4 Ways to Use Mobile Wallets

Beyond contactless payments, mobile wallets let you send money to a friend, get cash-back rewards and more.

woman using mobile wallet system
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mobile wallets such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay are known for their ability to transmit payment information with a tap of your smartphone at the store register. But they come with other features, too. Even if you prefer to stick with plastic cards or cash most of the time, consider these reasons to keep a mobile wallet in your back pocket.

Use it for backup. You’re in the checkout line when you realize that you left your leather wallet at home. If you’ve set up your mobile wallet with your payment credentials, you may be able to use your phone to pay instead. Many major retailers accept the contactless “near field communication” (NFC) payments that major mobile wallets use. Or, with Samsung devices previous to the Galaxy S21 generation, you can tap to pay with Samsung Pay at nearly any terminal that accepts card payments, even if it’s not NFC-capable.

Pay family and friends. You can send money to a family member or friend with Apple Pay as long as the recipient has a compatible Apple device and an Apple Cash account. Senders and recipients of payments through Samsung Pay must have a Samsung Pay Cash account. With Google Pay, you can send money to other users of the app (it is compatible with Android and Apple devices for such transfers). The funds go to the recipient’s Google Pay balance.

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Get rewards. With the Google and Samsung wallets, you can sign up to receive cash-back rewards at select merchants when you pay with the apps. Google Pay, for example, recently offered 15% back on a $10 minimum purchase at Panera Bread, and Samsung Pay offered 20% back on purchases with online eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker. If you have the Apple Card credit card, you get 2% cash back on all purchases you make with it through Apple Pay (or 3% on purchases from Apple and select merchants).

Track spending. Google Pay provides spending summaries based on information from your linked bank and credit card accounts. You can also search for specific transactions—say, for food purchases.

Lisa Gerstner
Editor, Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine

Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.