The Death of the Wallet

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Smart phones, like the iPhone or Google's Android, are becoming so advanced that they can already replace many of the things in your wallet, but in a few years they'll replace your credit cards, too.

The ubiquitous wallet..while many use them to hold everything from receipts to family photos, their primary function is to hold money: which these days often means credit and debit cards.

But the wallet’s days may be numbered. And what could replace it? What else? The cell phone.

Eight of the 10 biggest U.S. banks now provide some services via cellphone. For example, checking your balance… a handy feature when you’re about to pay with a debit card.

And depending on what wireless plan, phone and bank you use, you can now approve bill payments, transfer money and receive low-balance alerts.

But if the company who makes those quick-pay devices at check out counters (called contactless card readers) has their way, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Soon, cell phones will join the 50 – 80 million credit cards already equipped with radio-frequency chips, or RFID chips. When that happens, you’ll simply wave your phone at the reader and be on your way. It’s already happening in Japan, and we could start seeing these things here as early as 2010.

And, of course, most cell phones are already storing more family photos than a wallet could possibly hold.

Bottom line? We’re not there yet, but there may be a time in the near future when your cell phone will do everything your wallet does now. Except, perhaps, hold something that’s also becoming obsolete… cash.

Stacy Johnson

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