What is a Mobile Wallet & Why You Should Use it? Everything Explained

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Pragya Chauhan

May 16, 2024

The rise of mobile wallets is transforming the way we manage our finances. The global mobile payments market is projected to reach a colossal USD 408.96 billion by 2029, signifying a significant shift toward digital solutions.

However, these virtual wallets offer more than just convenience. They represent a paradigm shift towards a more streamlined and secure financial experience.

Mobile wallets cater to the modern, tech-savvy individual by offering a secure and versatile solution for everyday transactions.

In this article, we’ll dig deeper into mobile wallets, exploring how they work, the various types available, and how they are different from digital wallets.

We'll also shed light on some of the most popular mobile wallet options and address any lingering questions you might have about making the switch in the FAQ section.

What is a Mobile Wallet?

A mobile wallet is like a digital version of a physical wallet that allows you to digitally store and manage your financial information, loyalty cards, tickets, and other digital assets on your smartphone.

With a mobile wallet, you can make contactless payments for everyday services directly from your phone without carrying cash or credit/debit cards.

This is a highly convenient, safer, and faster option than traditional payment methods. Online wallets are especially beneficial in situations where minimal contact is preferred.

The increasing demand for mobile wallets demonstrates a significant shift in financial transaction methods.

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Difference Between Digital Wallet vs. Mobile Wallet

Many refer to digital wallets as e-wallets. Both terms refer to software that allows users to store credit and debit card details and loyalty cards in the cloud.

All the users’ card details are stored in one handy place. Because it’s a cloud-based solution, they’re accessible from any connected device. So, is there a difference between digital and mobile wallets?

A mobile wallet is simply a specific type of digital wallet technology. However, while a digital wallet can be used on any device, a mobile wallet is accessible through a mobile app.

Digital wallets can be used to make ecommerce payments online, to make mobile contactless payments, and to transfer money between friends.

Mobile wallets aren’t quite as broad. They’re a digital wallet you use to make contactless payments instead of a credit card or cash. Apple Pay and Google Pay, mostly called GPay, are mobile wallets accessed through apps downloaded to your smartphone or wearable device.

In addition to paying with a single tap, they can be loaded with concert tickets, travel passes, and loyalty cards—basically, anything you’d include in a physical wallet.

Mobile Wallets Market in India

India is one of the fastest-growing countries for mobile wallets in the world.  Statista reports Paytm, PhonePe, and Google Pay are all expected to extend to hundreds of millions of users in India; come 2025.

Also, payments are projected to grow at a CAGR of 23.9% between 2023 and 2027. Several factors drive the growth of online wallets in India. Here are some of the primary ones:

  • The government’s push for digital payments and financial inclusion.
  • Rise of smartphone and internet connectivity, especially in rural areas.
  • The availability of low-cost and user-friendly mobile wallet apps, such as PhonePe, Paytm, and Google Pay.
  • The rise of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

How Does Mobile Wallet Work?

Mobile wallets and online payments are revolutionizing the way consumers make purchases.

Restaurants, grocery stores, retail, and convenience brands can implement virtual wallets and payments into customer experience solutions, like loyalty applications, to make accessing payment information and completing transactions fast and secure.

The following are some steps that users/customers can follow to use a mobile wallet:

  • Enter your card (credit/debit/other) information into the app.
  • The information is then encrypted and securely stored in the wallet app.
  • Once you authorize a transaction, the data is sent to the bank.
  • The bank then transfers the money to the retailer's account.

An online wallet payment system is an excellent alternative to cash payment. You don't need to carry cash or a card for every transaction. All you need is a smartphone and an internet connection.

Due to this level of convenience, mobile wallets have become increasingly popular worldwide.

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Types of Mobile Wallets

There are many types of mobile wallets, each offering unique features. Understanding these types can help you choose a wallet that best suits your requirements.

Here’s the breakdown of the main three types of online wallets:

Let’s understand each in more detail:

1. Open wallets

An open wallet is utilized directly by a bank or through a third party. It allows customers to use the funds in the online wallet to make transactions or withdraw the funds deposited to the account in cash.

An example of an open mobile wallet is PayPal, which allows users to make payments for in-store and online purchases while still withdrawing funds in cash.

2. Closed wallets

Closed wallets are linked to specific merchants, and users can only use the funds to make payments for transactions initiated with that merchant.

