The evolution of the smartphone has changed how we do pretty much everything. From communicating to banking, the technology makes everyday tasks easier and eliminates clutter along the way. A mobile wallet is one of the newer evolutions that eliminate the need to carry a bulky billfold in your purse or back pocket. With this innovation, you have access to all of your credit cards, bank accounts, loyalty club memberships, and rewards cards right on your device.
You can upgrade your banking system by installing a mobile wallet app on your phone. There are dozens to choose from, ranging from device-specific versions for Apple or Android to ones developed by banking institutions like Wells Fargo. Each has different capabilities, but they will all get you organized.
Before you decide which is best for you, we will review a few things you need to know about mobile wallets. We’ll discuss how they work, some upsides of using the technology, common security concerns, and then we’ll give you a rundown on some of the most popular apps available.
What is a Mobile Wallet and How Does It Work?
Mobile wallets store all of your financial information in one safe and secure place. They work through a mobile app that aggregates all of this data for you and then makes it available when you pay at retailers or online.
Once you download the app, you’ll need to input all of the card information you want to store. This could include credit and debit card numbers, rewards cards, checking or savings account info, and any loyalty programs you belong to. After this one-time data entry, the info will be stored for whenever you need it.
At check out, you can access the info one of two ways.
- Choose your app and select the card you want to pay with when you’re shopping online.
- In stores, tap your phone to enable the app and make a digital payment at participating merchants and terminals.
Are Mobile Wallets Secure?
It’s normal to be concerned about the security of your financial information online. Luckily, mobile wallets use encryption technologies like tokenization or two-step authentication (or sometimes both), making them one of the safest means of storing your data.
In fact, the app security combined with phone protection features like needing a fingerprint or passcode to unlock your screen could make mobile wallets a safer alternative to carrying cards and cash with you.
Even if your phone is lost or stolen, it’s unlikely someone other than you will be able to gain access to that information. You can take it a step further by installing a secondary app that will locate your phone, or one to remotely wipe the data so a thief won’t see any sensitive information if they can hack into the system.
Pros of Using a Mobile Wallet
In addition to the enhanced security features, there are a few other notable upsides to switching to a mobile wallet. They include:
- No need to carry a fat wallet around that weighs down your purse or wears out the pocket of your favorite pants.
- Quick accessibility to pay at most major retailers.
- No worry of losing or misplacing credit cards or checks.
- Faster transaction times.
How to Pick the Best App for You
In terms of performance, most of the leading mobile apps do the same things in similar ways. Choosing the best one for you depends more on your personal preference, the flow of the screens and how the app works, and the type of device you have.
Here we’re going to briefly review eight of the top mobile wallet apps available to help you decide.
Isis Mobile Wallet (Android Pay)
What’s now known as Android Pay began back in 2010 as Isis Mobile Wallet. The joint venture between cellular powerhouses AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon was an app available for NFC-compatible smartphones that use either the Android or Windows Phone operating systems.
Today, Google owns the intellectual property that was Isis Mobile Wallet and has used it as a basis to create the Android Pay system.
Android Pay is, predictably, for use on all Android phones, tablets, and watches. You can add information from all credit cards, debit cards from major banks, loyalty, and gift cards. The app works in-store, online, and in conjunction with other apps on your phone to simplify the check-out process.
One nice feature of the app is that you can use it for in-store purchases without having to actually click on the app and wait for it to load. As long as your phone is unlocked, you can just hold your phone under the scanner, and it will recognize the info automatically.
Google Wallet gives you everything you expect from a mobile wallet app, plus a little extra. In addition to streamlining your purchases, you can also send or request money to anyone, anywhere with just their email address or phone number.
This is a great feature if, for example, you’re going in on a gift for someone with a group of people and need to collect the funds all in one place. You can also program the app to automatically send any monies you receive directly to your bank account, rather than leave them stored in the app.
Apple Passbook is an app that automatically comes with all Apple devices. It’s a robust version of a mobile wallet app that includes all of the quick payment storage and features you should expect from this technology through Apple Wallet.
Where Apple Passbook stands apart from other apps is in the additional information it stores. Not only can you quickly access your financial info, but you can configure the app to store things like movie tickets, airline tickets, and coupons at your favorite retailers.
Once you store the information, the app will automatically display it when the time is right. For example, when you arrive at the airport, you’ll get a push notification that takes you directly to your ticket or boarding pass. If you’re in the check-out line at Walgreens, the app will show you coupons you have stored to use on your purchase.
For use on Samsung devices, Samsung Pay is a robust mobile wallet app that stores all major credit card data, and information from over 1,000 banking institutions worldwide. Like others in this category, it also saves rewards and loyalty card information, and can even store membership data. You can access the info on anything with a barcode through this app.
Also, Samsung Pay comes with its own rewards card. Every purchase you make using the app will earn you points, and they frequently run promotions where you receive extra points or get instant rewards. The more you spend in-app, the more rewards you reap per purchase.
The Wells Fargo Wallet is an app for Android devices that are included as part of the Wells Fargo Mobile App. The best part of this app and most others from major credit cards or financial institutions is that your information is already uploaded when you create the account.
If you bank with Wells Fargo, when you sign into the app all of your eligible credit and debit cards will automatically appear. From there, you simply choose your default payment method, and you’re ready to shop and earn rewards points through their program.
One drawback of apps like this is that the functionality is limited to one financial institution. If for example, you also have accounts at Chase or Bank of America, they won’t integrate with the Wells Fargo app.
If you’re a business or someone who needs the ability to take lots of payments for goods and services, Square is an excellent mobile wallet option. The app is an entirely secure payment processing service that accepts all major credit cards.
As the user, you pay a flat fee per transaction, and the funds are automatically deposited into the bank account you configure within one to two business days.
Square accepts credit card swipes, all major mobile wallet software, or you can manually key in transactions if needed.
You can optionally purchase their hardware, like scanners and chip readers that plug into your smartphone or tablet, to make it even easier to capture data in-person from your customers.
The Chirpify wallet is available to use on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. For example, when you see paid ads on Instagram with the “Shop Now” button, Chirpify could be how you pay for your purchase.
You can link it directly to your PayPal account, or store credit cards directly in the app. It’s compatible with both IOS and Android devices and is a good choice if you make a lot of purchases through social media.
The company is undergoing changes and expanding its platform for businesses, giving them additional marketing capabilities to end users. Part of this process includes offering rewards for specific behaviors and interactions online.
As a user, this means you’re likely to see rewards, coupons, and discount codes from your favorite participating retailers in the future. As this app continues to evolve, it could be a way to save big on purchases made through social media platforms.
Venmo is a free mobile wallet that’s perfect for sending and receiving money from friends and family or making purchases online or in an app. It can store your credit cards and bank info, and will automatically transfer funds you receive to your bank account.
While it’s a good choice for online shopping, you can’t use Venmo at physical in-store locations just yet, so it’s not the best choice if you want a mobile wallet that works at retailers.
The Bottom Line
Many mobile wallets offer similar features and functionality. The best one for you will depend on the type of device you have and how you plan to use it. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll love the streamlined process and having all of your info in one place.