Surely most of us use physical wallets less and less, and most of us have at least once been offered to pay for purchases on the Internet through PayPal or other digital wallets. In our article, we will share what an electronic wallet is, how they work and the 10 top digital wallet companies in 2024.

In this article:

  1. What is a digital wallet?
  2. Differences between electronic wallets and bank accounts
  3. How does it work?
  4. 10 Best Digital Wallets
  5. Summary

What is a digital wallet?

An electronic wallet (EC), or, in other words, an electronic means of payment — that is what it is called in the law — is a payment instrument for storing money, transfers, and paying on the Internet.

In fact, this is an analog of a bank account; only money is stored not in a bank but in a special computer program.

It is convenient for online shopping enthusiasts and freelancers: programmers, designers, copywriters, and tutors. And also, for those who are worried about the safety of funds in a bank account — if you transfer the required amount to an e-wallet and make a payment or transfer through it, scammers will not get to the bank account, as it's a key point during eWallet app development.

It is also convenient to use an e-wallet for international transfers. In addition, the e-wallet commission can be less, and transfers are instantaneous.

Differences between electronic wallets and bank accounts

There is no cardinal difference between these payment methods, except for some points.

  • When we make a payment on the Internet, for example, when we buy something in an online store, we enter our card details. It is not safe. The site may turn out to be fake, and then scammers can easily steal all the money from a bank account or even from deposits and piggy banks. It is much safer to keep a small amount in an electronic wallet. In this case, even if the scammers steal money from it, they will not be able to get the rest of your funds.
  • Easier to open. To do this, you do not need to interact with the bank and pay money. Get an e-wallet for free on the Internet and start using it right away.
  • The e-wallet is convenient to use. Card data is not only dangerous to enter but also long enough. And to take off some money from an electronic wallet, you only need a password and a mobile phone.
  • Transactions through the e-wallet are instantaneous, regardless of the time of day, working days, or holidays.
  • Mobile wallets are not tied to a specific country and allow you to make payments and transfers regardless of location. For example, if you and the recipient are in different countries.
  • An electronic wallet does not always mean an exclusively virtual look. Some operators issue cards for offline payment. In an ordinary store, market, or cafe, you can pay with money from an electronic wallet and not endanger the funds in your bank account.

What is better: wallet or bank account?

How does it work?

The basic functionality of an electronic wallet usually includes the following:

  • non-cash payment for goods, services, fines, and other payments;
  • transfers to other wallets, bank cards, accounts, and money transfer systems;
  • replenishment through cards, terminals, as well as in other ways;
  • receiving funds from external sources;
  • linking a bank card.

You can link a bank card to an electronic wallet in the payment service and/or online bank.

As for withdrawing cash from electronic wallets, only holders of plastic cards issued by the corresponding services will be able to do this without intermediate operations. If the card is virtual, then it can be “populated” in a smartphone and withdraw cash from contactless ATMs. In other cases, to withdraw cash, you will need to first transfer money from an electronic wallet:

  • to a bank card;
  • to a bank account;
  • through the money transfer system.

And only after that, the money can be withdrawn (received).

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10 Best Digital Wallets

Let's discover the most popular digital wallets.

1. Apple Pay

Apple Pay is a digital payment solution for contactless payments, created and operated only on Apple devices. Apple Pay accounts can be used to pay for a variety of goods and services through bank terminals equipped with NFC technology, as well as online stores or within applications.

In the first case, a mobile device (smartphone or smartwatch) is used as a regular bank card with an NFC tag, and in the second case (applications and websites), the Wallet application is accessed through a special API.

The system’s mechanism is based on the technology of close data transmission NFC (at a distance of up to 20 cm) in conjunction with the Secure Element chip, which stores the bank card data in encrypted form. Secure Element represents the industry standard in financial transactions. This chip runs a special Java application.

Pros:

  • all operations are performed using the gadget
  • the ability to track all costs to optimize them
  • the security of the service is at a high level, unauthorized intervention in work is practically excluded
  • if the phone is lost, the service data will be inaccessible to intruders


Cons:

  • works only on Apple devices
  • devices are often discharged
  • system performance issues on outdated or refurbished models
  • not all terminals are equipped with a contactless payment function

2. Cash App

Cash App is a peer-to-peer money transfer service developed by Square Inc. that allows users to send and receive money. This service can help you pay bills, pay for purchases, share travel costs, or do any other money-sending tasks you want to do with other Cash App users. This digital wallet App also functions similarly to a bank account, providing users with a debit card called a “Cash Card” that allows them to make purchases using the funds in their Cash App account. The app also allows users to invest their money in stocks and buy and sell bitcoins.