They cannot use the money to make payments for transactions with other merchants and third-party service providers or withdraw the funds in cash. An example of a closed wallet is Amazon Pay.

3. Semi-closed wallets

Semi-closed mobile wallets allow users to use the money in the wallet to make payments for transactions with multiple merchants as long as there is an existing contract between the merchant and the digital wallet app company.

Users can also withdraw the funds into a bank account. However, semi-closed wallets do not enable users to withdraw funds in cash.

Why you should use Mobile Wallets?

There are several compelling reasons to switch to a mobile wallet and ditch your bulky physical wallet:

1. Enhanced security

Mobile wallets use advanced encryption techniques to safeguard user data during transactions, ensuring a secure and protected payment environment.

By utilizing tokenization, wallet payments add an extra layer of security. A unique token is employed instead of transmitting sensitive card information, minimizing the risk of data breaches.

2. Convenience and efficiency

A digital wallet app offers a quick and hassle-free payment experience.  You can make transactions with a simple tap or scan, significantly reducing the time spent during checkout.

Moreover, the need to carry multiple physical cards is eliminated, and daily activities are streamlined, reducing the risk of loss or theft associated with traditional wallets.

3. Integration capabilities

Another reason for using a mobile wallet is that it can integrate various payment methods, enabling users to link multiple credit cards, debit cards, and digital currencies.

Wallet apps seamlessly incorporate loyalty programs and allow users to accumulate rewards points, access exclusive discounts, and enjoy personalized offers based on their spending habits.

Beyond payments, mobile wallets can also manage digital assets such as boarding passes, event tickets, and coupons, offering users an all-in-one solution.

4. Accessibility and versatility

Mobile wallets such as the Google Pay app allow users to make transactions anytime and anywhere, as long as they have a smartphone and internet connection.

Many wallets even support international transactions, allowing users to make payments in different currencies without needing physical currency exchange.

5. Environmental impact

The shift to online wallets aligns with eco-friendly practices by minimizing the need for physical cards, receipts, and other materials associated with traditional wallets.

These are just a few reasons that make mobile wallets compelling for those seeking a modern and efficient payment solution.

Popular Mobile Wallet Examples

Today, there are many examples of mobile wallets, each with unique features and capabilities.

However, Statista says the most popular mobile wallets are  Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal.

These wallets have risen in popularity, bringing distinctive strengths to the forefront. They are shaping digital transactions and redefining how users handle their finances.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is a widely used mobile wallet for iOS devices. The wallet allows users to make secure payments using their iPhones, Apple Watches, and iPads.

Key features of Apple Wallet include:

  • Integration with biometric authentication (Touch ID or Face ID).
  • Compatibility with various merchants globally.
  • Support for in-store and online transactions.

Apple focuses on user privacy and has designed Apple Pay to minimize the collection of personal information. Transactions are not linked to users’ Apple IDs, and Apple does not store transaction details.

Google Pay

When it comes to examples of mobile wallets, Google Pay is one of them that comes first.

Google Pay is a mobile wallet designed and developed by Google that is compatible with Android devices. It allows users to make contactless payments and manage financial transactions.

Key features of Google Pay wallet include:

  • Integration with Google’s ecosystem
  • Contactless payments through NFC technology support
  • Ability to store loyalty cards and tickets

Google Pay’s cross-platform compatibility, integration with Google services, and wide range of functionalities contribute to its prominence in the mobile payment landscape. Users can easily download Gpay from the Google Play Store.

PayPal

PayPal is one of the best digital wallets that goes beyond traditional payments. While PayPal serves as a mobile wallet, it offers comprehensive options for financial services beyond basic transactions.

The platform includes peer-to-peer payments, online shopping integration, buyer and seller protection, and cryptocurrency support. PayPal also offers buyer and seller protection programs.

Buyers are secured against unauthorized transactions or items not received, while sellers are protected from certain types of fraudulent claims.

These are some of the mobile wallets that have been successful in the market, demonstrating the practical applications of mobile wallets in everyday life.

Most Popular Mobile Wallets in India

While the above-mentioned mobile wallets are the most popular in the world, let’s a look at the most popular ones in especially India:

Paytm

Paytm is India’s largest mobile wallet provider and probably you’ve also used it.  The mobile application offers a range of services, such as mobile recharge, bill payments, ticket booking, online shopping, money transfer, insurance, loans, and more.

