How To Ditch Your Wallet & Use Your Phone To Pay For Anything

Next time you’re headed out for the day, leave the wallet at home. Seriously. Toss your ID and phone in a side pocket of your tote and get on out the door. Why waste the precious bag space when those micro-moments that get you through the day — a drugstore Chap Stick run or the usual 3 p.m. coffee pick-me-up — can all now be completed, not by grabbing your wallet, but by reaching for your phone?

While paying with a tap of the phone has been around for a few years, since Apple introduced its mobile payment solution, Apple Pay, the concept of paying with your phone has gone from “Meh” to “Wow, that’s convenient!”

Whatever kind of smartphone you use, there are mobile wallets that simply require the syncing of a credit or debit card to the app. You can use Apple Pay, Android Pay, and a handful of other mobile wallets for IRL transactions at many stores, or with online retailers. While you might not actually be ready to ditch your wallet completely (let's be real, there’s no digital alternative to your ID yet), one of these apps will definitely come in handy for those days you leave your debit card tucked in the pocket of your other jeans. And they may even make your usual trips to the drugstore a little bit quicker.

Here’s everything you need to know (including how to get started) if you want to use your phone as your mobile wallet.
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Photo: Courtesy Apple.
Apple Pay
You iPhone and Apple Watch users may already use the Wallet app to store your concert tickets, boarding passes, and loyalty cards. But this is the exact same app you’ll be opening when you want to make a mobile or in-store purchase, too. Apple promises your credit card, bank account number, and other financial data is safe (even safer than if you used your card in the first place) because it assigns each card a unique number token, which is used to process payments — retailers never see your actual card numbers. Plus, a tap of Touch ID is required to authorize a purchase — a power only you and your unique fingerprints have.

You get started with Apple Pay — which is available on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone SE — by opening the Wallet app and tapping the plus sign in the upper right-hand corner. Use the phone’s camera to scan your credit card information (or input it by hand) so you have it on hand for future purchases. Setting up your Wallet on an Apple Watch is similarly easy — just tap Wallet & Apple Pay, then Add Credit or Debit Card. When you’re ready to pay for something, hold the iPhone near the store’s NFC-enabled payment reader with your thumb on Touch ID. If your phone is locked, double click the home button to instantly pull up Wallet (you've probably done this by accident before).

You can also use Apple Pay on your iPad to make online purchases, but iPads can’t be used for in-store purchase — that would just be awkward. A list of partnering retailers (there are a lot!) is available here.

In the app's settings, you can also customize which card is your default, and your shipping information.
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Photo: Courtesy Google.
Android Pay
Don’t fret, Android users, Google’s got your mobile payment needs covered, too. Android Pay (formerly known as Google Wallet) works with all NFC-enabled Android devices that use the KitKat 4.4 operating system or newer. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay secures transactions through tokenization, meaning a unique ID is used to represent the account information of the debit or credit card added to your profile, rather than the card number itself. Also like Apple’s offering, Android Pay can be used to store loyalty and gift cards, as well as to pay for select in-phone purchases.

You can set up your Android Pay account by opening the app and signing in with your Google account info. Here, you can opt to enable advanced security measures — which you should always do — including using a fingerprint ID to authorize purchases with your phone. Press the Add button to start linking card info to your account. When you’re all set to pay for your morning caffeine fix, unlock your phone and tap it against the shop’s NFC terminal to make a purchase.
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Photo: Courtesy PayPal.
Available for iOS, Android, and Windows phones, the PayPal app functions as a mobile wallet in addition to letting you send money to friends and family. You’ll be paying with whatever bank accounts and credit cards are listed in your PayPal account, or with your PayPal balance (that’s a useful one for all you eBay sellers).

Your biggest hurdle to actually using PayPal will be finding a store near you that accepts the damn thing. Once you do find a place to use PayPal in-person, open the app, find the store’s name, and have the cashier scan the QR code as your payment option. You can locate stores near you here — a number of local restaurants and sandwich shops around us use the app.
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Photo: Courtesy Samsung.
Samsung Pay
The biggest distinction between Samsung Pay and Apple or Google’s options is that it can be used at any payment terminal — even ones that aren’t NFC-enabled. Using a technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission, which simulates the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card, Samsung Pay can be used on even the most lo-fi credit card readers. (And just for some extra bragging rights, Samsung Pay is still NFC-compatible, too.) That good ol’ token-based security is also at work in Samsung Pay so that your real account info is never transmitted through the app.

Here’s the catch, though: You have to have a Samsung phone to use Samsung Pay — specifically, the Galaxy S7 line, Galaxy S6 line, or the Galaxy Note 5. To use it, you'll open up the Samsung Pay app, add a credit or debit card, choose which card you want to use for your purchase, and then authenticate the purchase with your fingerprint (or entering a PIN). You can also access the app by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen.
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Photo: Courtesy Walmart.
Walmart Pay
In case you wanted to get real specific with your mobile pay options, Walmart created its own version of a pay-by-phone app. Available on the App Store and Google Play, Walmart Pay can be used at all of the retailer’s U.S. stores. Once you’ve uploaded your credit card or gift card information to your Walmart Pay account and are ready to pay for a purchase, just open the app, enter your pin, and then aim your phone at the QR code located at the store’s register. It will automatically process the payment and send a receipt to the app. (Of course, you could always just use Samsung Pay’s nifty magnetic strip simulation if you don’t want to download yet another app.)
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