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A guide to mobile payment devices

An m-wallet - or mobile wallet - is similar in concept to the leather wallet in your pocket, but it contains electronic money which can be spent via your mobile phone.

The majority of m-wallets use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to enable low-value contactless transactions (£20 and under in the UK) at point of sale via MasterCard’s PayPass or Visa’s PayWave infrastructure.

M-wallet owners simply hold their phones near the contactless terminal at the till to complete the transaction. M-wallets rely on NFC chips which can be connected to the phone itself in a number of ways:

NFC-enabled handsets

Firstly, the chip can be within the phone itself, like many of HTC’s Android-powered phones or the Google Nexus range of devices, all capable of running one of the most well-known mobile wallets, Google Wallet

NFC-enabled phone cases

Secondly, the chip can be embedded within the phone case (such as moneto, for example)

NFC chip stickers

Thirdly, the chip can take the form of a label which can be stuck to the back of the phone – like Barclaycard’s PayTag

Wherever the chip is positioned, most m-wallet accounts are controlled by an app on the mobile phone which should allow you to check your balance, view your statement and transaction history, top-up, link payment methods, share funds directly with users of the same m-wallet, and even store vouchers and alert you to special offers from your favourite retailers.

Some m-wallets even come with associated prepaid cards which let you access your funds as cash directly from ATMs, or use the card online or at point of sale, accessing the funds in your m-wallet account.

More and more m-wallets are being brought to market almost every day; they all have slightly different features, benefits and capabilities, and it can be hard to choose between them, so here are some links to our favourites to help you decide: