The Best Mobile Payment Services of 2023
Digital wallets, or mobile payments, are becoming more widely used, with estimates at around 4.4 billion users by 2025, according to Juniper Research. It’s vital for small businesses to adopt the technology needed to take these payments. Fortunately, the most popular mobile payment services also happen to be the best.
Although we chose Apple Pay as the best mobile payment service after researching all the options and comparing market share, pros, and cons, we suggest reading more about the other top picks. After all, the more payment options you offer customers, the better odds are that you can close a sale.
Why You Should Trust This Review
About Digital.com’s expert reviewer, Amy Nichol Smith:
I’ve worked as a journalist and tech expert for more than 20 years. I transitioned from a features reporter and editor to tech writer when I joined a review website, where I tested everything from encryption software to robot vacuums.
Eventually, I chose software as my expertise and worked for many large publishers to cover a wide range of programs for retailers, marketers, and small businesses of all kinds. I’ve provided my thoughts on topics such as GPS (global positioning system) and payment processing technologies for a variety of publications, including Forbes, L.A. Times, Tom’s Guide, and Reader’s Digest.
How I Rated the Best Mobile Payment Services
Testing mobile payment services mostly comes down to ease of use. The other ways in which I rated the best mobile payment apps was through research. I compared security features, transaction limits, and fees, if present. It’s also important to consider how widely each mobile wallet option is accepted, the market share of specific devices (and the payment app itself), and where you can make payments in person and online.
Ease of use
The last thing you need is for a mobile payment app to be difficult to use; after all, they’re supposed to make paying for goods and services more efficient. I tested the installation of each app to make sure they’re easy to implement (they are).
In fact, I regularly use three of the five listed apps myself.
Paying for items should be simple, too. You should be able to make contactless payments with these apps using your phone, other devices, and online.
For merchants, it should be just as easy to offer mobile payment options. Most payment processors offer NFC card readers so you can take contactless payments. With that said, not all payment processors accept all mobile payments.
Perhaps the most important factor in choosing which mobile payments to accept and which app to use is security. Once upon a time, signing for credit cards was considered secure; then PINs (personal identification numbers) were the height of security. Now I look for payment options that offer tokenization or biometric security that only allows transactions if you use your fingerprint or other physical characteristics.
Encrypting data is also helpful, so your payment information is secure as it travels from app to merchant to payment processor. Even better is the tokenization I mentioned above. It turns a customer’s PAN (primary account number) into a scrambled string of numbers that are unique each time, so no code can be broken to steal payment information.
Fees and limits
As a merchant, the cost of doing business comes from transaction fees. The good news is that, as of now, there’s no extra fee associated with accepting mobile payments.
Most mobile payment apps charge the banks directly for completing transactions. However, this cost may be passed on to you through the percentage you pay.
Users generally shouldn’t see any fees associated with making payments through a mobile payment app. In some cases, you may need to pay a fee for quick cash transfers, such as from PayPal to your bank account. Otherwise, you must generally wait for one to three days.
Using a credit card to make a cash transfer may also come with a fee similar to a transaction fee merchants pay.
Most mobile payment services limit how much money you can transfer from peer to peer or from customer to merchant. These limits may be per transaction, week, or day.
For example, Apple Pay allows up to $10,000 per transaction but also only up to $10,000 per week. Verified PayPal accounts are varied — you may be limited to $10,000 or $60,000, or you may have no limits on the amount you can send.
A frustrating limitation of mobile payment apps is when they only work on one type of operating system (I’m looking at you two, Apple Pay and Samsung). There’s one caveat to this type of monopoly, but I’ll cover more below. Some of the best mobile payment services work on any device because they work through apps made for the most popular operating systems.
Whether you’re a merchant or a customer, it’s a good idea to consider which mobile payment services have the top market share. The most common smartphone in the U.S. is the iPhone, so it stands to reason that Apple Pay would be widely accepted and used. However, Google Pay can be used on Android and iOS devices, so it covers most smartphones in the U.S.
There are outliers, of course. Samsung has a large market share of smartphones globally, so as a merchant, you might do well to accept Samsung Pay, especially if you have a lot of international customers.
And then there’s the PayPal and Zelle apps, which are generally used online or to pay peers. If you accept these forms of payment, you might make a sale that you’d have otherwise missed out on by not accepting them.
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