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I have always disliked the necessary upkeep that money entails. Paper money tears and gets old, coins are a nuisance and sitting on a wallet all day long is a real pain in the backside. If you are like me, money is also easy to lose (or "lose" in households with teenagers). Credit cards really aren't any better. We seem to collect these pieces of plastic like a kid collects baseball cards. The cards pile up in our pockets and purses for our buying trips to Target, Walmart, Wholesale Clubs, grocery stores and dozens more retailers. We tolerate all this baggage because at present there are few days indeed when one or many of these payment forms is not required.
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Yet, these traditional currencies are laden with risk. When cash gets lost, it is available for anyone to use freely; credit cards can be copied or stolen and used many times before the owner or the bank registers the theft; and in the last year, point-of-sale (POS) and ATMs have given for hackers a way in to steal millions of credit card details from the customer accounts of major retailers. Enough, already.
We have connected, mobile technology that can alleviate all of these negative by-products of physical money with the introduction of many new forms of electronic payment. Give me the mobile wallet -- sometimes referred to as the digital wallet.
Electronic payment or ePay now comes in many varieties, and the good news is the choices are more about your personal preference than about one form of payment being better than others. For example, I am a dedicated Android smartphone and therefore, I have and use Google Wallet as my mobile wallet. I have connected my bank account and many of my credit cards to this electronic payment service. Similarly, if you are an Apple user, you have access to Apple Pay. And there are several other providers offering some form of digital wallet.
Not only does my mobile wallet allow me to consolidate all of my payment forms in one solution, it is also significantly more secure than my old wallet. All of my personal information is encrypted through the e-payment service and since I have a passcode requirement on my phone, even if I were to misplace the device, it would be very difficult (near impossible) for anyone to gain access to the payment information securely stored on my phone. With my mobile wallet, there are no paper bills to drop on the ground or credit cards to be compromised.
A mobile wallet solves the physical upkeep of money problem for me, but the real magic happens with the retailers. Major retailers around the world and most POS providers have embraced this new form of payment and now allow me to make purchase by simply holding my phone near the POS device or register. These retailers understand the importance of convenience to the customer and, more important, the security that this method provides.
CurrentC digital wallet
CIOs at dozens of retail companies have joined together to push these new technologies into the marketplace as a standard of doing business with consumers. Target Corp., which knows firsthand what it feels like to announce it lost millions of customers' credit card details (including my own) due to a hack in the POS device, has partnered with other merchants like Lowe's, Walmart, Shell Oil, Sears Holdings and others to form the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX). Together, this consortium accounts for over $1 trillion in annual sales.
Although the service, known as CurrentC, has some limitations in its early stages -- the service doesn't consolidate credit cards -- it does represent a new way of conducting business and an awareness by merchants that in order to protect their bottom line, they need to protect their customers' financial information. As with mobile wallets from other providers, this electronic payment form relies on your smartphone to bridge the connection between you (your banking identity) and your banking institution to make an electronic financial transaction to pay for goods and services.
I predict that soon we will see the removal of physical currency altogether. Of course, security threats will always be present. However, with merchants coming together to form alliances and with technology to support ease of use and security, our ability to shop with less concern about fraud and the general upkeep of coins and cash, will make life simpler. And it will be near impossible for my teenager to "borrow" cash from my wallet. Win-win, for me at least.
About the author
Bryan Barringer is an independent enterprise mobility expert and noted speaker specializing in user adoption, UX/UI design and consumer engagement. A serial entrepreneur, Bryan recently founded ThinkDigital, which helps companies make the leap to digital business. The firm based in Memphis, Tenn., builds consumer-focused, multichannel solutions for businesses with coordinated social engineering and back-office systems integrations for a total digital transformation.