It was only after I had left my building and starting walking to my destination that I realized that familiar feeling of having something in my back pocket was missing. I patted my back pocket, and subsequently, all my other pockets to realize that I’d left my ID, my debit card, and pretty much everything else that allows me to transact with society, five minutes back in my apartment. My first reaction was obviously to return to my place and pick up the wallet, and I actually had turned around and started walking, but then I looked in the palm of my hand.
I had my smartphone. Could I accomplish everything I’d set out to do with just my smartphone and not my wallet?
The answer is yes, at least, given what I had on the agenda.
My plans for the journey away from my apartment were to go to a coffee shop and get some work done, and grab a bite to eat. Fortunately, these two activities are easily accomplished using apps.
Using my phone to pay for my meal, I knew my go to option would be LevelUp. LevelUp is an app I wrote about last year that uses a QR code on your phone that’s linked to your bank account to let you pay for meals at participating restaurants and other goods at retailers, although the largest portion of participating LevelUp businesses are restaurants.
Opening up the LevelUp app, I was able to quickly see a map of which restaurants in my vicinity would accept the form of payment. I found a restaurant that I could eat at — there were probably about 30 restaurants within a 20-minute walk of my starting location — although I was slightly disappointed at the lack of selection in the Seattle neighborhood I was planning to walk to (beggars can’t really be choosers, I suppose). When I arrived at the restaurant, I quickly confirmed they would accept LevelUp as payment (which was a good thing as they hadn’t had a customer use it in a while and the device they use to scan LevelUp tags was in a drawer somewhere.) Once I finished the meal, however, my payment went off without a hitch.
Obviously, the gold standard for mobile payments is Starbucks. No business has achieved as much success with its customers paying via smartphone as the Seattle-based coffee giant. My Starbucks card that is tied to my smartphone automatically reloads every time my balance dips below $10, so I know there will always be funds there, and virtually every Starbucks across the country (except for some in some airports, I’ve found) is equipped to accept mobile payments.
I walked to my destination, but had I needed to travel a little farther than walking distance, there would have been several mobile app-based options for me to get around town. Most major U.S. cities and many worldwide have at least one, and in some cases all three, ridesharing services of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. With credit card payments tied to the accounts in these apps, getting from Point A to Point B without cash or a physical card couldn’t be easier.
I don’t think I could go for too long without my wallet. Whether it is cash or the need to swipe my debit card at a department store or pharmacy, there’s still a lot of places that don’t accept some form of mobile payments that would make it difficult to get along. But for just a single day? You can get along with mobile payments only just fine, and that is just enough of a taste to make the future of a mobile wallet much more exciting.