I'd be hesitant to say that mobile payments are ubiquitous today, but during a four-day trip to Texas, I got to see just how far the technology has come when I lost my physical wallet with all my plastic cards.
The trip started at the Austin City Limits music festival. This year, the wristband used for admission doubled as a contactless payment device, so before the show I had linked my bank's debit card to the wristband.
I used the band to buy tall boy Miller Lights, vegan kimchi and a ginger beer cupcake by pressing my wrist to the sensor on a tablet-based point of sale terminal. But a couple of guys in line behind me at the beer stand denounced the wristband as being no quicker than swiping a card.
This is probably true for men who almost always have pockets, but with temperatures near 80 degrees, I was wearing a long summer dress. The only vendors who didn't accept the contactless wristband were the art vendors, though they could accept credit cards with Square.
Two days later, I'd have to switch from wearable payments to mobile payments exclusively after leaving my wallet in the rented Dodge Charger I returned on Saturday night near the airport.
When I checked with the rental car provider, the car cleaners had not spotted my wallet by Monday morning and the car had already been rented out again. Monday afternoon I went to the airport with no cash, no coins and no cards. I got through security with my work badge and plenty of extra screening.
My first thought was to try and find an ATM that would allow me to initiate a withdrawal with my smartphone, but my bank doesn't allow that. My next thought was (of course) Bitcoin, and although merchant adoption of the digital currency is progressing, the Bitcoin craze hadn't yet taken over Dallas Love Field airport.
My cards were still active (and I was monitoring my balances obsessively for suspicious activity), so I could still use any mobile payment app that was linked to my bank account for funding. Starbucks was my first stop; the poster child of mobile payments has set up shop in just about every U.S. airport.
Once I landed at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, New York, was the next challenge. I usually jump in a yellow cab to get home, but instead I hailed an Uber driver with my smartphone. The Uber car in three minutes, far less time than I would have waited in line for a yellow cab, and once I was home I didn't have to worry about paying or tipping as Uber calculates the trip price and deducts the payment from a linked card.
After getting home, I reported my bank cards as stolen. The experience might have been tinged with stress because mobile wallets have not yet reached their tipping point, but the truth is every transaction was seamless and convenient and more secure.
In the era of mobile banking and payments, losing my wallet wasn't all that bad.
Bailey Reutzel is a reporter for PaymentsSource.