Mobile wallets are apps that hold your credit, debit, prepaid, and loyalty card information in your smartphone. They generally offer a safer and more convenient alternative to carrying around those cards, and cash, in a physical wallet.
Mobile wallets can be for general use or for use at specific retailers. Examples of current general-use mobile wallets include Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay — these wallets can be used at any retailer that supports them — while an example of a current specific-use mobile wallet would be the Starbucks app, where the use of the app’s wallet is limited to Starbucks stores only.
Mobile wallets generally work by first having the user enter his or her card information, followed by a PIN to secure and encrypt the wallet. These wallets then interface with retailers’ point-of-sale (POS) systems by either generating unique QR codes for the POS systems to read, or by communicating over contactless technology such as NFC (near-field communication). Contactless technology allows users to pay using their mobile wallets by simply tapping their smartphone on a compatible POS terminal.
Mobile Wallet Security
Mobile wallets are generally safer than carrying a credit card or cash in a physical wallet — in that the information stored on a mobile wallet can only be decrypted by the intended user. In contrast, there is little protection surrounding your physical wallet from malicious or unintended use.
Even if a thief were to bypass or break through your mobile wallet’s security, the risk to you is generally lower than if a thief got a hold of your cash. This is because mobile wallets generally require an underlying credit or debit card to fund your transactions, and those cards’ issuers generally limit your liability for fraudulent charges.
Mobile wallets are generally secured by having its information encrypted by the user’s PIN and/or fingerprint, and by using unique encrypted payment codes when transmitting data to make payments. When doing mobile payments, wallets generally do not reveal your financial information to retailers.
Mobile Wallet Technology
Mobile wallets today generally revolve around contactless technology for their core functionality. The most common contactless technology in use by mobile wallets today is NFC or near-field communication.
NFC is a technology that enables devices to exchange information wirelessly over very short distances — typically within only a few centimetres. Mobile wallets leverage NFC by wirelessly transmitting unique encrypted payment codes to compatible POS terminals when the user taps his or her smartphone on the terminal during transactions. This allows mobile wallets to make payments without revealing underlying financial information to retailers.
An added benefit of NFC is that it does not require battery power to function. NFC chips require so little power that they essentially operate by harnessing power from the magnetic field generated by NFC terminals. Theoretically, then, a user would still be able to make payments from his or her mobile wallet even though his or her smartphone’s battery has run out of power.
Wirex offers a mobile wallet that combines the security and integrity of the Bitcoin blockchain with the speed and flexibility of traditional currency. Wirex’s mobile wallet is linked to a Visa debit card that can be used to send and receive traditional currency and bitcoins anywhere in the world, making mobile banking easy and hassle-free.
Wirex’s mobile wallet is secured by robust encryption through a unique four-digit PIN and/or Touch ID (on compatible iOS devices), and two-factor authentication. Wirex’s bitcoin wallet is secured and operated by BitGo, a leading name in blockchain technology. Every Wirex bitcoin wallet is secured with BitGo’s multi-signature technology and two-factor authentication.