Managing your money

How safe are mobile wallets?

4 min read


Mobile phones have quickly turned into a constant companion for many people. They let us do everything from staying in touch, to taking photos and, of course, doing our banking. Now we can even ditch the plastic cards and make payment with them. The sheer convenience of a digital wallet like this is undeniable. But how safe are they? The answer is -- very safe. In fact, mobile wallets are actually more secure than a plastic card. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. Your card’s number isn’t stored on the phone

Because a modern mobile phone is packed with state of the art technology, they can be secured much better than the average credit or debit card. For a start, your debit or credit card’s actual number, obviously, isn’t printed anywhere on the phone like it is on a traditional card. In fact, that number isn’t even stored inside the phone. While all banks and credit card companies will do things slightly differently here, in the case of the BNZ mobile wallet (which uses Android Pay), it uses something called a ‘limited use token’. This means no one looking over your shoulder, no one online, not even the merchant, can possibly steal your credit card number. These tokens are updated securely via the mobile app when needed.

2. Your phone can stay locked

You can still make payments using a mobile wallet even while the phone is locked. You will have to touch a button to make the screen light up, but you’ll not need to unlock it. For added peace of mind, however, after making three transactions with the phone locked, you’ll need to unlock it and log in again before you can do any more.

Tip: Always secure your phone using a screen lock. All phones let you set a PIN or password (these are separate from any of your banking PINs and passwords) so that your information remains private should someone else try to use (or steal) your phone. Some high-end mobiles now let you replace your passwords with fingerprints or iris scanning for added convenience.

3. Remotely disable a lost phone

If the worst happens and you do lose your phone, virtually all phones running iOS or Android allow you can login on another phone or computer and disable the lost phone. This can save valuable time since you can do this part yourself before calling the bank. Most phones have this functionality built in, and what’s more, most phones let you track its whereabouts using GPS so you can potentially pinpoint the exact location of a lost or stolen phone -- you certainly can’t do this with a plastic card.

Tip: If you do lose your phone, always call your bank to report your lost mobile wallet, even if you’ve disabled the phone yourself. This way the bank can suspend the card from their end for added security.

4. It’s contactless

Because it’s contactless, you never need to hand your phone over to anyone in order to make a payment. This removes the opportunity for nefarious people to swipe your card and steal your card’s details.

Tip: Your mobile wallet can be used anywhere that accepts contactless payments.

5. The same ‘under $80’ limit as plastic cards applies

Just like a regular contactless debit/credit card, you can use a mobile wallet without a PIN to make purchases under $80. However, unlike the plastic cards, if your phone was stolen and they managed to use it before you’d remotely disabled it, the bad guys could only use it up to three times without a PIN before the phone asks them to log in again. In any case, because contactless transactions are covered by the same Zero Fraud guarantee as plastic Visa Debit/Credit cards, you’re not liable for them (as long as you’ve complied with the terms and conditions of use, of course).

Tip: Never let anyone know your PIN or passwords. Also, don’t make them easy to guess. If you’ve shared your PIN with someone, you won’t be covered by the fraud protection guarantee.