There could be a time soon when carrying your wallet – the one you actually keep in your pocket or purse – is a thing of the past. That time is actually here now, and some digital wallet apps are close to making it practical for you to stop carrying cash altogether.
If you dream about a streamlined, digital existence and a totally cashless society, though, we are not quite there yet. But mobile payment technology is primed to drive commerce thanks to the next big thing in tech.
Thanks to a little something called near-field communication (NFC), your smartphone can be enabled via a hardware chip to wirelessly communicate with another NFC device in a store to make transactions. A digital wallet app on your phone stores your payment and loyalty card information, all of which is encrypted. Simply put, when you tap your phone against an NFC receiver in a store, behind the scenes computers will charge your credit card, debit from your bank account, refund a return, or complete any other transaction.
Before we get to full-fledged implementation, there are hurdles – such as security issues, among others – to hash out. And, conceptually, other technologies such as digital currency – with Bitcoin being the most well-known – on the horizon that could alter the future of digital commerce.
For now, here is a look at several of the digital wallet apps:
Google Wallet This robust system allows you to link a credit, debit or loyalty card to your Google account for both in-store and online shopping, simply by waving your phone.
Apple’s Passbook Relies on a barcodes to help you manage your loyalty cards, coupons, movie tickets and boarding passes for selected merchants. You can’t link to cards for in-store purchases, but you will get location and time-based discounts.
PayPal Allows you to send money to friends, family or merchant accounts and view past transaction history. The PayPal app also allows you to make your smartphone a swipe machine for credit cards.
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