We haven’t quite moved to being a completely cashless society just yet, but it’s oftentimes true that you can get by with just a credit card or a debit card. Maybe your town has one of those “tap” style metro passes like the Octopus card in Hong Kong or the upcoming Compass card in Vancouver. Even so, you’re still stuck holding on to a conventional wallet to hold those cards. There has to be a better way.
And that’s where your smartphone can come into the picture. One of these days, in the not so distant future, you’ll be able to leave both your wallet and your keys at home, because everything will be able to work through your favorite mobile device. Until we get to that day, you can check out the assortment of Android apps available that can effectively replace your wallet…or at least several of the cards in it.
We’ve been using PayPal to send and receive money on the Internet for a number of years now. It really gained in popularity thanks to eBay adopting it as its official preferred payment method. It’s just as easy to send and request money on your Android phone using the corresponding PayPal app. It’s free to send money when you use your bank or balance as a funding source. Thanks to the slowly creeping rise of PayPal Here, you can even pay for things in participating brick-and-mortar retail stores using your smartphone too.
At first, I thought it was kind of silly to effectively load up a gift card so I can go buy coffee. Why wouldn’t I just use cash or credit or debit at time of purchase? Then, Starbucks started to offer a reward program and it started to make more sense. Even better than using your Starbucks card, then, is using the Starbucks app. You can track your balance, look up previous transactions, and keep tabs on your reward progress. There’s even a handy homescreen widget for really quick caffeine-fueling transactions.
Speaking of rewards, I recently went to a local fish and chip restaurant for lunch and they told me that they had a reward or loyalty program. I earn points based on my purchases and then I can cash them in for free food. What’s interesting is that they don’t manage their own program. Instead, they turned to LoyalTree for this purpose. You don’t get a separate member card, per se, because you just sign in with the smartphone app, add the vendor, and start collecting your rewards. The app just scans the barcode displayed on your receipt. This sure beats carrying around 50 different loyalty cards everywhere you go!
Speaking of having way too many cards in your wallet, do you have an assortment of gift cards for a bunch of different retailers? You can replace your wallet, or at least that part of it, by using the Tango Card Android app. What you do is enter all your gift cards into this one mobile wallet, making it easy to check their balances and map out nearby stores. When it comes time to pay, you simply display the corresponding barcode and you’re ready to go. Even where stores can’t scan barcodes off smartphone screens, they can manually enter the card number into the cash register. As more people do this, more stores will learn that they need to upgrade their terminals!
If you’re going to replace your wallet with your Android smartphone, we have to address the elephant in the room. The iPhone may have Passbook, but Android has the Google Wallet. In its simplest form, Google Wallet “holds your credit and debit cards, offers, and reward cards.” The most important thing to note here is that Google Wallet works via NFC on your compatible Android device, so you have to have an NFC-enabled smartphone and retailers have to be setup to take “tap”-based payments like MasterCard’s PayPass. Google says that Google Wallet supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards.
Image credit: kalleboo / Flickr