Finance industry watchers predicted ten years ago that we’d be replacing our leather wallets with digital ones “any day now.” They may have jumped the gun a bit— personally, I don’t know anyone who’s completely ditched their Hello Kitty moneybags. But if you’re sick of lugging change around, then Wells Fargo is ready to help you make the leap to all-digital daily banking.

As the newest promoter of the digital wallet, WF cites that its forward-thinking finance tech will make banking simpler and increase transaction security over using a physical bank card. This is a well-timed promise in a world where media outlets seem to be reporting serious personal data hacks every other week. The question remains: is it worth the buzz?

How It Works

woman using a mobile phone
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This new development is called the Wells Fargo Wallet, and it’s part of the Wells Fargo Mobile app.

This new development is called the Wells Fargo Wallet, and it’s part of the Wells Fargo Mobile app. The Wallet will allow you to use your phone to securely tap and pay at millions of stores using NFC-enabled payment systems, as well as to take out money from Wells Fargo ATMs. When you approach an ATM, all you need to do is pull up your mobile payment app on your cell phone, type in your pin number, and you’re good to go. Because it’s part of the general banking app, you can also view your bank account balance and available credit all in one place. Sounds convenient so far, but...

How Secure Is It?

man using a mobile phone to pay for goods
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Wells Fargo’s digital Wallet is not the first digital payment app on the market, but it aims to fill a hole in the secure payment market.

Wells Fargo’s digital Wallet is not the first digital payment app on the market. That being said, it aims to fill a hole in the secure payment market. It’s true that Apple’s mobile-based payment system Apple Pay has been around for a few years already, letting people use their iPhone or Apple Watch to pay for purchases when they check out at participating retailers’ credit card machines. The goal here is to allow users to never have to pull out and swipe a physical debit card again.

Using Apple Pay is supposed to be more secure than using a card because merchants do not have access to your personal information or full card number, and it requires the use of your fingerprint, using Touch ID on your phone. This way, even if your phone is lost or stolen, no one would be able to access your financial information.

Although this sounds quite promising, Touch ID only works on a select few iPhones, and Apple has decided now to remove this feature from the new iPhone X. The new phone will be using Face ID instead, which will ask for your selfie every time you want to use the app. Unfortunately, if your selfie skills are lacking (as mine sadly are), this tech update probably isn’t going to fly. And what happens if your twin or freaky doppelganger gets their hands on your phone?

In other words, there is definitely room in the market for a secure transaction that doesn’t rely on selfies. After Apple Pay was introduced, other mobile companies brought their own “Tap and Pay” technologies online, namely Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and now the Wells Fargo Wallet app. Now, all of these tap and pay options will be accepted at over 5,000 Wells Fargo ATMs, and the bank plans to upgrade its remaining 8,000 ATM’s by next year.

Not all cell phones and apps will ask for your fingerprint or facial recognition, and that’s just fine because not everyone wants that. However, using a payment app like this will still be more secure than carrying your debit card around because the app blocks out all of the numbers except for the last 4 digits. The Wells Fargo Wallet app also goes one step farther by generating an eight digit one-time code. These one-time authorization codes have the benefit of making a transaction more secure without you having to remember or transmit a password over a network that may potentially be compromised. In particular, this new digital ATM system is expected to dramatically decrease cases of fraud and eliminate criminals’ ability to “skim” money from accounts by reading and storing data, including pin numbers, from cards inserted at ATMs.

The Future Is Here

Given that most people are now more likely to carry their cellphones than their bank cards, card-less mobile-based banking definitely seems like the way of the very near future. And although it may take a few years before everyone you know has a fully digital wallet, rising concerns over data security, particularly in finance, is probably going to push the transition to happen faster than you’d think.