Apple Pay, Smart Wallets, and the Missing $100

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eHow Tech Blog

mobile-pay-vsLike many people, I am notorious for quickly leaving the house only to return minutes later because I forgot something.  Now I have a checklist. Wallet? Check! Phone? Check? Keys? Check?

In an effort to reduce my checklist from three to two, I got a phone case that doubles as a wallet. These seem like a great idea, but I find that you actually end up having a wallet that’s too small, or a phone case that’s too big. I have the former, which only holds three cards, so I end up carrying loose cash in my pocket.  Bad idea – stay tuned!

Am I Forgetting SomethingThe obvious slam dunk is having all your cards digitally stored on your phone or mobile device. Simple idea, but hard to execute. How do you scan in your cards? How do you access them?  And most importantly, is it secure? Let’s see how a few companies have solved the puzzle.

There are two basic approaches. The smart wallet, which is a standalone device, and the mobile pay app you can put on your phone.

The smart wallet is a great device…if it were 1990!  I mean really?!  Sure, it’s smaller, but why create another gadget for us to remember not to forget? This may partly explain why the two leading smart wallet companies, Wocket and Coin, have repeatedly delayed the release of their device.

Smart wallets digitally store your credit cards, debits cards and such on a device about the size of one credit card. It’s like a digital credit card Rolodex.

There’s a small display and toggle buttons. Enter your PIN, select your card, and either swipe or scan to pay. The upside is that it uses current credit card payment technology so any merchant that accepts credit cards will accept the smart wallet.  But, I think it’s a transitional solution at best. Why make a physical smart wallet to hold virtual cards, when you can make a virtual smart wallet to hold your virtual cards?

For me, mobile pay apps like, Google WalletLemon Wallet and Apple Pay, are better. Download a compatible mobile pay app to your smart phone, input your cards and you’re set. Many stores accept payment via mobile pay apps and best of all, you don’t even have to swipe anything. Open the mobile pay app, select the card for payment, verify with fingerprint scan or PIN and your payment is wirelessly sent to the merchant using Near Field Communication.  Think of NFC as Bluetooth’s cousin.  Bluetooth is to music and phone calls what NFC is to wireless payments.  

Although mobile pay is slick, not all merchants are on board. It’s changing very quickly though as more banks and larger companies are championing the technology.

As is so often the case, advances in convenience come before the security measures that protect us.  How could early man know the need for fire mitts before the discovery of fire?

Quest for Fire

I don’t want to be at risk with questionable security of mobile pay or smart wallet, but my current phone-wallet combo is too limited. The other day I had five $20 bills in my pocket and an hour later they were gone!  It took me the whole day to forgive myself.  Want to know what helped? I closed my eyes and imagined the expression on the face of the person who looked down on the ground and found $100.  I bet it really made their day!

Image credit: Jonathan Grossman

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