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Digitize your wallet.

More libraries are supporting mobile users in many areas these days, and a digital wallet is one more added convenience for mobile users. Many consumers have already turned from cash transactions to credit-only. Whether it is the convenience of carrying only one plastic card or the ease of paying off the purchases on one bill at a later date, the process is making many consumers turn away from cash-only merchants. Even gas stations are trying to entice cash-only customers by offering a discount. Nonetheless, the use of credit is still continuing to increase.

Technology is also leveraging the escalating use of smartphones. More and more apps are available for phones, and many people already carry a phone everywhere they go. Why carry a wallet if I have a smartphone? Developments continue to make it possible to digitize wallets everywhere.

The Wonders of Google Wallet

Google Wallet, an early application in this arena, originally launched last year. It lets users make online purchases by selecting a card account that has been saved in their online Google Wallet accounts. It works with a handful of phones with NFC (near field communication) technology in which users can simply tap their phones and make a Google Wallet payment from one of their accounts. However, it has been limited as to devices and credit cards with which this works, and the adoption rate for the in-store application of Google Wallet has been slow. Google recently announced that it is expanding its services to multiple credit cards and a few more types of smartphones, which is likely to encourage some growth. But time will tell.


Making a Square Deal

Square, Inc. is a newer player in the market. With Square, users can set up an account and link their credit cards to the account. Then, when users make a purchase at a merchant that is registered with Square, they simply say their name at the register to complete the transaction. The merchant will pull up that name and a picture to confirm that it is the correct user. This is an interesting idea, but it is now limited in the number of participating merchants. Currently, most of the participating merchants are small businesses that accept payment via Square. However, according to a recent announcement from Square, the company has formed a partnership with Starbucks Corp., which might be just the ticket to lead Square further to success.


Apple's Passbook for Card Crunchers

Passbook was unveiled in early summer for the Apple platform. This app does not directly compete with Google Wallet or Square, but it does provide easier methods for making payments. Passbook can store loyalty cards, flight boarding passes, and even movie tickets. This way, users don't have to dig through their wallets when they are making a transaction. They can simply pull the info up on their iPhone to complete the transaction. Passbook does not yet support actual credit card transactions, but with other recent development in this area, it might be yet to come in the near future.

These developments are designed to help users make payments with their smartphones. Other apps continue to appear, such as CardStar from Constant Contact, Inc., which is similar to Passbook in that it stores rewards and membership cards on a user's smartphone. CardMunch from LinkedIn Corp. is an app that allows users to scan business cards with a smartphone and turn them into contacts. Overall, these apps give users tools to minimize wallet use and maximize smartphone use.


Many patrons have also asked libraries if they can use a virtual library card. Patrons have their library cards stored in apps, such as CardStar, and they want to scan them at the self-check machines to handle their checkout transactions. Some libraries have struggled with whether to accept a virtual library card. With so many apps moving in this direction, I can't see any reason not to since it's not really any different than patrons typing in their library card numbers from memory. However, at this point, most self-check machines at libraries can't read a bar code from a smartphone screen, so this may be an area where upgrades are still in the works.

Karen C. Knox is the director of the Orion Township Public Library in Michigan. Send your comments about this column to
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Title Annotation:TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Author:Knox, Karen C.
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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