What’s in Their Wallets?

What’s in your wallet?

That’s the question I asked some digital money experts, whose job it is to push the creative boundaries on payments.

So, having captive reps from some of the key companies — BOKU, BilltoMobile, Intuit and Tapjoy — involved in leading the charge to do away with cash and plastic, I wanted to know what they carried around daily.

And — given I was moderating a panel for the MobileBeat 2011 conference, titled “The Likely Winners In Mobile Payments: Carriers, PayPal?” — it seemed like an appropriate query.

You’d think they would be on the cutting edge, right?


In fact, two of the panelists were still carrying around checks; one had dozens of credit and debit card options from banks around the world; and two were even carrying business cards from their previous employers, because they believed they could get discounts at rental car agencies.

Only one had a digital wallet.

That was Steve Klebe, VP Business Development & Strategy, BilltoMobile, who actually had an NFC-enabled sticker on the back of his phone, which was connected to his Discover account. But he’d only used it once.

It was also Klebe who carried around a blank check, in case of an emergency. Ron Hirson, BOKU’s SVP Product & Marketing, also had the kind of money that folded — a $50 American Express travelers check.

Remember those?

Omar Green, Intuit’s director of strategic mobile initiatives, had the biggest wallet — bursting — with a giant pile of cards stuffed in it. Deng-Kai Chen, director of product management at Tapjoy, easily won for carrying the lightest wallet — he claimed it was bad for your back if you sat on anything bigger in your pocket.

Everyone also had a variety of loyalty cards, photos, receipts and transportation passes.

What about me?

As the solitary female representative at the table I was the only one with coins, including about $2 in pennies (because I’m too lazy to ever spend them). I also probably had the most cash — around $28, mostly in $1 bills.

So how close are we to a mobile wallet revolution?

Judging by what was in our wallets, you might want to wait a while.

Photo Credit: allie.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik