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QuickTips: Mobile Wallets Explained

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SELCO QuickTips

March 6, 2017


Update: As of February 2018, Android Pay has been renamed Google Pay.



Last November, SELCO debit and credit cards officially became compatible with three top mobile wallet services: Apple Pay®, Google Pay®, and Samsung Pay. Simply put, these apps allow cardholders to make purchases with a touch of their smartphones.

If you’re a technophile (or if you always forget your wallet at home), mobile wallets probably sound pretty great. But if you’re not, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. A closer look at how the tech works reveals just how impressive mobile wallets are.

More secure than carrying your wallet with you.

What a mobile wallet looks like in action.

Setting up a mobile wallet is easy. You just need a credit or debit card and a compatible smartphone (e.g., iPhone 6 or later, or Samsung Galaxy S6 or later). Start by scanning your card or inputting your card information manually into your mobile payment app (Apple Pay for iPhones, Google Pay or Samsung Pay for others). To use Apple Pay, simply hold your phone near the card reader and, when prompted, enter your PIN or scan your fingerprint. The other mobile wallets work similarly, but you’ll need to select your preferred card inside the app first.

universal contactless symbolTo tell if a merchant accepts mobile wallets, look for the “contactless” icon (to the right) or the logo of your preferred mobile wallet service. If you don’t see one, ask the merchant. Not every store accepts every form of payment, but the numbers for each service are growing quickly.

More secure than carrying a card.

If the idea of combining your wallet and phone makes you uneasy, you’re not alone. But rest assured, mobile wallets are more secure than carrying your cards with you. That’s for two reasons:

  1. PIN or fingerprint authentication. During the transaction, the big three mobile wallet services allow you to either input a PIN or scan your fingerprint for verification. This insures that you—and only you—will be able to approve payments, even if your phone were stolen.
  2. Tokenization. In short, tokenization is the process of creating a unique digital code as a stand-in for your card. It means sensitive financial information doesn’t have to be stored on your phone.

How does the merchant get approval for a transaction?

Here’s what happens when you hold your phone to the card reader:

  1. Your phone sends the token to the merchant.
  2. The merchant sends the transaction to SELCO for approval using the token instead of your actual card number.
  3. The approval for the transaction moves back up the chain, and clears your account in the same manner as transactions made with your physical card.

Voilà! Payment made!

Want to learn more?

We’ve covered the basics, but different mobile wallets have many unique features, from the ability to upload gift cards to making in-app payments. Click the service that works best for you to learn more:

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