wallets on the (digital) go

Mobile Wallets for a Cashless Future

Mobile wallets are a gift to customers, allowing them to combine cash, credit and debit cards, as well as gift cards, into a single simple and easy to use mobile app. With NFC POS devices, all a customer needs do is wave their smartphone and the transaction is done!

Options are plentiful and each platform has its strengths and weaknesses that may be either a draw or a deal breaker for potential customers. In a sea of mobile payment platforms, tech giants such as Google, Apple and Samsung have long been the big fish, but now, somewhat unexpectedly, Fitbit and Garmin have learned to swim these waters as well. 


In this section of the mobile wallets experience, Google Pay and Apple Pay win. Google Pay is available on all Android devices which feature an OS that supports it. Apple Pay is available on all Apple devices: iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Macs, provided the user has the latest version of the operating system, an Apple Wallet app, and is signed into the iCloud via Apple ID. 

Right now, Samsung Pay is a bit more limited than these two: currently, it works only on selected Samsung devices, so potential users are advised to check compatibility before signing on. Fitbit Pay is integrated into the company's wearable device Fitbit Ionic, but it also works with Android, iOS and Windows phone OS. However, it is also currently available in only 14 countries worldwide and may not be supported by all banks in those countries.

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How It Works

All four mobile wallets accept credit, debit, prepaid and loyalty or gift cards and all four do not charge transaction fees. The application of NFC technology allows customers to perform in-store payments at a compatible POS card reader by simply holding their device to it.

In this particular section, Samsung Pay has a significant advantage: it also employs EMV chip emulation (as a regular contactless card) and MST which emulates a credit card's magnetic strip, a feature similar apps do not possess. With this technology, the smartphone user is just putting the phone near the magnetic card reader and the phone sends magnetic signals that emulate a card swipe.

Apple Pay is at Samsung’s heels, though, as it allows users to send and receive money to and from other users or transfer it to their bank accounts from their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, utilizing Messages or even Siri. Even online purchases have been made easy: they can be performed through the Safari web browser. 

Security Features

All the above mentioned wallets allow users to suspend or permanently remove payment capabilities from a stolen or lost device. Credit card numbers are never used for transactions and account information isn't stored on a device or on a server.

Google Pay offers PIN, pattern, password, fingerprint protection and security code purchase verification but does not currently work with Smart Unlock, Knock to Unlock or retina scanning features. In short, the payment is protected with the same method that is used to unlock the phone.

Apple Pay includes standard security features such as Face ID, Touch ID or passcode.

Samsung Pay security features include purchase verification by PIN, fingerprint or iris scan.

Fitbit can be set up to require a PIN every time the device is put on or only when a customer accesses Fitbit Pay after removing the watch.

Global Use

The list of businesses Google Pay is available for is growing almost daily: it is currently accepted at over 1.5 million locations, including such crowd pleasers as Airbnb, Bloomingdale's and McDonald's.

Samsung Pay features MST capability which allows it to be accepted at over 30 million locations, a number several times larger compared to its competitors while its deal with Visa opened up more than 350 000 retail websites to its Samsung Pass. This wallet is also linked to Samsung's own Rewards program.

Apple Pay is currently accepted at over 4 million locations, including Gap, Starbucks, Etsy, or even Unicef, as well as some public transport systems.

The mobile wallet market in general is expected to reach approximately USD 3,142.17 billion by 2022. Online and cashless payments are on a continuous rise, with US and UK reporting their use for over 80% of transactions. Some governments, especially in Asia, are giving full support to cashless and digital initiatives so it may just be a matter of time before we see the first cashless country. 

Mercury Processing Services International is actively working on supporting new payment wallets including Google, Apple and others. In countries where those wallet players are allowing customers to enroll, Mercury Processing Services International can help issuers and acquirers gain benefits from using those technologies.