Mobile wallets are more than just a way to pay for purchases. They’re also a way to organize your information. Mobile wallets are being used for functions like storing loyalty cards, passes to events and coupons or offers from retailers.
But what about those using mobile wallets to actually pay for purchases; is it safe? The mobile wallet sounds convenient and experts predict they’ll be mainstream in the next ten years, Apple, Square, Paypal and Google already have products on the market. However, many aren’t ready to adopt them for payments yet because of security concerns. Is it safe? Let’s take a look.
The risk: Stolen phone
If your smartphone is stolen, the thief has your credit card information. Of course, the same is true of your wallet. Your credit card information is vulnerable when it’s on your smartphone, but the same fraud protection that applies to a plastic card also applies to your phone. And, unlike with a physical wallet and plastic credit cards, you can also get an app or pay for service to disable your phone remotely in the case of phone theft. That seems easier than canceling multiple credit cards. On your phone, information can be stolen without anyone sticking their fingers in your pocket, but you’re already protecting your phone against malware, right?
You already know what steps to take to protect your mobile phone:
- Use a PIN/keylock code
- Be selective about wireless networks
- Screen your apps
- Use security software
All the precautions you should be taking to protect your smartphone, with or without a mobile wallet, will also help you protect your mobile wallet. In fact, these security measures make your mobile wallet safer than your physical wallet. Users can already use fingerprint authentication to purchase products from iTunes stores, and this type of security measure is likely to become even more mainstream as the mobile wallet evolves.
Are mobile payments less secure?
In other parts of the world, where banks and ATMs are less accessible, people have already latched on to mobile banking and payments. The lag in the U.S. is more cultural than technological and has less to do with actual security than perception. Mobile payments are protected much like credit card payments and it still comes down to alerting the credit card company in a reasonable amount of time.
Bottom line, mobile wallets aren’t really any less safe than carrying plastic credit cards; they may be safer, but they also aren’t all that convenient either, yet. For example, convenience and speed will depend in part on the speed of your data connection. Many mobile wallets will only link to a couple different credit card vendors, not all mobile wallet apps will work on your iPhone, and not all merchants can accept all types of mobile payments. Mainstream mobile wallets are certainly a direction we are moving in, but until the convenience of use catches up to user expectations, security might not be the biggest thing holding them back.