Virtual Wallets: Are They Worth It?

Friends sending money through digital wallet.
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When you think of virtual wallets, you might jump to one or two conclusions. On the one hand, the idea of a virtual wallet might be everything a digital aficionado has been waiting for. But on the other hand, some would-be digital wallet users have concerns about the security of their financial information held within a digital wallet.

By exploring the advantages and disadvantages of a virtual wallet you can decide if it is worth it for you.

What Is a Virtual Wallet?

A virtual wallet is an electronic wallet stored on your mobile device. Some will call a virtual wallet an e-wallet. Instead of toting around your financial information in the form of plastic cards in a physical wallet, you’ll be able to store payment-related information directly on your phone. Essentially, this replaces the need to carry a physical wallet to retailers that accept digital payments.

Of course, you can add payment-related information like credit cards and debit cards to your virtual wallet. But other items you can add include coupons, membership cards, rewards cards and more. The goal of carrying a virtual wallet is to avoid bringing physical copies of your payment-related information around with you. Instead of digging through your wallet for the right card, you can simply pull it up through your smartphone.

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Advantages of a Virtual Wallet

Every financial product has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at the pros of working with a virtual wallet.

  • No-touch payment: When you make a payment through your virtual wallet, you won’t have to physically touch the payment pad. If you are looking for ways to cut back your exposure to germs, this is a great opportunity.
  • Convenience: A virtual wallet means you can leave the house without a cumbersome wallet in tow. If you want to par down on what you carry around town, a virtual wallet can streamline your physical baggage.
  • Safety: Virtual wallets have more steps in place to safeguard your payment information. If you are concerned about security, you might find more protection through a virtual wallet.

Disadvantages of a Virtual Wallet

Now let’s consider the cons of working with a virtual wallet.

  • It doesn’t store cash: Sometimes you run into a retailer that doesn’t accept plastic payment methods. Even more, some merchants don’t accept virtual wallet transactions. This might change as more merchants invest in the technology required to accept virtual wallet payments.
  • Reliant on phone battery: If your phone dies, you won’t be able to make a purchase through your virtual wallet.
  • Compatibility issues: It’s important to check that your future digital wallet will accept all of your preferred payment methods. Some virtual wallets don’t accept certain credit cards.
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How Do I Get a Virtual Wallet?

If you are interested in getting a virtual wallet, the good news is that you’ll likely find plenty of options. Some virtual wallets are tied to the type of device you use. For example, if you have an Apple iPhone, you’ll have access to Apple Pay. Other device-related virtual wallets include Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

Other virtual wallet options are available for download to your mobile device. A few include Chase Pay, PayPal, Google Wallet, Venmo and Zelle. Additionally, some banks offer virtual wallets for their customers.

After you download or set up the virtual wallet, you can add payment details to your credit cards, debit cards and more. When you want to use your virtual wallet to make a payment, you’ll hold your phone above the payment method or tap the payment pad to pay for your items.

Is a Virtual Wallet Safe?

When loading up your financial details into any space, questions about security will likely pop into your mind. After all, you are trusting your virtual wallet to safeguard precious financial information for future purchases.

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The good news is that virtual wallets offer several security features to protect your payment details along the way. Essentially, using a virtual wallet protects payment details from ever being shared with the world. Since a tokenization process is used, the merchant will only see a one-time payment number. When you want to make a payment, you’ll likely need to enter a password or submit to a fingerprint or retinal scan.

Additionally, your payment information remains encrypted the entire time. With that, someone can’t just break into your phone to steal your payment information. That’s arguably safer than a physical wallet because if someone gets ahold of your physical wallet, nothing is stopping them from using the credit cards.

Final Take

A virtual wallet is worth it to the right person. If you are looking for a way to boost your payment information security and want to avoid carrying a hefty physical wallet, then a virtual wallet might be the right fit. But if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of a virtual wallet or have constant issues with your phone’s battery life, then you might want to stick with a physical wallet.

FAQ

  • Is there a fee for the PNC Virtual Wallet®?
    • The PNC Virtual Wallet comes with a $7 monthly service charge. However, it's possible to avoid this fee through certain account activities. For example, you can have the fee waived if your combined average monthly balance is at least $500, your qualifying monthly direct deposits total at least $500, you are at least 62 years old or you are a PNC employee.
  • Is the PNC Virtual Wallet a checking account?
    • The PNC Virtual Wallet is tied to a PNC Spend account, which is a checking account. As an account holder of the PNC Spend account, you'll have access to the virtual wallet functionality.

Information is accurate as of Dec. 22, 2022. 

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About the Author

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer with a desire to help readers improve their own financial balance sheets. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, she went on to business school. With a master’s degree in Management from the Hough School of Business at the University of Florida, she loves diving into the details of personal finance. With years of experience as a personal finance writer, she helps readers grasp the concept and take control by breaking down complex topics filled with jargon down to their basic components. After all, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way in the world of personal finance.

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