Consumer Reports: Paying With Your Smart Phone

Over the last year, people are starting to pay for stuff by waving, sliding, or tapping their smart phones. More and more apps are offering different ways to pay—they’re referred to as digital wallets. Consumer Reports Money Adviser took a look at several to see whether you really can leave your wallet at home.

Starbucks is one of the hundreds of thousands of businesses nationwide that have signed up for Square Wallet. Square is compatible with a number of iPhone and Android models, and Consumer Reports Money Adviser says it’s pretty easy to use. But other digital wallets are not as widely accessible.

For instance, Google Wallet and Isis aren’t available on iPhones and only work with some service providers. They also require a wireless technology that only some stores can use. And some digital wallet apps will only link with a few credit cards. So you may need to link to a prepaid card, which can incur additional fees. And that may also mean you don’t have the best protections if you lose your phone or someone breaks into your account. Prepaid cards, whether in your hand or on your phone, have no guaranteed protections against unauthorized transactions, so you could lose whatever balance is on the card.

Still, if you like leaving your bulky wallet at home, Consumer Reports says use an app such as Square that links to a credit card for the best consumer protections. Just be sure to report a lost phone or suspicious activity to the credit-card company. And of course, also inform your cellular carrier right away so that it can disable the phone if it has been lost or stolen.

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