Tempted to ditch the bulky wallet or purse for a life of tap and go? Find out how the three most popular mobile payment platforms work – and see which one’s right for you…

First they replaced your MP3 player and camera, then your trusty roadmap – now they’re coming for your wallet… It’s safe to say phones are getting cleverer and cleverer by the day. But should you trust them with your moolah?

Join us as we delve into the world of mobile payments – from Apple and Google Pay to the latest offering from Samsung. What do they do and, crucially, how do they work? Read on for all the info…

How can you make mobile payments in the UK?

When it comes to mobile payment platforms, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay are the biggies, while newcomer FitBit Pay has just landed on the scene to allow mobile payments via its new Versa smartwatch. And, while each payment platform operates slightly differently, the premise is mostly the same across the board from a front-end point of view.

You simply download Samsung Pay or Google Pay from the Google Play Store, or access the Apple Wallet app on your iPhone, add your debit and/or credit card details, set your default card and you’re good to go.

Google and Apple Pay, meanwhile, extend beyond the smartphone to let you pay for things – from clothing to apps – online from any device.

How do they work?

So that’s your basic options covered, now onto the nitty gritty tech stuff: how does your money make it from your bank, to your phone, to the merchant in question?

Well, behind the scenes there’s lots of cool tech and a bunch of digital handshakes taking place each time you make a payment. First thing’s first, though: when you waggle your phone at a payment reader, each of the big three services will be using the same underlying tech: near-field communication (NFC) technology to transfer data between your phone and an NFC-equipped card reader.

And like any good tech, NFC has been long in the making, first debuting in the 1830s, in fact. Payment wasn’t its original purpose, though. NFC was originally designed to be used for ‘electromagnetic induction’, to send energy (rather than data) over a radio wave.

Fast-forward to this century and NFC is much more prevalent. For a good few years now, NFC in phones has been widely used to enable two devices to communicate with each other for the purpose of sending and receiving files, or to easily pair smartphones to accessories like wireless speakers, while the prospect that – one day – people might be able to make payments in stores always lingered on in the distance.

Until now, that is. Google and some other players have been experimenting in the space since 2011, but all this build up only really came to fruition with the launch of Apple Pay in 2014/2015. Working with both banks and big-name stores to install the necessary infrastructure all over the world, the stage was finally set for mobile users to leave their coppers at home…

Is it safe?

As we mentioned in our piece on banking chatbots, any time you divulge your personal information to an external party there is an element of risk. However, all three platforms have put a lot of effort and investment into ensuring your details and transactions remain as secure as possible.

According to information from Apple‘s support website, “Apple doesn’t store or have access to the original credit, debit, or prepaid card numbers that you use with Apple Pay. And when you use Apple Pay with credit, debit, or prepaid cards, Apple doesn’t retain any transaction information that can be tied back to you.” That means your transactions remain between you, the merchant and your bank or card issuer. Nice one.

For extra peace of mind, the tech also uses something called ‘tokenisation’ to protect your data by replacing it with algorithmically generated number. This enables payments to be processed without your bank details being exposed. Samsung Pay also uses tokenisation, and Google Pay works in a very similar way.

What does the future hold?

In addition to NFC, Samsung Pay also features something called Magnetic Strip Technology (MST) in some regions. This allows contactless payment between devices and terminals that aren’t equipped with NFC, helping the tech spread even further.

While MST isn’t out just yet in the UK, a recent Independent interview with Samsung’s Head of Technology, Content and Launch Management for the UK and Ireland, Kyle Brown, suggests it could be a goer for loyalty cards in the future – watch this space.

According to payments processor, WorldPay, meanwhile, people in the UK are embracing mobile payments. The number of mobile payments as a percentage of all in-store payments grew by 247% in 2016, and the main culprits are lunch and drinks.

So it seems as though we’ll all be leaving our wallets and purses at home for good soon enough.

Sharpen up your saving… Find out how AI banking chatbots could help streamline your spending.

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