Cashing in: A guide to mobile money
New technologies are making the convenience of living cashfree a reality. But consumers need to understand the tradeoffs of abandoning paper money entirely.
Consumer Reports offers this overview.
-- Mobile Wallets
What do they do? Let you pay for purchases at physical retail stores and online.
Noteworthy brands. Android Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal, Samsung Pay. Cost. No direct fees. What Consumer Reports likes. Apple Pay is now accepted at 3 million stores in the United States because retailers are equipped with new EMV chip card readers that also have nearfield communication (NFC) technology. Android Pay and Apple Pay need NFC to transact with cash registers. Samsung Pay can be used at more than 10 million U.S. merchants, because it employs NFC plus a second technology that lets it communicate via magnetic strip with readers that don’t have functioning NFC.
Caveats. PayPal is mostly for online shopping and has very limited acceptance at retail stores. Apple Pay works only on certain, more recent iphones; Samsung Pay works only on certain Samsung devices.
-- Electronic Toll Tags
What do they do? Let you pay for highway, express lane, bridge and tunnel tolls, as well as parking at some airports.
Noteworthy brands. expresstoll, e-zpass, fastrak, Good To Go!, mnpass, sunpass, txtag.
Cost. No fees beyond the toll itself.
What Consumer Reports likes. Commuters can knock 20 minutes to an hour off their daily drive, says J.J. Eden, president of the Alliance for Toll Interoperability. No stopping. No need to scramble for cash or change.
Caveats. High traffic volume can clog up even the toll tag lanes. And now the discounts, used to lure new customers, are starting to go away.
-- Person-to-Person (P2P) Payments
What do they do? Let you send money to another person via the app, email or text.
Noteworthy brands. BBVA/ Dwolla, Chase quickpay, clearxchange, Facebook Payments in Messenger, Popmoney, Snapcash, Square Cash and Venmo.
Cost. Usually recipients never pay, and fees for sending vary from free to up to 3 percent or more if paid for with a credit card or some debit cards.
What Consumer Reports likes. It’s super easy. Can transfer money fast (but see caveats). All the services take steps to ensure security.
Caveats. How quickly recipients get their money varies, depending on the service. For example, money moves instantly via Facebook Payments in Messenger and by clearxchange, but your bank may take up to five business days to make the funds available to you.
-- Branded Payment Apps
What do they do? Let you pay for purchases only at the merchant brand’s physical stores and service providers, and their online counterparts.
Noteworthy brands. Dunkin’ Donuts, Lyft, paybyphone, Starbucks, Uber, Wal-Mart Pay. Cost. Generally no direct fees. What Consumer Reports likes. These apps combine payment, loyalty programs and ordering capabilities. Uber automatically charges you for your ride. paybyphone lets you extend parking meter minutes from wherever you are.
Caveats. Can be used for only one merchant brand. You can’t pay if your phone runs out of power.