The recent launch of Google Wallet is another indication of how practical and useful smartphone technology has become in just a few short years. Many people carry their phones with them everywhere they go, and to use a slightly old cliché, there’s “an app for that” for nearly all of our productivity needs.
Based on my experience of the last few months, I can say it is possible to replace your physical wallet with your smartphone. The potential of Google Wallet could possibly make the transition to a digital wallet much easier, but until the service becomes more widely available, there are ways you can replace your wallet with a smartphone wallet.
The example I use is with my iPhone, but these suggestions could probably apply to similar devices.
Deciding What You Need
The first thing I did to abandon my analog wallet was to determine what items I actually used on a regular basis. Taking a hard look, I realized I only used three or four items on a regular basis – my debit card, a credit card, and occasionally my drivers license. The other items, including collected business cards, receipts, family photos, my social security card, and numerous other pieces of paper and notes could all be transferred and accessed on my iPhone.
The next thing I did was search for a practical and suitable iPhone case to hold my drivers license and a couple of debit cards. There are several options out there all for under $30, but what you choose depends on how much bulk and weight you can stand to add to your phone. I searched for a case that would carry at least three cards with minimal added weight to my phone.
The JAVOedge credit case has worked best for me. Although there is not enough room to insert dollar bills, it snugly fits my drivers license and two debit/credit cards.
There are other cases on the market which will hold more items, so it really all depends upon your particular needs.
Replacing the other items in my physical wallet was a cinch. The following are apps I use. There’s a free version of each app, although I reference the pro versions that I use on my iPhone. You will need to of course locate apps for your particular “wallet” needs.
Stash Pro & Photo Library
I use these smartphone wallet apps to access and manage family photos and other images. Stash Pro (free version) provides more folder and management features than the iPhone’s default Photos app. You can add photos and videos to Stash Pro without having to connect your iPhone to iTunes. Dropbox could also be used for managing photo files.
Key Ring Reward Cards
I use Key Ring (free) to hold a handful of my reward cards. I simply launch a merchant card in the app while standing in line, and each time I use them, the attending clerk either scans the digital card or manually types the number in the machine. Since I don’t use these cards on a daily basis, I have never found using them an inconvenience.
I use JotNot Pro (free version) to scan paper receipts and other documents. This iPhone camera-based application works just as well or better than some desktop scanners. The image resolution of the scanner is clear and sharp, and the app is great for maintaining and managing scanned documents.
Since I’m using the iPhone as my wallet, there are at least a dozen other apps I use that go beyond what a physical wallet is capable of doing. I use, for example, apps for checking my debit card and banking transactions (Mint), keeping shopping lists (Shopper), as well as a Tip Calculator, a car maintenance logger (Gas Cuddy), and Amazon’s PriceCheck application. I also use a couple of notes applications, including Apple’s default iPhone Notes app.
And what about cash? I prefer to use a debit card over cash, simply because the latter allows me to keep track of my spending, especially for discretionary items and services. I use a homemade money clip, and carry no more than $40 in my pocket at any given time. There is never a place I go now in which debit cards are not accepted.
My analog wallet now sits abandoned in the glove compartment of my car. There are a few items in it that I may occasionally need to pull out once or twice a year.
Some people may find it a risk to put all their personal content on one device. That is understandable. However, in all the years I have used my iPhone I have never misplaced it, and because it is a device that I use for making phone calls, checking email, sending text messages, listening to music, and browsing the web, it is rarely out of my hands when I’m out and about. I also keep records and pictures of all the cards stored on my phone. So in the event it’s ever stolen or lost, I can put a cancel on those cards.
If and when Google Wallet is made available to the iPhone and the banking institution that I use, there will be very little need to carry around physical cards. Perhaps in the near future we could even see digital versions of our drivers license and ID cards that can be kept on our phone.
Let us know if you currently use your smartphone as a wallet, and what the challenges are, if any, to doing so.
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