How the smartphone became a virtual wallet

Want to turn your smartphone into a virtual wallet? We show you how you can make the most of this technology…

18 May 2016


Imagine meeting your friends for dinner and suddenly realising that you've left your purse or wallet behind. Now that you can pay with your smartphone you’ll never face this problem again.

That’s because most new smartphones come with the technology to allow contactless payment, which makes a paying for the things you want even easier.Apple Pay

How does it work?

With smartphone pay platforms such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, you simply wave your phone over the credit card reader to make a transaction. 

Prefer to do your shopping online? your virtual wallet will work there too. With mobile payments you can: 

  • grab a latte or a sandwich on your lunch  
  • pick up some last-minutes bits for dinner from the supermarket
  • buy a Tube ticket or hop on the bus
  • pay for things over your phone from within apps

These platforms work using Near Field Communication (NFC) – the same technology used on your work pass that lets you into the building or contactless debit/credit cards. 

Setting up your wallet is easy – add your credit or debit card to your phone and enter the verification code emailed to you by your bank and you’re ready to go.


How secure is a virtual wallet?

Concerned about security? Most in-store transactions are capped at £30, although Apple Pay will sometimes allow you to make purchases of larger amounts depending upon the retailer. 

Fingerprint verification and ‘tokenisation’ should also ease any worries you have about fraud and theft.

With it, your phone substitutes your credit card number with a unique ‘token’ that’s used to authorise payment for your purchase – so the retailer never actually has access to your personal details. The payment is secured and verified on Apple Pay and Samsung

Pay using your fingerprint or a PIN if you’re using Android Pay – so you don’t have to worry about accidentally buying something you don’t want.Android Pay 

Where can you use your virtual wallet?

Apple Pay launched at the end of 2015 and most UK banks and many high street names have signed up already – including Costa, Pret, TFL and M&S Food. Look for the contactless pay or Apple Pay symbols to take advantage.

Most recently Android Pay became available in the UK, with the likes of Boots, Starbucks, Waitrose and TFL on board at launch.

Meanwhile Samsung Pay is already going strong in the US, with great reviews, and will be launching the in the UK this year.


Which phones have this technology?

Fans of Apple can start using Apple Pay on their iPhone 6 and Apple Watch straight away – while Android users running version 4.4 and up can pay with their device. 

See our full range of smartphones