Moreover, Paytm also operates Paytm Payments Bank, which offers savings accounts, debit cards, and UPI services.

PhonePe

Another popular online payment service platform, PhonePe, is a leading mobile wallet and UPI app.  The platform offers numerous services such as money transfer, mobile recharge, bill payments, ticket booking, online shopping, insurance, mutual funds, and more.

Like Paytm, it also operates PhonePe Switch, which allows users to access over 200 apps within the PhonePe app.

Google Pay

Google Pay is also one of India's most popular wallet apps. Google Wallet app for Android offers services such as mobile recharge, bill payments, ticket booking, online shopping, money transfer, and more.

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Technologies behind Mobile Wallet Payments

Mobile wallet transactions are made possible through several advanced technologies that ensure secure and efficient payments.

1. Near Field Communication (NFC)

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a wireless technology for contactless online wallet payments. It allows communication between NFC-based credit cards, mobile wallets, and unique card readers.

When an NFC-enabled mobile device comes close to a card reader, the reader emits a signal that triggers a secure and fast exchange of payment information for processing.

2. Tokenization

Tokenization is another key technology for securing mobile wallet payments.

When you initiate a transaction, sensitive payment information like credit card numbers is replaced with unique tokens, ensuring that payment details are never exposed to potential security threats.

However, tokenization also comes with some challenges, such as the risk of phone cloning or malware targeting virtual card information.

3. Biometric authentication

This technology provides an additional layer of security to online mobile wallet payments.

Biometric authentication with the latest technologies such as fingerprint scanning and facial recognition are used to authenticate transactions, preventing unauthorized access to your mobile wallet.

Biometric systems store an encrypted numeric representation of the biometric data to maintain user privacy.

In short technologies like Near Field Communication (NFC), tokenization, and biometric authentication, all work together to create a seamless wallet payment experience.

Are Mobile Wallets a Safe Mode of Payment?

Yes, they are a safe mode of digital payment. When you make payments via a wallet, you do not expose your entire bank balance to potential fraud. Your exposure is only to the extent of the bank amount you have loaded in the wallet.

Does losing your mobile phone put the money in your wallet at risk? No, unless the fraudster knows your wallet PIN, that person cannot misuse your wallet balance.

That said, it's suggested to think of a wallet as an intermediate store of money into which you don't park large sums. This can help limit your risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a mobile wallet?

Ans. A mobile wallet is a secure app on your phone that stores your credit, debit, and loyalty card information digitally. Imagine a digital version of your physical wallet. To pay, simply tap your phone on a contactless reader at stores.

Q. Is Gpay a mobile wallet?

Ans. Yes, Google Pay (Gpay) is a mobile wallet that lets you store and use your credit, debit, and loyalty cards for contactless payments.

Q. What is e-wallet?

Ans. E-wallet is another term for a mobile wallet. It refers to the electronic storage of your financial information on a mobile device.

Q. Which mobile wallet is best?

Ans. While the best mobile wallet depends on your needs, some popular options include Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. When searching for the best you can consider factors like security features, supported devices, and compatibility with stores you frequent.

Q. Is mobile wallet safe?

Ans. Yes, mobile wallets are very secure, often using features like fingerprint scanning and tokenization (replacing card numbers with unique codes) to protect your information.

Q. What is a MobiKwik wallet?

Ans. MobiKwik is a mobile wallet app offering features like money transfers, bill payments, and online shopping payments.

Q. Why do people use mobile wallets?

Ans. People use mobile wallets for convenience as these wallets eliminate the need to carry physical cards, are potentially safer than physical cards, and have features like loyalty program storage and spending tracking.

Q. How do you use a mobile wallet?

Ans. You can use a mobile wallet by following these steps:

  • Download a mobile wallet app
  • Add your payment methods
  • Follow the app's instructions to set up security features (PIN, fingerprint)
  • To pay, unlock your phone and tap it on the contactless payment terminal

Q. What is the difference between UPI and mobile wallets?

Ans. Both UPI and mobile wallets allow digital payments. However, UPI is a payment method that works through a linked bank account. Mobile wallets store your card information and may offer additional features like loyalty programs.

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