can use your cards to rack up charges. With modern cards, people can also remotely scan the information on your cards using RFID technology. The scanner can read your card through your clothing and through your wallet without you being any the wiser until you see unauthorized purchases showing up on your statement. It’s a hassle performing all the steps you should take when you lose your walletto cancel cards, wait for new ones, and dispute charges.
Your cell phone can also be lost or stolen, but if you’ve locked your phone, your mobile wallet app won’t allow anyone to transfer the funds out of your account or make purchases unless they also know your password or have a copy of your fingerprint. There’s that added bit of security provided by the phone itself.
You also won’t need to cancel any cards. Simply download the app on your phone and sign back into your mobile wallet. Your information will still be there with no threat of anyone else taking advantage of your stored information.
Slimming Your Wallet. When you use a mobile wallet, you can reduce the contents of your physical wallet. As we’ll see, you might not want to remove all of the credit and bank cards from your wallet, but you can certainly reduce your physical payment methods down to one. If you have specially-issued store credit cards, add them to your app and carry only one general credit or debit card.
When you take a couple of payment methods out of your wallet, you’ll find it easier to adopt a smaller wallet, such as a money clip card holder wallet that can fit comfortably in your front pocket without showing a bulge.
Unfortunately, there’s not one app you can use for all of your payments. Let’s look at a few of the most popular mobile wallets and see how useful they really are.
PayPal. While you don’t need an app to access your PayPal account, it does make it a little easier when you’re on your phone. You can use it just like you do the web version to send money to someone via their email address or cell number as long as they also have a PayPal account. Many businesses accept online payments via PayPal, but it doesn’t work for paying a business in person.
Venmo. Similar to PayPal, you can use Venmo to send money to people using their email address, phone number, or Facebook account. The downside is that you need to have at least one of those pieces of information to use the app and the person needs to have a Venmo account themselves to receive the money. You might be able to use it to pay personal vendors or artisans, but it’s not an app you’ll be able to use in a store or to pay a business online.
Google Pay. Of course, Google lets you do it all. Use it in stores who use the service, online, or between friends. You can even send money to people who don’t use Google Pay as long as you know their email address or phone number.
Apple Pay. Not to be left out, Apple has its own mobile wallet app. You can pay in stores with a swipe over the card reader, pay online, or send money to your contacts. In line with the company’s normal exclusivity, though, you need to have an Apple device to use it.
Samsung Pay. If you have an Android phone, you can use Samsung Pay. It’s great for in-store use because even if the merchant doesn’t accept mobile wallet payments, you can use it to “swipe” a card. The Magnetic Secure Transmission works just like a physical card except you don’t actually have to run it through a card reader. Simply hold it next to the reader and watch it work. You can load all of your cards into the app, even gift cards, but you can’t send money to personal contacts using this option.
Gyft. And speaking of gift cards, Gyft is a mobile wallet designed specifically for carrying your gift card balances. You can use your gift cards in stores or online using only the app, or you can send gift cards to other users.
There are many benefits to using these apps, but which one should you choose? Do you want to use more than one? Do you want one for sending money to friends and one for paying in stores?
Do you really want to upload gift card balances? You use the card once or twice and then it’s empty. Why not store it in your physical wallet and throw it away when you’re done with it?
And what about everything else you put in your wallet? Do you want to use a separate app for coupons? For your bus or subway pass?
We agree that apps are useful, but it gets unwieldy to manage more than a couple. Sometimes, pulling a physical card out of your physical wallet is easier than entering the information into an app and then opening the app every time you want to use that account.
Besides not being able to have one app that does it all, there are some things that no app does. States don’t issue driver’s licenses or IDs digitally. The police can compare your physical ID to what’s in the digital database, but you still need to have your ID with you.
Stores and restaurants won’t look at an ID app to verify whether you’re old enough to buy a beer. That would be too easy to fake, and they can be fined for not properly verifying your age. They’re not going to take the risk.
So, you’ll always need a wallet to carry your ID unless sweeping changes are made to the country’s law system.
Even if you do have a couple of different payment apps, there’s no guarantee that the store you want to go or the street vendor that you want to buy from will accept mobile wallet transactions. Some businesses still don’t accept credit cards! It costs a little bit of money to use credit cards, and it will cost businesses to accept mobile wallet payments. Some very traditional or expense-minded businesses might not take anything except cash.
Since paper money is the only universal payment system, it pays to keep some in your wallet.
I’ve been in stores when the electricity has gone out, or the card readers have gone down for some reason. Technology is great when it works, but it might not be the only thing you want to depend on.
Besides an error or interruption in service occurring in the store, what happens if your mobile wallet’s servers go down? What happens if you’re not in an area with Wi-Fi or data access?
In those cases, simply pull out your trusty wallet and pay in old-fashioned bills while everyone else is stuck waiting.
Now, let’s revisit the question of security. We wrote earlier that if someone steals your phone, they can’t access your mobile wallet because you’ve presumably programmed a password into your phone. But that doesn’t prevent them from going through the app itself. We’ve all heard of banks, stores, and financial institutions being hacked. Just like someone can hack into your credit company, they can hack into the mobile wallet’s server and access your information. Your mobile wallet will be safer from pick-pockets and opportunistic thieves, but not from more sophisticated villains.
The only method of payment that can’t be hacked is the physical money that you personally keep. Of course, you don’t want to keep all of your money in physical form, but we do recommend maintaining a variety of payment methods. Use a mobile wallet app for convenience, but also keep at least one credit card and some cash on you at all times.
Mobile wallet apps can be handy for lightening the load in your wallet, but they can’t replace your wallet. At least, not yet. No one app is guaranteed to meet all of your needs, and no one app can guarantee never to have a technological hiccup. You’ll still need to carry your IDs on you, and it’s a good idea to keep a little cash in your wallet for those times when you can’t use your mobile wallet. You might be able to put less in your wallet than you used to, but you’ll still need one.
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