Somewhere in America, a mom is up past her bedtime. Lit by the blue glow of her laptop, she's feverishly making the most of early holiday deals even though she doesn't live near a mall.
Elsewhere, a family stops for hot cocoa after their city's holiday parade. The kids are tired and grumpy, and the dad is flustered. He waves his wrist to pay with his Apple watch and everyone is ushered back into the car without a single meltdown.
In a high-rise apartment, a young woman starts her morning with a workout on her phone. The holiday season is hectic, but thanks to her favorite wellness app subscription, her health is not something she's worried about.
From mobile wallets to subscription-based services, digital payments have changed how people live and shop—providing much-needed ease during the busy holiday season.
What are digital payments?
The term digital payments is broadly used to describe the transfer of money via a digital device, including:
- Credit and debit cards
- Bank transfers
- Prepaid cards
- Online payments
- QR code payments
- Mobile wallets
- Bank transfers
- Buy Now Pay Later
- In-app purchases
Face-to-face but make it digital
Previously the domain of cash and plastic credit cards, brick-and-mortar businesses are increasingly embracing mobile wallets.
"Not too long ago the term 'digital payments' meant keeping a card on file with Amazon or PayPal," said Leasa Melton, a senior consumer product manager at BOK Financial®. "The pandemic changed everything including how we shop, and digital payments have expanded to be the fastest growing way to pay in-store. Our customers crave the convenience they experienced during the pandemic—and use mobile wallets to get it."
A mobile wallet is a place to store credit, debit and other rewards cards on a mobile device, including smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. Customers can pay by waving or tapping their device in front of the point of sale or supported terminal at a store, restaurant or gym. Mobile wallet purchases are:
- Faster: Shopping is a bummer when you have to wait for the person in front of you to find the right card or count out change. Purchasing with a mobile wallet speeds up the process—because chip reading is not required, they're even faster than card purchases.
- More secure: mobile wallet transactions don't store or transmit your card number, instead using tokenization to keep your data remains more secure.
- Cleaner: Most mobile wallet purchases are contactless—no more touching grubby pens or germy cash.
- More convenient: There's no need to carry a wallet anymore. You can go on a walk and buy a cup of coffee with your smartphone. By eliminating data entry during transactions and reducing wait times, mobile wallets are more convenient for businesses, too.
Fraudsters remain persistent
Even though digital payments are more secure than plastic credit cards or carrying cash, fraudsters come out in force during the holiday season—it's important to remain vigilant.
Julie Roman, BOK Financial's debit card fraud prevention manager, said the newest scam comes via text message asking for card info. Some texts say the customer won a gift and all they have to pay is shipping. Others claim to be from UPS telling the customer they missed a package delivery and need to pay $1.50 for a re-delivery. In all of these cases, the customer clicks on the link provided, enters their card data and then sees fraudulent charges pop up on their account instead of the item they were expecting to receive.
“You should never click on a text link and give your card information out, especially to a text that states you've won a prize. They are all scams.”- Julie Roman, Debit Card Fraud Prevention Manager
In addition to being leery about text messages, Roman suggests some additional ways to guard against common scams and fraud:
- Employ digital payment best practices.
- Use features from your bank, like spending and low-balance alerts, to help you monitor for unusual activity.
- Disable, or block, your card in mobile or online banking if you believe it has been lost or stolen so it's unusable. If you find your card later, you can easily re-enable it.
- Use mobile banking to monitor your account regularly. And if you see something suspicious, notify your bank immediately.
"We know our customers want payment flexibility, and we're working hard to give them the seamless experience they crave," Melton said.