Review: Pay by Phone or Just Keep Using Plastic?

PayPal, Apple and others are betting on billions in mobile payments. But so far, trying to use my phone to pay at restaurants and retailers has been frustrating. It's easier just to pull out my plastic credit card than to figure out which card works with which app and which app works with which store.

In theory, mobile-payment services such as Google Wallet are easy to use. You simply download an app and enter your card information. With Apple Pay, you can even snap a picture of the card or use the one you already use with Apple's iTunes. Then, when you're ready to pay, you typically hold your phone near the store's payment terminal. The transaction is authorized through a special wireless chip embedded in many Android phones and -- in the case of Apple Pay -- the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. PayPal and Square use a different method, but the idea is the same. There's no need to look for the right card in your wallet or purse.

In practice, the process isn't so smooth. I have several payment apps taking up space on my phone. I open them only when I need a reminder of why they are so frustrating. After all, whipping out a credit or debit card isn't so time-consuming, though it is a pain when I lose a card or leave it at home. It would be nice not to have to carry them around.

So what do PayPal, Apple, Google and others need to do to get me to leave my wallet at home?

Get more stores and restaurants to install the equipment to let me pay by phone.

I once considered spending a week trying to pay for all my meals with my phone. I'd starve. I could get a burger at McDonald's or a...

Comments are closed.