Why Clark Howard Shifted to a Digital Wallet and You Should Too

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Have you made the technological leap to a digital wallet yet? And if you have, are you getting the most out of it?

Money expert Clark Howard used some of his downtime during the coronavirus quarantine to upload all of his pertinent cards and information to the Google Pay digital wallet app on his cell phone.

He says he likes the new technology so much that he plans to continue using it as his preferred way to pay for the foreseeable future.

“Google Pay has been great. I use it regularly and plan to continue doing so,” Clark says. “It’s pretty seamless.”

In this article, we’ll explain what a digital wallet is, dig into why Clark made the shift, find out exactly what is in Clark’s digital wallet and talk through some of the security concerns you may have.


What Is a Digital Wallet?

Simply put, a digital wallet is a digital version of your financial accounts that is made available and kept secure on a third-party platform. Digital wallets can securely store things like debit cards and credit cards. And that cuts down on the time it takes to make online purchases or contactless payments at a store cash register.

If you have a smartphone that was manufactured in the last few years, there’s a good chance you’re already carrying around a pre-installed digital wallet app in your pocket.

Some of the popular digital wallet options for your mobile device include:


Why Clark Switched to a Digital Wallet

There are myriad reasons to consider making the move to a digital wallet, but Clark’s breaking point was simply rooted in necessity.

Like many of us, Clark found himself avoiding physical encounters for an extended period during the COVID-19 pandemic. So he wanted to increase the safety of conducting transactions in stores.

“I didn’t really get to being a big user of it until the coronavirus,” Clark said. “Now I use it for touchless payments.

“And that is really important to me because, as you may know, I’ve been in quarantine since March 13. So if I go to pick something up, I don’t want to hand them my credit card and let any cooties they may have get handed back to me on the card.”

While Clark’s reason for contactless payments is probably a popular one in 2020, there are other reasons you could consider switching to a digital wallet yourself:

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  • Peer-to-Peer Payment Capabilities. Apps like Venmo and the Cash App are popular ways to pay friends when splitting a bill, but you also can use your digital wallet to do that. For example, using Google Pay, all you’ll need is someone’s email address or phone number to send them money.
  • Convenience. If set up correctly, your digital wallet could free you up to leave most of the contents of your actual wallet at home. With access to your credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts and loyalty/discount cards all in one spot, you’ll need only your phone, keys and a form of identification.

What Is In Clark’s Digital Wallet

Clark has made the most of Google Pay’s capabilities by adding more than just his credit card information to the app.

He also has added his travel rewards and retail loyalty cards to his digital wallet.

Here’s a sampling of some of the things you’d find in Clark’s Digital Wallet:

  • These credit cards that he also keeps in his actual wallet
  • Airline frequent flyer rewards accounts (Southwest Rapid Rewards, for example)
  • Restaurant and store loyalty cards (ex. Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread Company)

Clark cites a recent example of a transaction he made with Panera Bread Company, where he used his Google Pay app to prepay for his food order before picking it up from their drive-thru window.

“This morning I went to Panera for some food. I ordered on Panera’s app, I chose to pay with Google Pay during the checkout, I added the tip with Google Pay and then when I got there they just handed me my food,” Clark said.

“It has been especially valuable in situations like that.”

An increasing number of businesses are taking advantage of brand positioning on these platforms, so you may be surprised by the number of your loyalty programs that are already available to link.

Here’s a look at just a few of the businesses that are integrated into the Google Pay platform for easy access to their loyalty programs:

Loyalty rewards cards for places like Starbucks are available on Google Pay.

You may want to pull out your loyalty rewards cards and search for them in your digital wallet as a “baby step” for setting it up for potential long-term use.


Are Transactions With A Digital Wallet Safe?

Understandably, some people may have reservations about the safety of their personal financial information while using their phones to complete a credit card transaction.

As Google Pay explains in this video, it does not use your actual card information when you make an in-store transaction. Instead, it uses a unique encrypted number for each transaction.

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The video also addresses what to do if you lose your phone:

Safety Observations From Google Pay and American Express

To help better understand the security measures available, I decided to set up one of my credit cards on the Google Pay service.

The process took no more than two minutes from beginning to end. I was required to enter the card number, my home address and phone numbers, as well as the card’s security code. Google then sent my phone a one-time security code that I entered to verify that it was me adding the card to my accounts.

Granting permission for the phone to make contactless payments, which are a favorite of Clark’s, is also a part of this set-up process. These transactions are completed with the use of a technology called radio frequency identification (RFID). This lets you physically place your phone near a point-of-sale card reader and complete the transaction without actually touching it.

Almost immediately after I finished the setup process, I got an email from American Express that explained the security measures the company takes.

American Express sends an email to users after signing up for Google Pay.

It is worth noting that American Express confirmed that my actual Amex card number will not be used for transactions and that it’s not stored on the digital wallet platform. Instead, a dummy number has been assigned to my Google Pay account. That will allow Amex to easily designate Google Pay transactions on my bill.

An additional security feature of Google Pay is that you have to unlock your phone screen with a password, fingerprint or facial recognition before you can complete a contactless payment transaction.

Google Pay will not process a transaction unless the phone has been unlocked.

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In conjunction with the ability to erase data remotely from a stolen phone, this will be an added layer of point-of-sale transaction security if you cannot find your phone.


Final Thoughts

In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, having a contactless payment option is probably a smart idea.

If you haven’t already, it may be worth spending a few minutes getting familiar with the digital wallet application on your cell phone. No matter if you’re operating on an Apple or Android device, you should have access to a free, secure digital wallet app.

There may be some personal hurdles to clear to get comfortable with the security measures, but I believe that platforms like Google Pay and Apple Pay will meet the security standards of most people who already conduct business online.

My advice is to pick a credit card you don’t use much to try out in your digital wallet for a few transactions. You’ll feel comfortable knowing that your banking account and primary spending cards are not attached while you work towards familiarity with the transaction process. If you decide a digital wallet is for you, it’ll be easy to add more payment options.

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