Wouldn't it be great if you could seriously slim down your wallet or purse and have all those credit cards, gift cards, and frequent customer punch cards all consolidated electronically? Smartphones are finally inching us towards a cash-less society, but there are still a few barriers. We rounded up a few promising technologies that just might get us convince us to go all in...I rarely carry cash around now, and when I do, I act like it's held in one of those glass fire boxes — breaking only in case of emergency. This all of course could be eliminated if every restaurant we ate at, parking meter we parked at, or street vendor we bought from all took digital forms of payment. Here's a list of some platforms that have potential to get us to that reality.
Pay with Square App
This is my favorite implementation of the digital payment concept, and it comes to us from one of the founders of Twitter — Jack Dorsey. The app is available for Android and iOS devices, and gives you a virtual tab at any participating retailer. You simply walk into the store, turn on your tab within the app (or set it to auto) and the merchant gets a notification on their system with your picture and name. After you place your order, you can pay for the item(s) by just mentioning your name and saying "put it on my tab." The item is payed for with your account without ever taking out your wallet, and you get to walk out feeling like a regular who practically owns the place. This system also can keep track of what you ordered — in case you want what you had last time — and offers rewards for frequent visits.
Square Card Reader
I've come across several of these in use by the local food truck scene here in Austin. It provides a way for small business owners to accept credit cards without the startup cost of a large point-of-sale machine. The card reader is free once you register and you simply plug into the phone and then swipe the card. Square gets a 2.75% cut of the transaction and you get your funds direct deposited into your bank account the next day.
You've surely heard of Google wallet, an Android specific payment virtual wallet that allows you to pay vendors with your smartphone. The app is available for download now, and is one of the first that brought digital payment mainstream using NFC technology. It's major limitation though is in that it only works with Citi Mastercards or Google Prepaid cards, and not a lot of vendors have implemented NFC readers into their registers. So even if you do have it, you might find it hard to take advantage of. It does have the potential to be very useful though once more vendors and credit cards jump on board.
Isis is the credit card companies own answer to Google Wallet. Supported by American Express, Chase, and Capital One, it too provides a way to pay for your items with a smartphone that features a built-in NFC chip (i.e. not your iPhone). It's currently available in Austin and Salt Lake City now, with plans to make it to a city toward you soon.
Aside from turn-by-turn navigation, this is my favorite feature coming to iOS 6 — or in other words an iPad or iPhone near you. It takes care of consolidating all your store loyaly cards, boarding passes, and e-tickets into the app with an ease of use that's made Apple the leading tech company. At an airport your boarding pass will update on the fly with the correct boarding terminal information, and it can even alert you if you happen to be sitting in the wrong gate. Cards and coupons are scanned by IR scanners that are already in stores now. There's certainly strength in numbers, and Apple's huge popularity and public mindshare give it a big advantage in expanding the reach of this platform.
(Images: 1.,2. Chris Perez 3. Square 4. Google 5. Front 72 6. Apple)