OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs someone that is exposed to the payments industry, attends conferences, reads the industry publications and generally interested in all things payment related, even I am surprised at the number of mobile wallets that are available.  Everyone wants me to download his or her e-wallet to my mobile phone – from Starbucks, to Square Wallet to Isis and the list goes on.  So I have decided to take a journey over the next few weeks and experience a variety of mobile wallets that are available in the US marketplace.  And here is the real challenge – I carry an iPhone! 

As “us” industry experts know, the iPhone does not have any Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities and hence I will be limited by the wallets I can actually use (the general public doesn’t know NFC from ABC and do not care).  But, in the US, the iPhone is still the most widely used US mobile phone[1] and if you are going to be successful in the US, then you need to build your wallet to work with iPhones.

With so many competing wallets, it has become too confusing and too burdensome for the consumer to select any wallet.   Merchants, like Chipotle, have their own wallet, MasterCard and Visa have their wallets, banks have their wallets, card issuers that their wallets and there are a number of general purpose wallets…everyone has a wallet!  Based on my research, there must be over 100 competing wallets available today and new ones are being added every day.

Before I start my journal, I want to outline some questions that I believe need to be answered by each wallet I test.   And the questions are really from the perspective of the general public (not us payment people).  Here are mine, and I would like to hear from others on questions that you would like to address.  Here are my questions in a chronological order:

  1. How is the wallet marketed/advertised to the general public?  What media channels?  How do I know the wallet exists? What is the message to me?
  2. Why do I need this mobile wallet?  (Isn’t this the first question that needs to be answered in a manner that is simple and straightforward for the general public?) What issue does it address?  How is my life better by using the wallet?
  3. Is it a payment-only wallet?  Does it have loyalty/rewards?  Other benefits?
  4. How do I get the wallet?  Download from iTunes app store?  Scan a QR code? Go to a web site?
  5. Now that I have downloaded the app to my mobile phone, how difficult is it for me to register/set up?  Are there a few simple steps or do you need to be a nuclear engineer to figure it out?  Does it ask from my bank account information?  My debit/credit card number?
  6. Where can I use the mobile wallet?  How many stores (real brick-and-mortar stores) not online stores – use it at Point-of-sale (POS) locations.  Transit?
  7. What is the POS set up –stand alone tablet? Integrated cash register?  Typical card reader POS?  Contact-less/NFC?
  8. Is the POS experience easy?  Hard?  Confusing?  Does it actually work?
  9. What information do I get sent to me after the sale?  Do I get my receipt emailed to me?  A text message?  Is the transaction listed on my wallet?  Did I earn points?
  10. Are there fees? Do I need to reload my wallet (manually or automatically)? Is the transaction a prepaid card?  Or my debit/credit card?  Does it use the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network?

These are just some of the questions I intend to answer, and I am sure as I go thru my journal, I will add more questions. In addition to answering the questions, I will rate each of the wallets from a general public perspective, on each of the category questions listed here, on a scale of 1, 2 or 3.

  • 1 (Confusing, Needs Work)
  • 2 (Okay, Average)
  • 3 (Easy, Better Than Most)


 How many wallet apps are too many?

The following wallets will be reviewed in the coming weeks:

  1. Square Wallet
  2. Google Wallet
  3. bPay
  4. CardStar
  5. LevelUp
  6. LifeLock (formally Lemon)
  7. Belly
  8. Venmo
  9. PayPal
  10. MocaPay
  11. Starbucks, and many more

If you have a wallet that you would like me to add to my list, please let me know.

First up will be the Google Wallet!  Check back to see how Google fared.


[1] The newest report from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows the iPhone with a 43.4 percent share of the United States market for the three months ending in July. That represents a 7.8 percentage point increase over the same period from a year ago. The United States, according to Kantar’s numbers, remains Apple’s strongest market, though the iPhone saw identical growth in Great Britain, where it jumped 7.8 points year-over-year to take a 31.1 percent share.



  1. Lanny,

    This may add too much difficulty to your study/survey/journal … but it may also be helpful to understand if the wallets works with PassBook … like many of the airline apps do, and SOME loyalty programs do …such as Walgreen’s. It may also be helpful to evaluate if the wallet works with the current barcode/QR code/etc. readers at the POS. For example, I have a Gannett App called Key Ring which serves as a repository of loyalty/membership cards and converts the account numbers to barcode representations as a way to not carry each and every card. However, only one of the many retailers I frequent has scanners/scan guns that can read the barcode … so I am required to enter a phone number to pull up my membership. Businesses like Safeway, Staples, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, Office Depot and many others cannot read the barcode from the phone screen.

    Also, you might want to add Loop to the analysis …

    1. Bob,

      Thanks for the feedback. I will incorporate Passbook and where possible, the barcode/QRC at POS. I will look to review Loop as well! Thanks.

  2. One question to answer– with a smartphone and apps, do what value does a “aggregating” digital wallet add?

    If you can pull up you Chipotle, Starbuck, or other app easily when needed, or iBeacon opens it for you when you near the store, what need to you have a universal wallet? At least until their is a single widely used technology standard.

    The wallets with any success today are those in which payment is subsidiary to other parts of commerce, such as ordering food. They are very tied to merchants.

    If it ever launches we’ll see what MCX can do, but today all wallets seem to by solving a problem consumers don’t recognize.

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