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As technology evolves, people can use their smartphones and tablets to shop, pay their bills, pay for public transport, etc. A lot of people have started to ask the question – “do people still carry wallets?” So, are wallets obsolete? Read on to get our take on whether wallets are going the way of the dinosaur!
Are Wallets Becoming Obsolete?
You might be one of the many people who think that wallets will become unnecessary. It’s true, your phone gives you many reasons to imagine ditching your wallet.
Mobile payments make it convenient to shop and pay your bills at home, at work, or while traveling. Fintech devices such as smart bands and smart rings are gaining popularity and many also allow people to make fast, contactless payments. In many major cities you can now pay per ride on public transport by just tapping your phone. A recent finder.com study found that 150 million Americans had used a digital wallet at least once (we’ll admit we were surprised it was that high – but “at least once” can mean “tried it and deleted it immediately”.)
As technology improves, it gives us ever more reasons to go paperless. For instance, you can load your boarding pass onto your phone to present to a TSA agent for inspection and scanning, which may help you board your plane faster. Some states have already signed on to adding their Driver’s Licenses to mobile phones.
It used to be that people would carry a picture of their loved ones in their wallet, to keep them close. Your smartphone has that beat because you can use the built-in photo app to store an unlimited number of photos.
So sure, technology gives us plenty of reasons to think about ditching our wallets, but it’s unlikely that we will anytime soon. Why? Read on ….
Why the Wallet is Here to Stay – Security
Some of the main reasons we believe the wallet will stick around are about security and safety. We don’t like, and wouldn’t recommend, “putting all your eggs in one basket”.
- It’s dangerous to keep everything in one place. There’s a lot of convenience to putting your credit cards on your phone, but what happens if your phone is lost or stolen? Now as well as losing the cards, you’ve lost the phone you would use to call your bank and cancel them! OK, you can borrow a phone, but what do you do for the rest of the day? You’ll likely have to borrow cash from someone to tide you over. And what if you need money to get home on public transport?
- You won’t always be able to keep your phone charged while you’re out. Who hasn’t seen that dreaded “Low Power Mode” come on? If you forget to charge your phone overnight, the chance that your phone will run out of power when you’re at work or running errands rises. You can remedy that with a portable charger, but now you’re carrying something else (and did you remember to charge your charger?) Charging docks may not be available at work or if you’re on the move, which may force you to power your phone off until you need to use it.
- How do you prove your identity? While some states allow you to present a digital driver’s license to a police officer or other official, many still require a physical license, so be aware of this when crossing state lines.
- Transit cards are not quite ready for your digital wallet. If you live in New York, Chicago or Portland, Oregon, you can use Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay to purchase bus and train tickets. The rest of the country is moving slowly toward accepting digital payments, which means that you will still need a physical wallet to hold your tickets until you are ready to use them.
- Not everybody is tech-savvy. Some older shoppers sometimes don’t “get” how to use smartphone payments and get frustrated. You might also be technologically challenged and prefer to use cash or credit cards to make your purchases. Some people simply have no desire to learn how to use new technology and prefer to pay by cash or a physical bank check so they can more carefully track their spending.
- You’ll still need cash. While cash isn’t the must-have necessity it once was, there will be times when it comes in handy. For instance, you’ve maxed out your credit card, and you need to go to the grocery store for a few essential items. Your favorite neighborhood restaurant may only accept cash. And let’s face it, no technology is perfect – systems go down and you may find that your emergency cash in your wallet is the only way to still pay for something.
For security, backup, and for peace of mind, we recommend even the most digitally-savvy always carry a thin wallet with a limited number of credit cards, your driver’s license, and some cash.
But there’s another reason we believe wallets aren’t going anywhere. Read on for part two…
Why the Wallet is Here to Stay – Style
Unlike jewelry, wallets are necessary because you’ll use one to hold your important documents, credit cards, cash, and other items. But, like jewelry, they also define the person who uses them. It is THE ultimate power accessory because it represents wealth, power, and style. Your style will communicate who you are and what you care about.
Wallets also make popular gifts for both friends and relatives. There are certain gifts that mark milestones in life. You may buy someone a beautiful pen, a luxurious tie-pin or stylish watch, or … a classic leather wallet. These are the gifts that are intended to last, and maybe even become heirlooms.
You’ll find them in a wide variety of sizes, materials, and designs now. Bi-fold wallets remain as popular as ever, while slim and sleek modern wallets have appeared in all sorts of different materials – the manufacturers certainly seem to think wallets are going to stick around.
The Wristwatch Analogy
Perhaps the best comparison to make is the wristwatch. Pretty much no-one actually needs a wristwatch anymore. Half the time we see people checking the time on their phone even when they have a watch on! That may be because phones are designed to be addictive, but there is actually a reason to do this. Phones get their time from a “network time” service that gets it from super-accurate atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory (at least in the U.S).
So wristwatches, especially mechanical ones, are technically obsolete. But the market for high-end watches keeps growing. As status symbols, as fashion accessories, as a signifier to say something about the wearer.
Wrap Up – So Are Wallets Obsolete?
As you can see, there are many reasons why wallets will remain a staple of our lifestyles. They are convenient, provide a good backup for emergencies, and you don’t have to be tech-savvy to use one. Unless you decide to buy a luxury wallet, they cost a fraction of what you’ll pay for a smartphone. But frankly, we think that a bigger reason might well be that your wallet says a lot about you. A good wallet sends a strong signal about who you are, and we don’t think that will be replaced by a novelty phone cover anytime soon.
It’s certainly true that more and more people will move more and more items out of their wallets and onto their phones. Frankly, we’re all for it. We’ve long been advocates for the slim wallet movement. We see the trend picking up speed and spreading to more people as wallets become less of a catch-all and more of a slimmed-down style accessory.
Want more on this? Take a look here at our article on the different types of wallets for men and see which says, “this is me”.