Travel Tuesday: Why Mobile Wallets are a Must for World Travelers
Before we jump into the topic at hand, I first want to welcome you to a new feature here on Money@30: Travel Tuesday. Every other week, I’ll be sharing tips and tales from my various travel adventures. While some of these will have a personal finance tie-in, others may just focus on the destination being discussed. In any case, let’s get going!
Not so long ago, I wrote about how having Apple Pay saved my butt in Hong Kong as contactless payments were not just the norm but a necessity in some of the shops and restaurants we visited. Well it turns out that this trend goes beyond that city as visits to Toronto and Paris have also revealed to me just how big contactless payments are in other parts of the world. That’s partially why I was pumped to get my first (and then second) credit card that had contactless technology built-in. Alas, it seems that these aren’t the silver bullet I was seeking, making mobile wallets a must.
I can still recall (it was only a few months ago) the excitement I felt as I pulled out my Amex Platinum card to tap at a boulangerie in France. Previously, my wife and I had grown accustomed to using Apple Pay for such transactions as the alternative chip method took painfully long — and of course outed us as Americans just in case our horrible French didn’t do that already 😉 After tapping my card, a concerning beep emitted from the terminal and the cashier told us to insert the card instead.
Not yet deterred, I assumed that perhaps I had just jumped the gun and tapped too early (you normally need to wait until your total shows on the screen before attempting to pay). Unfortunately, I kept getting the same error every time I tried it. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t me; it was the card.
For whatever reason, it seems that our American contactless cards couldn’t be used abroad. Meanwhile, the Apple Pay method still works like a charm. In fact, while using the chip method often results in us needing to sign a receipt, this step is sometimes skipped when we use Apple Pay — thus making this method doubly faster.
Of course, beyond the speed factor, there are safety benefits to going mobile as well. First, the added step of using biometrics (e.g. TouchID, FaceID, etc.) makes these types of payments more secure. On top of that, if you have all of your credit cards in a mobile wallet, you can carry fewer physical cards on your person — although I would recommend having at least one or two for a back-up.
To be fair, there are surely countries that, like the United States, are still behind on contactless technology, while others lag in credit card acceptance overall. But, for those who are up on their game, trying to use your American card can be a hassle. That’s why, if you don’t already, I’d highly recommend setting up Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or whatever mobile payment option your phone offers to help save you time (and embarrassment) while traveling overseas.