It’s not science-fiction, it’s real! For those unfamiliar, virtual wallets are a secure and convenient way to put all of your payment information on your mobile phone. It probably doesn’t sound particularly safe or secure, but in this article we’ll tell you all about what a virtual wallet is and why they are safe to use.
What is a Virtual Wallet?
A virtual wallet is like a wallet, but it lives digitally on your smartphone. It contains your credit cards, debit cards, rewards cards, and coupons. Then, you can require a PIN or something like Face ID to ensure that only you can actually utilize the wallet. When you’re shopping in-person, you’ll be able to scan your phone on a Near Field Communication (NFC) scanner at the point of sale. Phones not enabled with NFC can use the phone number associated with the phone or a QR code image on the screen that can be scanned.
Are Virtual Wallets Secure?
Mobile wallets are very secure, as they require a password, fingerprint, Face ID, or other form of identification in order to use at all. In the case of something like a fingerprint, it would be very difficult for a phone thief to access your phone at all, much less get into your virtual wallet. Even the FBI was asking for Apple’s help to unlock an iPhone before eventually cracking it with a passcode guesser. So you can be fairly confident that the average phone thief wouldn’t be able to access a password-protected phone and the payment systems within.
On top of that, many phones can be remotely locked or wiped, or will have an option to remotely pause all payments made with the virtual wallet app. If you lose your wallet, the best you can do is cancel all your credit cards, and you’ll still be out all of your cash and any other cards you were carrying.
When it comes to using credit cards with merchants, doing so virtually is actually even safer than handing them your real credit card! Virtual wallets pass all of your credit card information through a randomizer that generates one-time-use information for this specific transaction. The merchant never actually gets your complete information.
The Most Popular Virtual Wallets
You may already use virtual wallets to a certain extent. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, both apps that come pre-installed on their respective phones, are very commonly used. Third-party apps like PayPal and Venmo are also virtual wallets – even though you may just use them to send money between friends and family. Zelle is another virtual wallet that you may have heard of; many credit unions and banks use this service in their apps to help members send money to friends and family who bank at other institutions.
Is the Money in Virtual Wallets Insured?
As a member of Oregonians Credit Union, or of any financial instituation, the money in your accounts is FDIC insured. Money in most virtual wallets is not insured, since they are not financial institutions. In general, try not to keep too much cash in your virtual wallets and just use the cards you keep there when you need them. Luckily, you can easily add your bank account to these apps and directly move any cash you need to from your wallet to your checking or savings account.
Pros to Virtual Wallets
As mentioned above, virtual wallets are convenient to use when they are accepted, and are very secure. They also save time, as they are often faster to scan and verify than it is to take a credit card out of your wallet and swipe it. It’s also contactless which means you don’t need to touch a machine that hundreds of other have used or pass your card to a cashier that has handled other people’s cards.
Cons to Virtual Wallets
One of the biggest cons to virtual wallets is that they are not all universally accepted. When you go shopping there’s a high chance that you’ll need to bring your wallet full of credit cards along with you still. This will probably become less of an issue as public trust increases and more and more merchants start accepting virtual wallets.
The other big downside is that phones can run out of battery charge, unlike a physical card.
Virtual wallets have a lot of potential but are still far from being universally adopted. This makes them a challenge to use currently, but they may make your life easier when shopping out at major retailers. It can’t hurt to start using a virtual wallet in conjunction with your physical wallet and getting used to the feeling. Someday it might be the only option!