If your wallet is bulging, disorganized, or often misplaced, there’s a new solution: digital wallets.
Digital wallets are smartphone apps that replace some or all the functions of a regular wallet. They allow you to pay for in-store purchases without cash and make checking out with credit and debit faster and easier.
Here’s why you should carry a digital wallet followed by several app options to check out.
Why use a digital wallet?
A digital wallet adds handy functionality and convenience while eliminating the bulk and chaos of a normal wallet.
Digital wallets make checking out at the register fast and easy. They allow you to store credit card information on your phone. Thanks to near-field communication (NFC) technology available on many phones, you just need to hold your phone at checkout kiosks to pay. Some apps, like Square, are developing even easier ways to pay where you don’t need to pull out your phone at all.
Most digital wallet apps are free to download and use without extra fees. Just like with credit cards, merchants typically pick up the tab for transaction costs.
In addition to credit cards, digital wallets hold information for many others things you’d normally have to tote around, including:
- Public transportation passes
- Gift cards
- Store membership cards
- Concert tickets
- Airline boarding passes
Digital wallets can be more secure than a physical wallet. If you lose your real wallet, credit cards, IDs, and other financial information is gone and potentially in the hands of thieves. This problem is eliminated with digital wallets, which keep a copy of all your financial documents. Digital wallets store this information securely, and many can be deactivated remotely if your smartphone is lost.
Digital wallets aren’t accepted everywhere yet, but they’re becoming more and more common. Phone compatibility restricts their use somewhat, too, as not all smartphone have NFC technology.
For now, you’ll be limited to merchants that accept your particular wallet of choice. The good news is just about every smartphone can take advantage of some form of digital wallet even with fewer features available.
Popular digital wallets
Digital wallets offer a variety of unique features. Here are a few digital wallet applications to keep in your pocket.
Google Wallet can be used to store credit card information for faster checkout. While the mobile feature is handy for in-store purchases, Google Wallet works from your computer for online checkout, too.
Google Wallet secures your credit card information in the cloud, and allows you to remotely deactivate the smartphone app if your phone is lost or stolen.
Square Wallet links with the popular Square payment system that many stores now use.
One neat feature: “hands-free” checkout. Turn the hands-free option on, and give your name to the cashier. Your photo will pop up for him and her to verify, and your linked payment method will be charged automatically.
Square Wallet comes with a built-in rewards, too. A digital punch card tracks visits, and merchants can reward you for your loyalty.
Lemon Wallet users can take picture of all their cards, a handy feature if your real wallet is lost or stolen and cards and identification needs to be replaced or canceled to prevent fraud.
Lemon Wallet also syncs with credit card accounts, making it easy to check balances all in once place.
Passbook by Apple lets you keep track of almost anything with a barcode. Store cards, passes, and coupons as well as tickets for flights, concerts, movie theaters, and more instead of fumbling with paper printouts.
Users can add different passes to Passbook using compatible iOS apps, email messages, and directly from retailer websites.
If you already use PayPal for online transactions, the PayPal mobile app can make sending and receiving money even more convenient. With PayPal, you can send money to friends and family on the spot.
PayPal is currently rolling out a mobile payment feature as well.
Isis contains many similar features for making purchases at select merchants that accept the service. When you sign up for Isis, you’ll get an Isis Cash card preloaded with $10 when you activate your Isis Wallet. You can earn another $15 when you make your Isis card reloadable.
Isis is currently accepted at hundreds of merchants in Salt Lake City and Austin.
LevelUp features different technology than other digital wallets on this list. It works with any iPhone or Android phone. Users pay by displaying a LevelUp Code on their smartphone screen and scanning it at the merchant’s checkout.
LevelUp users can get bonus credit to spend at merchants, too.
For more money-related apps, see our post on apps for improving your credit score.