Split the check the high-tech way3/18/2015
More than anything else, the tech industry desperately wants into your wallet. Sure Amazon, Walmart.com and other online retailers are major online stops for purchasing gifts and other goods, but that’s only the first piece of the pie. Amazon is the unquestioned e-commerce king, and whoever takes them down is likely to come completely out of left field. The next slice of online transaction dessert is mobile payment systems. None of them have truly taken off, but when one does, it might replace credit cards.
Apple Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal are popular mobile payment services, but they’re not much more than masks for credit card services. Nothing in the mobile payment universe has gripped America like Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Why use an app when your wallet is just as fast to reach as your phone and doesn’t require a data connection? What’s the incentive to putting a fourth party service in the way? In case you’re wondering, the order here is your cash, a bank, a credit card then an application. There better be a huge amount of upside to adding a new layer, otherwise you’re simply opening your finances to the wonderful world of hacking.
Sure, the odds of your credit card or your smartphone getting hacked are pretty close to even money, but adding your credit card to your smartphone doubles down on the danger. So something needs to lure you in, and a few developers might have found the right bait. First, there’s Snapchat, or more appropriately, Snapcash. Say you’re messaging back and forth with your friend and suddenly he or she needs the $20 back you borrowed last week. You could figure out how to send money through PayPal or Apple Pay, but there’s no need to leave the application thanks to Snapcash. Simply insert “$20” into the messaging field, and the app will send the money directly from your debit card to your friend’s connected checking account. It’s simple and inside the same app you’ve been using to send silly messages back and forth.
Social networks and messaging services are integrating similar features. Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp all use the Singapore service Fastacash, whereas Google Plus uses — you guessed it — Google Wallet. The best part of these systems is that the transaction fees are ridiculously low because these services know the best way to make money off their users isn’t to pick their pocket but to subliminally suggest purchases through advertisements.
After messaging networks and applications, the newest mobile payment move is mixing your funds with others; that’s the basic idea behind Venmo. Say you share a taxi from the airport with a total stranger and neither of you has cash. How do you split the bill? Venmo, GroupMe, Lovely, Splittr and others do that and much more. Any split expense from bar tabs to rent payments can be handled with services like Venmo, plus it takes care of the easy cash transfer and bill pay features of other mobile payments. Social payments are a great mobile payment incentive. Forget spreadsheets and calculators — let apps handle the math.
Just because you can do something with your smartphone doesn’t mean you should. Putting your financial data on a device you could easily leave on a bus or in a coffeehouse leaves you open to identity theft. So unless you are constantly sending money back and forth to your Facebook contacts, consider sticking with cash or credit. It may be low-tech, but in our tech-enhanced age, losing your phone will hurt more than your wallet. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.