Mobile payment with wallet app and wireless nfc technology. Man paying and shopping with smartphone application and credit card information. Digital money transfer, banking and e commerce concept.The Cashless Society is here. Here’s what you need to know about it.
We’ve seen science fiction movies for years where people just hover their device over a scanner and presto, instant result, whether it’s admission to a locked door or payment for a product.
Now, without much fanfare, the cashless society has arrived, partly due to the Pandemic. Contactless payments skyrocketed during the global pandemic because people wanted to avoid touching potentially infected objects.
Instead of swiping credit cards at checkout counters we now have tap-to-pay apps like Samsung Pay and Apple Pay. And instead of checks or credit cards, we have digital payments from Venmo, PayPal, Zelle and other apps.
But which is the best? Which is the most secure and least vulnerable to financial scams and hacking? Is there any consumer protection with these apps, like there is with credit cards?
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s out there and what you need to know when paying by app.
What is Tap to Pay?
Samsung Pay, Google Pay and Apple Pay all use NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to make the cashless society a reality. NFC is similar to wireless or Bluetooth but works over very short range to transmit a signal, enabling users to just hover a card, phone or watch over a terminal and presto! Instant payment.
Are NFC payments secure? Yes, according to this article. The security protocol followed by NFC technology is the same one used by chip-enabled payment cards, making it more secure than swiping your card at a terminal. They are secure because they use a process called “tokenization” which turns your bank account number into a random string of characters which can only be translated by the merchant and only for that one transaction.
Comparing the online Payment Apps
“I’ll Venmo you” has entered the language because it’s such a popular payment method. Instead of whipping out your checkbook, you can send payments over the internet, using your phone, tablet or computer, thanks to one of the many apps available (and each with pros and cons). Here is a description of how they differ and which one is best for what purpose.
Major Cashless Society Apps
- Venmo: Best for friends, Venmo offers a quick, easy way to reimburse a friend for dinner, pay the cleaning person, or send money to your daughter. The downside is you can only use it from your phone and it’s not terribly intuitive. It can be hard to keep track of payments and balances. It’s free unless you use it with a credit card.
- Zelle: Best for banking. Zelle is a digital payments network owned by the major U.S. banks and goes straight from one person’s bank account to another’s. It’s more complicated to use than Venmo, but it’s free and very secure.
- The best all around. PayPal is both online and on your phone. You can look up balances easily and transfer money to and from your bank account. Business transactions pay a fee but personal transactions, as long as they’re designated “friends and family” are free. You need a PayPal account to buy from eBay. PayPal has a customer service number and can be helpful with scams or problem transactions.
In addition to the big three, there are others like the CashApp which can be used to buy stocks and Facebook Pay, which is a handy way to exchange funds with Facebook friends. There is also Remitly which is good for international payments and Stripe, for business. Read more about all of them.
Cashless Security Tips:
- Be careful making cashless payments. Everything can be hacked and there are scammers figuring out ways to part you from your money as we speak. This article outlines the measures you should take.
- Be aware that once you’ve paid through an app that money is probably irretrievable. Here are tips on keeping your money safe.
- When in doubt use a credit card or PayPal which functions like a credit card and provides protection for their customers. PayPal will go after vendors who try to rip you off. They even have phone customer service. The downside is not everyone you want to send money to will have it.
The Best Cashless advice
The best overall advice is to ONLY send money to people and vendors you know and trust. And ONLY start using an app after thoroughly researching how it works and making sure that you understand it.
It’s very easy to make a mistake and send the wrong amount to the wrong person. If you’re not sure you understand how to use a cash app, do a trial run with a friend or family member to make sure you have it down.
Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times. A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging. She’s the author of four books, including her memoir, I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State. You can subscribe to her newsletter at SnarkySenior.com or visit her website at EricaManfred.com