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5 reasons why I switched to a digital wallet, and you should too

79% of Gen Zers use digital wallets. Here's why and how I survive without a physical wallet.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
using a digital wallet to buy something from vending machine
d3sign/Getty Images

Most smartphones offer digital wallets which allow you to add your credit cards, debit cards, event passes, reward cards, and more all in one location. Despite the convenience of accessing all your cards in one place, some people still prefer to use a physical wallet -- not Gen Z though. 

Also: How to use Apple Pay in stores and online

The New York Times published an article headlined, "The Youths Have Spoken: Wallets Are Uncool. Go Digital," which deep dives into how younger generations have ditched physical wallets for digital ones. A survey cited in the article asked 2,501 American consumers about digital payments and found that 79% of GenZ respondents use digital wallets, compared to a mere 26% of baby boomers and seniors who do. 

As a fellow Gen Zer, I too forgo bringing my physical wallet with me most of the time, including on my way to the office this very morning. So what are the perks of converting to a digital wallet? I rounded up a few of them below for you. 

1. No bulk 

The first is the most obvious: you get to reduce the physical bulk in your pocket or purse by replacing it with an invisible, digital version. This not only helps me avoid carrying a heavy wallet but also helps me stay more organized. 

Also: Google Wallet now supports 40 more banks

We have all tried to pull out one card from our wallets and had several others come out instead. With the digital wallet, you can see the face of all your cards clearly displayed on your phone's screen and can easily select the one you want. It's also nice when you go to the gym to not have to lug a physical wallet from machine to machine or worry about its safety in a locker. 

2. Quicker, easier transactions

In the day and age we live in, your phone is always readily accessible. Whether in your hand, in your pocket, or at the top of your purse, it's never far away. This means that when checking out, hopping on a bus, or entering a busy concert venue, you can complete a transaction more quickly with your phone than if you take the time to take your card out of your wallet or purse. 

A person using their iPhone's Apple Wallet to tap and pay to enter an NYC subway.
Min Shin/ZDNET

For example, on NYC MTA buses, the operator says that buses will move quicker when everyone uses OMNY, the contactless fare payment system for public transportation in the New York Region. The OMNY website even says it's trying to phase out physical Metro Cards. 

3. Forget the stress of forgetting

In the past, if you forgot your wallet, you would be limited to the cash you had in your pocket or would have no way of making any purchases. This situation can be especially dire when emergencies arise, and you need an insurance card or payment method, both of which can now be found in your digital wallet.   

Now with digital wallets, even if you forget your wallet, you have a backup option that can complete all of your transactions right from your phone. This eliminates the stress of misplacing your wallet, especially if you are someone like me who likes to switch out purses constantly and sometimes forgets to switch out the wallets too. 

4. Stolen or lost wallet is not a concern 

If someone picks up your credit card from the ground or steals it directly off your person, nothing is stopping them from using it, until you call the bank to have the card canceled, and that's if you even realize it's missing. However, the likelihood of your phone getting stolen is lower since most people, like myself, are hyper-aware of where their phone is at all times. 

Also: It's 2030, and digital wallets have replaced every card in our purses and pockets

Even if your phone did get stolen, to use your digital wallet you need to enter some form of verification, which the thief would not have. For example, before making a transaction on my iPhone, I have to double-click the lock button and either show my face or physically enter my passcode to fulfill the payment. 

5. More easily track your expenses

When you use your digital wallet, you can view all of your added card transactions within the wallet without visiting your bank account's website or individual app. This makes it easier to track expenses because you can view all your card transactions in one place, even if they span different banks. 

Additionally, you will immediately be notified of how much you were charged on your phone. Not only is this convenient for tracking purposes, but it also helps identify immediately whether there was a mistake with your transaction. For example, if a waiter clocked in the wrong tip or if the item you thought was on sale wasn't, instead of potentially not noticing until later, you'll see the charge immediately in the notification.

Signing up and getting started is easy

Both Androids and iPhones have native digital wallets -- Google Wallet and Apple Wallet -- and they are very easy to use. All you have to do to add a card is enter your card details and follow the card-specific approval instructions, which may include verifying you're the account holder signing into your bank account, or even calling the bank. 

But what about my phone's battery?

When thinking of switching to a digital wallet, your biggest worry might be running out of battery power on your phone. Even if you don't use it as a digital wallet, this can be a disaster because you still can't access important resources like making emergency phone calls, or accessing a GPS if lost. To circumvent all of this unnecessary drama, I make sure to always carry either a power bank or wired charger with me wherever I go. Nowadays, power banks don't have to be big, with one of my personal favorites being no bigger than a lipstick case and only $20 right now.

Where do I carry my ID?

Carrying your driver's license is important not only for identification purposes but also for performing tasks such as driving a vehicle or purchasing alcohol. Unfortunately, not all states have adopted support for adding your driver's license to your digital wallet, with the list being pretty short: Georgia, Arizona, Colorado, and Maryland. That means that most of us have to figure out a way to carry our physical IDs with us, even if we are using a digital wallet. 

My solution is a phone wallet. I use the MOFT Magnetic Wallet Stand which comfortably fits my ID, adds no bulk to my phone, and can be easily removed for times when I don't need to bring my ID where I am going. You can even fit an emergency physical credit card in the phone wallet, which is still much thinner than your average wallet. You are also less likely to forget your ID this way because, as mentioned before, our phones have essentially become an extension of us. 

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