It's not enough that we no longer have to wait in line at the bank and instead do much of our banking by ATM or online. Now, you can check your balance, transfer money, pay your credit card bill and more, right from your smartphone. But that's old news. The latest advancement is mobile banking apps that use near-field communication (NFC), a technology that relies on short-distance radio waves to transfer data between devices. This means you can pay for purchases at the store simply by waving your smartphone - you don't even need to reach for your wallet.
Additional reporting by Molly K. McLaughlin
Google Wallet (free for Android)
Google Wallet allows you to pay by smartphone at any location at which MasterCard PayPass is permitted. Whenever you see a MasterCard PayPass symbol, all you need to do is hold your phone against the terminal and select "pay with credit." For your safety, you can set a PIN to lock your wallet. To save money, you can sync Google Offers to your phone; this way, you’ll be updated on the latest deals wherever you are. While Verizon has blocked the app, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T allow you to use it on specific Android phones. Current compatible phones include the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper, LG Optimus Lite and Samsung Nexus S.
MasterCard PayPass allows you to pay without the need to swipe your card’s magnetic strip or provide your signature (for transactions less than $50). All you need to do is tap a PayPass-authorized Mastercard, key fob or mobile payment tag (a kind of sticker attached to the back of your phone that's linked to a credit card) on a PayPass-enabled credit card machine. (Chase customers can use their "blink" enabled credit cards.) Currently CitiBank and Bank of America offer mobile payment tags.
The Locator app enables you to find MasterCard PayPass locations anywhere in the world, or near your current location. You can filter by the type of merchant you're looking for, such as convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. Since Google Wallet relies on PayPass locations, this app can be used to find Google Wallet compatible merchants, too.
Pay with Square (free for iPhone and Android)
Square, Inc. goes both ways; while the Square app allows you to accept credit card payments, Pay with Square was developed so that you can pay directly from your smartphone. In fact, you won’t even have to touch your phone or wallet, let alone your credit card – once you have signed up, all you need to do is say your name when you get to the counter. (You just have to have your smartphone nearby in your pocket or bag.) The app includes itemized receipts. You can find participating retailers in Square's directory. Last month, Square partnered with Starbucks to offer mobile payments in their U.S. locations.
PayPal (free for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry)
PayPal is mainly associated with its parent company, eBay, but it can be used to pay for goods and services of all kinds. The accompanying app enables you to perform all PayPal functions on the go, such as sending and receiving money, and managing your account. That includes, for example, transferring money to your bank account or viewing your transaction history. In fact, you can even take a photo of a check and add that respective amount to your PayPal account for no extra charge.
Visa payWave works similarly to MasterCard PayPass, in that you can "wave" your credit card at checkout, rather than swiping it. You can use any Visa credit card that has a payWave logo as well as a Visa Mini Card (half the size of a regular card) or a Visa Micro Tag, which can go on your keychain. Chase customers can use their "blink" enabled debit or credit card. You can find participating retailers on the payWave website. Visa plans to eventually implement mobile payments with payWave.
Currently invite-only, V.me by Visa allows you create a profile with your payment and shipping information that can you use when shopping online with participating retailers. This way you don't have to re-enter your payment information over and over again or worry about saving that information on an insecure retail site. In addition to Visa credit cards, you can also save your MasterCard, American Express and/or Discover credit cards. V.me will eventually be integrated with Visa payWave.
Of course, mobile payments go both ways. Intuit's GoPayment lets you accept credit card transactions using your smartphone. The company provides a free card swiper that attaches to your smartphone. Fees are charged per transaction. You can either pay no monthly fee and 2.7 percent transaction fees or pay $12.95 per month with 1.7 percent fees. You can key in card transactions if you don't have your swiper, but that will cost you 3.7 percent per transaction. You can also sync your transactions with Quickbooks.
The PayPal Here app allows you to accept payments via PayPal, from your smartphone. You can also accept credit card payments (2.7 percent transaction fee) using the free card reader you can apply for upon signing up.
Square (free for Android, iPhone, iPad)
Square allows you to accept credit card payments via your smartphone or tablet wherever you are. Signing up is free, as is the Square Card Reader; you can immediately start swiping cards (Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover) once you receive it. There are no monthly fees, instead you pay a 2.75 percent charge per credit card swipe. You’ll receive the funds in your bank account the next day, and in the meantime, can track sales and send electronic invoices via email or text message.