Pay It Safe: Smartphone Payments Safer Than Chip Cards, Experts Say

Just as consumers get used to using their chip credit cards, experts say smartphones are the faster, safer way to pay.

“They are going to be much safer even than chip cards,” said Alex Johnson of payments consulting firm Mercator Advisory Group.

Johnson calls mobile payments the next generation.

“The beauty is that they use a secondary authentication,” Johnson said.

While using a chip card in the U.S. requires a signature, certain mobile payment technology requires a passcode or a thumbprint.

“That makes it safer because it’s difficult for someone to steal both your phone and your thumbprint,” Johnson said.

But only 28 percent of smartphone users made a mobile payment in 2015, according to the Federal Reserve, which cited security concerns as one of the main reasons people don't use mobile payment technologies.

“That’s very, very safe,” Johnson said. “It’s almost bulletproof. It’s very difficult to compromise.”

In addition to security, it's also convenient. Most mobile payment technologies have you load a major credit card onto your phone so you don't reach for your wallet. You hold your phone, tap and go.

“When you tap the phone, you don’t need to open it up, you don’t need to unlock it, you don’t need to select a card,” Johnson said.

Some retailers, like Wal-Mart, offer a phone app to pay for purchases, but few merchants actually make mobile pay an option for consumers, even though many businesses have the technology available since it came with the new chip card readers.

“So there’s a lot of merchants that can accept mobile payments, but not many of them do today,” Johnson said.

It's an added expense to have both up and running, the National Retail Federation said. It wants more flexibility in choosing mobile payment alternatives that will drive competition, cost less and be the best value for its customers.

Some banks offer rewards for consumers who choose to use their credit card as a default on their phones.

“That, I think, is a really good way for consumers, especially now when these services are still kind of new, to cash in and actually benefit from some of these changes that are happening,” Johnson said.

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