Are Payment Apps and Mobile Wallets Safe?

Author: Marjorie Clark, Branch Manager 05/20/2021

We use our cell phones for just about everything. Talking, texting, social media, and yes, even making purchases. It seems as though payment apps and mobile wallets should make our lives more convenient. Less card swiping and more room in our purses or pockets, without that chunky wallet. But if you’re skeptical about mobile wallets and payment apps in terms of safety, you’re not alone. Below we break down how to use them safely and ease those fears.

How do payment apps and mobile wallets work?

Let’s start with the mobile wallet. Mobile wallets hold your credit, debit, and gift cards on your phone, giving you the capability to make purchases at a vendor without even pulling out a card. Your card is linked to either Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay, depending on the type of phone you’re using. These contactless payments are convenient. Any merchant that has the mobile wallet logo is compatible for you to use. Simply open your mobile wallet on your phone, choose the card you want to use for the purchase, and touch the device to the card reader.

The payment app is a person-to-person payment system. One example is Zelle. A payment app like Zelle allows users to send money securely through their bank’s mobile app. Money can be transferred to just about anyone in the United States who has a checking account. To use a payment app, all you need is the person’s email or phone number in order to send them money. No account information is shared between people.

What is the security behind mobile wallets and payment apps?

We’re glad you asked. This means you’re being cautious, as you should be. When you make your payment with the mobile wallet, the merchant receives a token. This means the mobile wallet doesn’t share any of your account information with a retailer—not your card number, not your expiration date, and not your CVV number. What the retailer receives is a generally random token number. For extra peace of mind, none of your information is even stored in the mobile wallet apps (i.e. Apple Pay) or tracked. It’s placed in your phone, but if someone got into your mobile wallet, they couldn’t retrieve it.

Since payment apps are for person-to-person payments, make sure you are only sending money to someone you know and trust, because money is transferred instantly to the phone or email you’re sending it to. Double check that all information is correct before sending any money. Payment apps are not recommended for random purchases with people you do not know.

What can you do to be more secure?

While mobile wallets and payment apps are convenient, it’s always important to be smart. Make sure you don’t share your log-in credentials or allow others access to your mobile wallet or payment app. Always password protect your phone using face recognition or fingerprint ID. This adds an extra level of security. And if you’re using a payment app, don’t send money to a stranger. Payment apps are meant for person-to-person payments with people you know. Buying an item on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace? Don’t use a payment app. Once you send money to a stranger, it can be difficult to get that money back. It’s an instant payment. If anything were to happen in the interim, and you don’t get the product, they already have your money.

Tips for using your mobile wallet and payment apps

Hopefully this information has eased most of your worries when it comes to using a mobile wallet or payment app. Avoid using any public or unprotected Wi-Fi when using your mobile wallet, and do not click on malicious links when checking emails. It’s highly recommended you install any malware protection on your mobile device, just as you would a computer or tablet. Having your cards at your fingertips on your mobile device should add a level of convenience to your life, but don’t let your guard down. Stay vigilant. It can be very easy to make a payment in a hurry and accidentally click on something risky.

If you bank with PlainsCapital, there are card control features within the PlainsCapital Mobile Banking app to protect you as well. You can enable transaction notifications that will notify you anytime a purchase is made. The notification will reflect whichever card you have attached to the app. The card control features also allow you to create a map of where you want purchases to be approved. If you’re traveling, you can broaden the area where you are able to make purchases. If you only want to make purchases in a specific area, purchases outside of that area would be declined, lowering your chances of fraudulent charges.

To learn more about cardless cash, payment apps, transfers, and mobile wallets, visit the mobile banking page at PlainsCapital.com for information and video tutorials on how to use these features.

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