Mobile Wallets: How They Work and Are They Safe?

Swap your wallet for a simple and secure way to pay


Smartphones are part of our daily lives and have quickly become our go-to device, allowing us to accomplish many tasks with a simple tap and swipe. That’s probably why mobile wallets are on the rise. But if you haven’t taken the plunge yet, you may have some lingering questions about what mobile wallets are, how they work and if they’re actually safe.

Let’s Start with the Basics

Mobile wallets are essentially digital versions of your real wallet. So whether you opt for a multi-card wallet or your bank’s version of it, the idea is to use it for quick and easy payments or easy access to loyalty cards and tickets. Features may vary depending on the mobile wallet you choose as well as the version and model of your phone.

What Types are There?

There are many different types of mobile wallets, but most are multi-card wallet systems or bank mobile wallet apps provided by your personal bank. With multi-card mobile wallets, you can add whatever credit cards you want, concert tickets and plane tickets. With bank mobile wallet apps, you can add your bank-branded cards to track your spending, get purchase notifications, upload receipts and more. Plus, if you have loyalty cards from grocery stores, department stores and coffee shops, some mobile wallet systems allow you to add them in.

How do They Work?

Let’s say a multi-card mobile wallet app is right for you. All you have to do is add your cards to the app, include a security method such as fingerprint recognition and then start using it to make quick payments. When you use mobile wallets to pay, you’ll typically use near-field communication (NFC) terminals, which is just fancy tech-talk for two devices securely sharing information.

Here’s how it works:

Where and When to Use Your Mobile Wallet

Mobile wallets give you the freedom of quick transactions, which can come in handy, especially when you’re out and about only to realize that you’ve left your wallet at home. And thanks to recent implementations of EMV chip cards, many retailers now have updated terminals that are compatible with most mobile wallets, making your shopping experience a breeze.

If you’re an avid online mobile shopper, you understand the tedious task of entering your credit card information every time you make an online payment. Some mobile wallets actually take that whole process out and fill in the information for you, so checking out is just a click or tap away.

Mobile Wallets Sound Great, but are They Secure?

This may be unexpected, but credit cards stored in mobile wallets could be more secure than traditional credit card payments. You’d be surprised how credit card numbers get stolen—like when you pay for something over the phone or you hand your card over, you’re exposing your credit card number and the security code. Most mobile wallets don’t actually store your real number; instead, they assign an encrypted code so that your card can be securely stored, which means your card number is not seen by the terminal reader or the merchant.

What if You Lose Your Phone?

Losing your phone will definitely ruin your day. The good news is that you have additional protections when you lose your phone compared to what you have to do if your credit card is lost or stolen. These days, there are apps available that allow you to remotely lock or erase data from your phone. Installing these apps and setting up additional security, like fingerprint recognition and password protection, can help make your phone more secure.

Now that you’re armed with some information, you can decide if you want to find a mobile wallet app that works for you. One option for Capital One customers to check out is the Mobile Banking App.


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.