How a trip to London convinced me to ditch my wallet for good

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How a trip to London convinced me to ditch my wallet for good

My wallet is huge. It has business cards and coffee club punch cards spilling out of it and at least $3 in change stuffed in a side compartment. There’s always something wrong with it. The clasp won’t close, pennies fall out or my ID goes into hiding.

Any sort of payment line causes me anxiety, thinking about fumbling with my wallet while irate customers stand by. But I never had an alternative. Until I traveled to London.

Ditching my wallet abroad

In terms of how consumers pay for things, Europeans are living in the future. Almost every vendor took—and expected—contactless payment, either through contactless cards or a mobile wallet. I had never used either before.

I quickly learned my lesson when I used my regular card at a restaurant. In the amount of time it took for the waiter to get a special card reader for non-contactless cards, swipe my card, wait for the receipt to print and then have me sign it, I could have had a second meal.

For the rest of that trip, I used Apple Pay, a virtual wallet on my mobile phone connected to my credit card. Apple Pay and Google Pay are two of the most popular digital wallets.

Setting up my wallet was easy. I put my card details into the wallet app and it instantly connected. I could make payments with just a click of a button, which Apple then charged to my card.

Using mobile wallets and apps increases the speed of payment. With Apple Pay, you hold your phone over a card reader, do a quick finger or face scan when prompted and go on your merry way. No waiting or PIN or signature needed.

Going digital for good

Upon my return home to New York City, I decided to see if I could completely ditch my wallet. To my surprise, I could.

I now use Apple Pay for just about everything, from lattes to groceries to new sneakers. For splitting meals with friends, I send my portion to whomever’s paying, using the payment app Venmo. I rarely carry my wallet.

While Apple Pay is similar to carrying around your wallet, Venmo is a peer-to-peer mobile payment app. Zelle and the Cash App (formerly known as Square Cash) are other examples of mobile payment apps. They work like a debit card. Connect Venmo to your bank, and money is drawn from your account when you use the app. You aren't borrowing money from an issuer when using a mobile payment app, so you can't go into high-interest debt, like you can with a credit card.

Despite being around for some time, these mobile wallets and apps have yet to take the place of cash and cards. This could be because credit cards often offer rewards to their users, including cash back and travel miles. Apps do not (though Apple is getting into the rewards game with its Apple Card).

Of course, there are times carrying a wallet is unavoidable, like when I go out for drinks and need my ID, or when I’m stocking up on bananas from cash-only fruit vendors. But these situations are rare. If I’m in a situation where I can’t use Apple Pay, I’ll often just leave, saving me from what was likely an impulse buy.

While mobile payments haven’t caught on in the U.S. there is an argument for going digital with your money. An increasing number of stores, businesses and even banks no longer deal in physical cash. The ease of use makes going digital all the more attractive.

A 2017 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that the share of people who used a mobile app to store funds or make payments from 40.4% in 2015 to 52.1% in 2017.

Safety concerns

Though I have fully moved into managing my money online, I have concerns about my information being hacked or leaked. But there are ways to protect myself, like creating stronger passwords. If I am hacked, there are some simple things I can do to try and come out on top of it.

Ditching your wallet and taking your money mobile is one of the easiest things consumers can do to make their financial lives easier. No more going through old receipts, waiting in lines at the ATM or digging through your bag for your wallet. All the information you need is right there on your phone, and paying is just a click away.

Want to learn more? Here's why you should go digital with all your money.

Image: Plush Design Studio