Everything You Need To Know About Mobile Wallet Apps

The days of shuffling through a debit-and-credit-card-packed wallet when it’s time to pay for something are getting closer and closer to being in the past. In addition to being amazing entertainment devices, cameras, food delivery saviors, and hookup wingmen, smartphones are making it a lot easier to lighten the load in your pocket thanks to all the digital payment options that are now available.


Here’s a short and sweet primer on what’s out there in the mobile wallet world, how the payments work, where you can use them, and whether they are compatible with your particular device.

Apple Pay
While not exactly the first to market, Apple Pay has refined the mobile wallet experience to offer those already in the Apple ecosystem a seamless trasition. Apple Pay lets you add major credit cards, debit cards and store cards to newer Apple device’s Wallet app which then can be used for purchases. If you’re inside a store, all you have to do is wave your iPhone near the contactless card reader terminal at checkout and the near field communication (NFC) technology will “pick up” your device. You won’t even have to open an app; instead, you’ll use Touch ID or your passcode adnd Apple Pay will even keep a record of transactions right in the Wallet for you, too. Technology win! Typically most stores will have a handy sticker or notice posted letting you know they are an Apple Pay-friendly establishment and it’s pretty much impossible to screw up, so you don’t have to worry about a long line of customers behind you sighing passive aggressively like you’re an elderly woman taking 27 minutes to write a check for $9.32 of groceries.

The list of participating banks is really long, making it highly unlikely that you won’t be able to connect your bank card to Apple Pay. On the security front (somewhat of a debated issue with Apple’s services) the system uses an account number associated with your device to complete your purchases, and not your actual bank account or credit card number, so you’re not actually transmitting personal info. While the tech is great, retailers are still largely slow to implement the NFC tech. Last available numbers put it at 700,000 of them nationwide. A growing number of companies with their own apps, however, are making it possible to complete in-app purchases with Apple Pay.

Which devices: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone SE, and Apple Watch for in-store and in-app purchases; iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 for in-app purchases.

Android Pay
Like the yin to Apple Pay’s yang, Android was not far behind in developing a near identical payment system for users in their ecosystem. Google’s mobile wallet app works much the same as Apple Pay: it requires contactless terminals with NFC technology to carry out transactions in stores, uses a virtual account number for purchases, and keeps a record. Android Pay comes preloaded on most Android phones already, and you simply need to add your credit cards and debit cards. So far, there are about 50 participating banking institutions that work with Android Pay, but one can safely assume this number will increase rapidly. Since it does rely on NFC technology, you’re looking at the same number of participating retailers that take Apple Pay. You won’t see a notice on a lot of readers that they accept Android Pay, but if you see the Apple notice, you can use it there, too.

Which devices: Android phones running on KitKat 4.4 and later.

Samsung Pay
Samsung, who up to this point has been primarily a hardware company, has entered the fray and developed a burgeoning payment system, primarily as a reaction to their wildly successful line of Nexus phones. With Samsung Pay, you can either use the app at the newer card readers that also accept Apple Pay and Android Pay, or you can use it at older terminals where you can swipe your card. In a smart move, Samsung has incorporated magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology into its service as well. Basically, the MST will transmit info the same way your card would if you slid it through the reader. The dual technology means Samsung Pay is accepted at far more places than its competitors – about 30 million+ locations. It works with the major banks that offer cards, but its list of other participating financial institutions is not nearly as long as Apple’s. The much wider base of usage is an interesting advantage for Samsung Pay but it remains to be seen if it’s enough of a distinction to make it a major player in the space.

Which devices: Galaxy Note5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 edge, Galaxy S6 edge+, Galaxy S6 active, Galaxy S7, and Galaxy S7 edge.

Perhaps the OG of the digital payment world, PayPal isn’t just for your online transactions and money transfers; it also has a mobile wallet app that you can add to the mix of your in-store payment options. You can add your bank account and credit cards to your PayPal account and within the app you can see exactly which stores near you accept PayPal. The app also gives you a search function to locate stores that will accept the service. Currently Paypal’s version isn’t nearly as widely accepted as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay, and unlike these other mobile payment options you do have to show a code at checkout. Some in-store transactions will cost you an additional fee, too. On the upside, though, PayPal has partnerships with a lot of retailers, so there are discounts that can be used online and in stores. Additionally, the space is still in it’s very early stages and given PayPal’s experience there’s no doubt they can come up with some compelling and useful tech.

Which devices: Apple phones and tablets and Android phones.

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