Mobile wallets are not new, but adoption was slow in the U.S. However, COVID-19 has accelerated interest in digital payment methods. 30% of consumers reported first using some form of contactless payments (such as mobile wallets or contactless cards) following the onset of the pandemic. Visa recently reported that contactless payments are up 150% in the U.S. from March 2019.

In a recent study of organizations around the globe, 75% say that digital banking transformation is the top priority into 2021, followed by 51% focused on “improving the customer experience.” Mobile wallets check both of these boxes, and credit unions can stay ahead of the curve by incorporating mobile wallets into their portfolio of product offerings to help meet member demand and remain top of wallet with primary financial institution status.

What Are Mobile Wallets?

Mobile wallets, also known as digital wallets, virtually store cardholder payment information and allow users to securely complete transactions using their smartphone, smartwatch or other connected device without needing to use a physical card. If shopping online, mobile wallets also can be accessed from other devices, eliminating the need for the user to input card information for each transaction. Major, well-known mobile wallets include Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, but additional options continue to enter the market.

How Do Mobile Wallets Work?

Members using a mobile wallet upload their debit or credit card to their app, which may come pre-programmed on their device or can be downloaded from applicable app stores. Members then complete the provisioning process for approval. Credit unions may choose how their cards are provisioned in order to assist in member authentication.

Upon clearance approval, members can then use their selected mobile wallet at participating merchants, whether online or at brick-and-mortar locations. At a point-of-sale (POS) terminal, purchases are made simply by holding the linked device near the contactless reader, eliminating the need for a physical card swipe. In-person purchases using mobile wallets are made possible through Near Field Communication (NFC), which transmits tokenized payment information.


Mobile wallets are secure and convenient thanks to tokenization. During a transaction, tokenization replaces the physical card account number with a randomized digital token that is specific to a member’s device. An actual account number is never transmitted during a tokenized transaction. This process happens in the background.

Key Benefits of Mobile Wallets

  • Touchless Capability: With no need to dip or swipe a card, the need to touch a POS terminal is limited
  • Top of Wallet: Default card set in mobile wallet becomes primary form of payment
  • Convenience: No need to carry a physical card
  • Flexibility: Ability to complete in-app and online transactions
  • Speed: Quicker transaction time
  • Security: Cashiers no longer see names or card numbers. Tokenization encrypts payment information.
  • Widespread Acceptance: Mobile wallets are readily accepted at a variety of businesses

Educating Staff & Members

 We know the old saying: knowledge is power. In the case of mobile wallets, education for both members and staff will help increase awareness, adoption, and consistent usage of this innovative payments tool. Credit unions should maximize all of the communications channels available in order to reach members, such as email campaigns, branch posters, blogging, social media, videos, and web advertising.

Need help with mobile wallet member communications? Our Marketing Services team has templates and resources ready to go!

Learn More

We invite you to start by downloading the complete product sheet. To get started on mobile wallets at your credit union, please contact your Account Relationship Manager, or email