Leaving Cash Behind: Using a Digital Wallet For a Week

Danny Stieben 14-03-2013

digital walletIt’s been just under two years since Google came out with Google Wallet, a revolutionary way to use your Android smartphone or tablet’s NFC capabilities to pay for stuff that you regularly buy. Since the service first came out, there are now a number of devices which are capable of using it, provided you’re also on the right carrier.


It also supports MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express credit cards. I recently purchased for myself a Nexus 4, which is one of the phones that works great with Google Wallet. Shortly after, I made a goal for myself – try to use just Google Wallet for a week and see how it goes.

Now, before I begin, I have to note that I didn’t buy something with the digital wallet every day. As a college student, there were some days where I was simply too busy to go out, and other days I didn’t have the need to get anything. Additionally, I quickly set a low budget for myself, just so I don’t spend too much with the new-found ease of purchase.

Day 1

digital wallet

I start out on the first day by simply getting a drink from one of my university’s vending machines. These vending machines are outfitted with special devices which allow you to swipe your credit cards in addition to the traditional cash-feeding. Not only can you swipe your credit cards, but they’re also outfitted with NFC receptors, perfect for credit cards which have MasterCard’s PayPass or Visa’s PayWave in them, as well as Google Wallet. I simply open up the Google Wallet app, type in the PIN I had set up earlier to unlock my cards, and choose the card that I wanted to use to pay.

Then I held up my phone to the NFC receiver, and after a second or two I hear a beep – the transaction is going through. In another 5 seconds I have an ice-cold drink in my hand, using only my smartphone.


digital wallet app

Day 3

Two days later, I decide to get something from McDonald’s. McDonald’s locations are outfitted with card readers which have a NFC receiver attached to the top, so it’s the same procedure as with the vending machine the other day. I order what I want, and after the total amount is calculated, I hold up my smartphone with the selected card up to the NFC receiver. The transaction goes through after a second or two of communication between the two NFC devices.

Day 6

A few days after that, I go to Target to get some food items for my dormitory. Here, the credit card swipers aren’t outfitted with NFC receivers – you’re forced to swipe your card. There simply wasn’t a way around this, so I had to get out my wallet and pay the old fashioned way. For those keeping tabs, Wal-Mart is also the same way.

If there was a way where a kind of barcode would appear instead on my smartphone’s screen which the cashier could simply scan in, that would be a nice alternative while more stores become outfitted with the NFC receivers. Of course, that’s just an idea and I’m sure there are caveats to that.



After a week of trying to only use Google Wallet for my purchases, I’ve found that there are a few places which sport NFC receivers, but most locations lack this feature and still require you to swipe your card. The number of locations with the NFC receivers is growing, but it seems to be going at a slow pace as the technology that makes Google Wallet work has been out quite a while longer than Wallet itself. However, if you go to a location which does let you use it, Google Wallet is simply a joy.


digital wallet

I love the purchase experience with a digital wallet. It’s very simple yet still secure, as the PIN that you set when you first launch Google Wallet prevents anyone with physical access to your smartphone from buying something with it. It works quickly, usually clearing transactions in a day, and relevant information is passed on to your bank so you see more than just “Google Wallet Purchase”.


Now I know some of you must be shaking with rage from the fact that I have given Google my credit card information. However, I feel very safe by using Google Wallet. In some respects, it’s actually safer than real credit cards, as those have permanent NFC chips which can’t be turned off. Any malicious stranger who walks past you can read those cards by simply walking past you at a close distance. If you replace your credit cards with Google Wallet, this won’t happen because the NFC is only active whenever you open the app – right when you’re about to buy something.


The information stored on Google’s servers can potentially be retrieved by a hacker, but this is a potential risk for your bank’s website as well. I firmly believe that Google has a high priority on security. Contrary to most privacy advocates, I’m not bothered that Google could potentially use my data for something they need – it’s only a script that goes through all that information, and you’re not being singled out. I’ll gladly trade that off for the convenience that I get for the service. It also helps that Google recently stood up to the government, saying that it now requires warrants before handing over any information.


Overall, I absolutely love using a digital wallet. I now try to use it wherever there’s an NFC receiver. I’m saddened by the fact that there aren’t many places which let you do this yet, but I’m sure that the number will go up as demand increases. However, if you know that there’s a good number of stores which sport NFC receivers, then I recommend that you give Google Wallet a shot if you own a capable Android device.

