“Back to the Future” with Mobile Wallets

Mobile wallets are now used by millions of people worldwide. Here’s how mobile payment methods work and the benefits of each.

Kallee Feuz Sep 24, 2018

In the 1989 movie sequel “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly glimpses a future void of traditional wallets. Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown waves a slim, tablet-like device to collect donations to save the clock tower, while Biff Tannen uses his thumbprint to pay for a taxi.

Though the movie's depictions of self-dusting paper and programmable jackets never caught on, mobile wallets — considered science fiction 30 years ago — are now used by millions of people worldwide.

Along with being a computer, a camera and a flashlight, the smartphone has become a digital wallet. It’s capable of weightlessly carrying all your credit cards, debit cards and loyalty cards. And it can replace a billfold of dollar bills by sending and receiving cash virtually.

Thanks to technological advancements, you don’t need a Flux Capacitor to step into the future of mobile wallets, just a supported smartphone, tablet or wearable device. Here’s how to bring mobile payments into your future.

Quickly Send Money to Family and Friends

If only the DeLorean had transported peer-to-peer payment platforms back to 1955, it would have been a snap to split the tab at Lou’s Café or make a virtual donation to save the clock tower. Today’s services like Zelle and Venmo make it easy for family and friends to send, receive and request money without having to search for the correct change or the nearest ATM. 

  • To use Zelle, all you need is a mobile banking app on your phone (or, if you prefer, the Zelle app). Send money directly from your bank account to almost anyone with a U.S. bank account simply by entering their email address or mobile number and the dollar amount you want to send.
  • Venmo lets you send and receive payments, much like Zelle, but transactions are made through a third-party app. Link your bank account to the Venmo app, where you can send cash quickly to friends and avoid awkward IOUs. Venmo payments you receive can be stored as a Venmo balance or deposited into your bank account.
  • Besides being a platform for paying online and in stores, Google Pay has entered the peer-to-peer payment arena.  Add your debit card number to the Google Pay app and send money to friends and family — even to those who don’t have the app. You can also split any Google Pay purchase with up to five friends.

Make Retail Purchases

Had a time-traveling Doc Brown observed a future with sophisticated near-field communication (NFC), he may well have employed his trademark exclamation, “Great Scott!”  Most of today’s devices — smartphones, smartwatches and tablets — now come with a built-in mobile payment system that uses NFC to transmit encrypted personal credit or debit card information to a retailer’s payment terminal.

The three major mobile pay services — Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay — use near-field communication to enable purchases from thousands or retailers. In addition to NFC, Samsung Pay also uses magnetic stripe and chip-based card reading technology that works with most existing payment terminals.

To set up your mobile wallet:

  • Download the app of your choice.
  • Add your credit card, debit card, loyalty cards or prepaid cards to the account.
  • Look for the corresponding Samsung, Google or Apple icons at the checkout counter or online.
  • When you’re ready to make an in-store purchase, hold the phone close to the payment terminal and authenticate your identity via password, iris scan, face recognition or pattern, depending on the lock-screen security options on your device. There’s no need to launch an app.
  • Along with authentication, Apple, Google and Samsung all use tokenization to make mobile payments more secure.  Instead of transmitting your actual debit or credit card number to retailers, a one-time encrypted number is sent to the retailer. So if the number is stolen, it would be meaningless for future transactions.

In the final scene of “Back to the Future,” as Jennifer, Marty and Doc prepare to travel into the future, Doc famously says, “Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.”

Will we need wallets in the future? What forms will personal banking take as more consumers and merchants move to mobile pay services?  While only time will tell how technology will shape our financial behavior, Zions Bank, is embracing emerging technologies and digital payment options while honoring its 145-year foundation built on credibility and trust. 

As a Zions Bank cardholder, you receive the same great service, even when making digital payments, including 24/7 fraud monitoring, zero liability, purchase alerts, and mobile card fraud alerts.

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