For years, tech enthusiasts have heard about how mobile payment systems will revolutionize consumer spending.
Mobile payment app users will pay for items by tapping their phones, send money to each other via e-mail and manage loyalty program rewards in one central location. It will all make transactions as quick and painless as possible.
Unfortunately, we aren’t fully there yet — though some observers think 2014 might be the beginning.
“While it’s likely only a matter of time before mobile payment systems revolutionize the industry, there are several hurdles to clear before that happens,” said Scottsdale Arizona entrepreneur. “People must become comfortable with Bluetooth and near-field communication technology, merchants have to widely adopt it, and device makers must support it. On top of that, the general public must still be convinced why mobile payments are easier than merely swiping a card — which is already a fairly painless process.”
Though the mobile payment field is far from mature, there are still some good options available today. Let’s examine some of the best apps for mobile payment.
1. Square Wallet
The brainchild of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Square certainly has the pedigree and financial backing to become the dominant player in the field. Square Wallet allows users to pay with their phones at businesses and restaurants across the country. Users can also charge transactions to debit or credit cards with Square Wallet. Perhaps most interestingly, users can also pay without even using their phone, by simply saying their name. While this is all great, the majority of merchants aren’t onboard with the technology yet, so the app’s use is limited.
2. Square Register
Which brings up to Square Register. This is Square Wallet’s companion app, and it allows merchants to accept credit card payments. The draw for merchants is the 2.75 percent per swipe processing fee, which is lower than standard industry fees charged for the same process. Companies can accept any major credit card and receive payment within one or two business days. The system allows businesses to essentially run their entire electronic payment processing system through an Android device.
3. Google Wallet
Google Wallet allows users to pay by phone in participating stores, send money to friends via the Gmail service and collect and keep all membership and loyalty card information in one location. The app is easy to set up, but only newer Android devices typically support the technology needed to pay by phone. Users can also use a Google Wallet card to access their balance from ATMs, and receive special offers and sale information based on GPS location. Those concerned about security can rest somewhat easy, as Google offers fraud monitoring and requires PIN access for the app to work.
For those looking for a fast and easy way to pay friends, it doesn’t get much faster or easier than Venmo. The app allows users to quickly send each other payments for big-ticket items — or for something as small as splitting a dinner bill. As you can imagine, this comes in very handy on group outings. Users can also transfer Venmo money into their bank account overnight, or use Venmo to write checks. Security is provided by 256-bit encryption. The app is well designed and easy to navigate. In fact, it’s so easy to use it almost does the impossible — making the process of lending money to friends seems enjoyable.
5. PayPal Mobile
PayPal is the king of the mobile payments space, and for good reason — they’ve been in business for years, they’re reliable and they’re trusted. The PayPal mobile app allows users to pay for items at restaurants, stores and other participating merchants. The app links directly to each user’s existing PayPal account, and also allows users to send small amounts of money back and forth between friends and family, much like Venmo. PayPal also offers free check processing. The more rigorous sign-up process PayPal requires may be a drawback for some users, as the company requires a bank account and other qualifications.