What are your opinions on Google Wallet? Do you see this taking off? Am I crazy for trusting Google? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Google Wallet, Mobile Payment, Money Management, NFC, Online Shopping.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Jake Thompson
    March 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Great review. It actually made me feel a little bit better about wanting to convert to a completely digital financial system. :)

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      I don't think there's anything wrong with going digital. There are plenty of perks that come along with it -- people simply don't like much change.

  2. Jason Nunia
    March 15, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    It's a cool concept, but I don't see that ever being for me. Personally, I would prefer the PayPass or PayWave method than by phone, for the simple fact that I'm no fan of any phone carrier company I've ever had, and trusting them with being anywhere near involved with handling any of my finances isn't something I'd do. If, by some chance, there was a problem with a transaction or something, I don't want to deal with AT&T's customer service, I want to call Mike at my bank. I've known him for years, ya know what I mean? (And I can only imagine the response to "well, I was using this nifty new phone thing, you should see it, just wave your phone at registers and things are PAID...and anyway, apparently there was a problem, and now I got this chargeback letter...") Also, when you describe the use, you say you have to open your phone, type in a PIN, select the card, all that - there's no way that's faster than a swipe of a card I use now. If it was really just a Pass, or Wave, then great, but if I'm doing all these other steps too for prep-work to be *able* to 'wave', then it's taking me longer now to buy something than it was before I got the system. Nah, I'll pass. I love tech in all of it's glorious forms, but this is a system that's a long way from being ready-for-primetime. Just my humble opinion.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      If there were any issues, Google or your bank would be your contact point. Your wireless carrier actually has nothing to do with it.

  3. bben
    March 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Cool concept - but currently that's about all just a concept. The only place I know of anywhere near where I live that can accept NFC payment of any kind is a Jack in the Box. I asked if anyone uses it and the girl at the drive through said that in the 4 months she had been there she had seen one person try to do it with a NFC credit card - and it didn't work. But no one had tried a phone yet.

    It may be that when enough places actually have this working it will be a valid way to pay. Until then, I don't want to confuse the highly trained technically educated people who take my money at cash registers. (Yes, I do know that not all cashiers are dumb, I have spent some time as one myself - not that I consider that proof though.)

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      I agree that the lack of widespread use is its biggest problem. Once more and more people use it, any possible issues will be resolved and it'll work flawlessly.

  4. Nevzat A
    March 15, 2013 at 7:18 am

    I like the alternative payment systems. Here are the most used advanced payment system is : Mastercard/Visa PayPass, although a few stores support it. I don't think NFC will gain popularity anytime soon here at Turkey.

  5. Kirby
    March 15, 2013 at 12:36 am

    I'm not into using credit cards yet. I still manage to pay for what I need in cash but it is quite interesting to see new ways to pay for stuff.

    BTW, aren't you bothered by cyber hacking? The recent news showed a site where it supposedly shows some celebrities credits.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm

      America has a thing for using plastic. It's pretty rare to see people pay with cash.

      As for that concern, I addressed it in my article.

  6. Garris Rago
    March 14, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    I love these articles, like the one where an muo author went a week without a computer using tablets and smartphones.
    I would absolutely love to use Google Wallet for purchases, but where I live there aren't many shops with nfc capabilities, I assume there are a higher percentage of 'stores' with NFC capabilities in the USA.

    I have a question though, does any shop that support contact-less swipe cards support Google Wallet as well? Or are they like two different things? Comments would be appreciated

    • clintkev251
      March 15, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Yes, im pretty sure those cards are just nfc

    • Kirby
      March 15, 2013 at 12:38 am

      I'd say they're two different things. In my country the network carriers also came up with this Load Wallet thing where you can pay for the things you bought through text. I haven't used it though so that's all the details I could give.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      I think they're the same thing. If you can just hold up your card to the scanning device rather than actually swiping your card, it should be the same technology.

  7. Shon N
    March 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    The only drawback I have found to using Google wallet is, at least at my local Chevron, if they apply a coupon then it wont work. It gives an error message to the cashier saying that you can not use this payment method with split bill transactions.

    Otherwise I love it!

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Interesting. Now that I've used it for a while too, I've come across a few places (like Best Buy) where it should have worked, but said it wasn't allowed. Oh well.

  8. ccawley
    March 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Fascinating stuff, nice article. bit expensive for a fizzy drink though...?

    • Kirby
      March 15, 2013 at 12:31 am

      I second the motion.

    • Danny Stieben
      March 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      The vending machine also included Monster energy drinks, so it temporarily charges $2.25 before going down to (I think) $1.75. :P If that's still expensive, blame my university.