Could Your iPhone Replace the Cards in your Wallet or Purse?

Could the iPhone replace the cards in our wallets and purses, or even replace our wallets altogether? In this article we look at the emerging credit card and loyalty card apps available for the iPhone which could see out wallets empty – for the better that is!


Chances are you don’t need to be told the iPhone is a revolutionary device capable of numerous tasks we could only dream about just a few years ago. Now in its fourth incarnation, the iPhone, whilst setting the benchmark for smartphones, is also starting to replace many of our other gadgets and modern day tools such as our media players, internet devices and many more. Well this writer asks can it possibly replace the cards in our wallets and purses?

Schemes Already Underway

Whilst the iPhone hasn’t yet replaced the cards in our wallets for good, it has begun to do so with numerous companies using it and other smartphones as a loyalty ‘card’, so-to-speak. Subway, the big Australian sub franchise is now using an app which presents a bar-code on the screen of your phone which can then be scanned upon making a purchase to rack up loyalty points. Numerous other retail outlets are following in their footsteps for various reasons.

Firstly, its a cool new idea which attracts young people to buy into loyalty schemes which, in marketing terms, were losing their pizazz.

Secondly, it’s cheaper. Producing thousands of plastic cards which will likely never actually be used by the majority of those who sign up is costly. By having an app developed once off and leaving it available for download, you cut costs right across the board. The IT end is also streamlined as users register with the app and can access their account from it as well. Thus, paper statements or coupons being posted out are a thing of the past.

A Wallet in One

Staying on the subject of loyalty cards for a minute, having numerous apps for different shops and services could eventually lead us back to square one in so far as we would have a huge number of apps all for just one purpose which would get annoying; the exact same thing which annoys us about a bulky wallet full of plastic.

Some app providers are aiming to tackle that problem with an all-in-one solution. Scanaroo, for example, combines many of the top loyalty card schemes into one app.

As you can see from the screenshot, a barcode is presented on the screen which the sales assistant scans thus logging your loyalty points.

However, Scanaroo also gets rid of numerous other cards you might have in your wallet; not just loyalty cards. Insurance cards are catered for so you’re never stuck in an emergency without being able to prove you have insurance. Membership cards to hundreds of clubs and associations are also right there if you need them along with your good old library card function.

CardStar is another app which can consolidate your membership and reward cards. Check out our CardStar app review for full details.

Credit Cards and Payments

The main reason why we have yet to see a wide-spread adoption of the use of credit cards on your smartphone is down to the security features used by top credit card companies. Signatures are required in North America whereas the Chip & Pin system is used throughout Europe almost exclusively which means inserting your card into a terminal so the embedded chip can be read. This just wont fly with the iPhone.

That said, because the retail industry is taking advantage of the capability of smartphones there’s no reason to think that in a few years credit card companies and banks won’t have caught on to this new technology.

We Have The Technology!

However, I did say there wasnt wide-spread adoption of this technology. Thus I implied there is some usage of it… which there is. Particularly from the sell-side of things.

A few apps have recently been released onto the market which enable you to use your iPhone as a credit card terminal to take payments from customers and clients.

Innerfence have released an app and card-swiper which attaches to the iPhone to enable you to take payments. As you can see in this video, the process is extremely quick and easy and in the words of Chris Prillo, "If you’re a business owner who has an iPhone – you seriously need this app".

Give It a Few Years

It takes time for people to become comfortable with new technologies, particularly concerning payments and their details. To be honest, if a business owner asked me to swipe my credit card on his iPhone and I had no idea about the app, I’d think it was a scam. And I’m sure customers would get a very odd reaction from business owners if they wanted to pay with their iPhones.

Once the idea settles down though and the major companies such as Visa and Mastercard get on board, then sure, the iPhone can and will replace many of the cards in our wallets and purses. Hey it’s already replaced so many of the other items we used to lug around with us just a few years ago!