Mobile payment service Cash App has reached a key milestone in the development of Bitcoin payments and has become the most popular app in the finance category on the Google Play Store in the US, surpassing PayPal in terms of downloads. Initially introduced in 2013 as Square Cash, the service has changed little since its inception.

Pros:

  • customers can buy and sell bitcoins directly from your Cash App balance
  • high level of data protection
  • encryption and offline storage of bitcoins

Cons:

  • limited transparency when it comes to other transactions using the app
  • you have to pay a 1.5% commission to get money instantly
  • you cannot make international digital payments 
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3. Dwolla

Dwolla attracts users due to low transaction fees, simple automation, and a high level of security. At its core, the system is an agent for both banks and individuals or entrepreneurs. Ideal for integrating bank transfers. To start using the service, you will need to create a personal account and then link a bank account to it. In total, this procedure will take no more than 10 minutes. Money is credited to the account within one day.

Dwolla actively cooperates with many major US banks, including Bank of America and Silicon Valley Bank, which is an indicator of reliability. The service offers three tariffs to choose from free or trial, standard and corporate.

Using the service will be most beneficial for residents of the United States; in other countries, it may be difficult to withdraw funds. The transaction limit is $5,000 for the standard and $10,000 for the corporate plans. The system only supports ACH payments, so it is not possible to make SEPA and SWIFT transfers. Dwolla does not plan to issue corporate or individual bank cards.

Pros:

  • advanced features for developers
  • first-class technical support
  • fast payment processing
  • "virtual wallet" for sending, storing and receiving funds

Cons:

  • high price for the tariff plan
  • no credit card transactions
  • limited features for ordinary users
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4. Google Pay

Google Pay / Android Pay is basically a mobile application for the Android operating system. The digital wallet stores credit and debit cards in one place. All user data is safe. Adding a card to the system takes only a few minutes: it will be enough to download the application to the device and select the desired card in the "Cards" tab.

Google Pay accounts works anywhere where it is possible to pay using a contactless payment terminal. Thus, residents of almost all countries can easily use the system. For each payment, Google Pay receives a small fee, but it is always paid by the merchant.

The company issues its own Google Wallet Card debit cards. Their owners can withdraw cash from ATMs and pay for purchases in stores. A plastic card is linked to the Google Pay system, and no commission is charged for maintenance and issue. The card cannot be used outside the US. The service supports all possible currencies. Google Pay is not suitable for international SWIFT payments or SEPA transfers.

Pros:

  • security and protection of personal data
  • the ability to add several cards at the same time
  • support for any gadget with the Android system
  • fast transactions

Cons:

  • only supports Android devices
  • not everywhere there are contactless payment terminals
  • ATMs do not support the system
  • completely addicted to the phone

5. PayPal

We recommend getting a PayPal wallet if you often make purchases in foreign online stores. Almost all countries recognize it so that you can use the funds stored in your account anywhere in the world. PayPal is an electronic wallet that allows you to make digital payments. PayPal started in 1998. Until 2015, it was part of eBay, an American auction, and only from July 18, 2015, PayPal became a separate independent company.

You can use PayPal by adding your payment cards, but not only. You also have the ability to link a bank account to it and fund your PayPal account with funds directly from this account. The service also provides the ability to send money to friends. Another advantage of a PayPal account is the ease of registration, which does not even require a bank account. 

Pros:

  • quick registration
  • cooperation with well-known trading platforms
  • high degree of protection

Cons:

  • relatively low transaction speed

Popular wallet apps

6. Samsung Wallet

Samsung is merging its two software services, Samsung Pay and Samsung Pass, into a single digital platform called Samsung Wallet. This will allow Galaxy device owners to securely and easily manage their digital keys, boarding passes, ID cards, loyalty cards, and more in one mobile app. The idea is that it "keeps everything your digital life needs" in a convenient location without sacrificing security.

This last point is obviously the key issue when you throw all your digital eggs in one basket. However, Samsung promises ‘‘defense-grade security’’y through Samsung Knox, the company’s security and management system preinstalled on most Galaxy devices.

Pros:

  • immediate activation
  • fast and secure online payment 
  • rewarding application

Cons:

  • works only on Samsung devices
  • cannot be charged via ATMs, with paychecks, or at certain retail locations

7. Venmo

Venmo is part of the larger PayPal family of brands and is owned by PayPal. You can send and receive money instantly with this mobile payment app. The company advertises its service as ‘‘safe, easy, and communicative’’ when it comes to sending money. Venmo can also be used to make in-person or online purchases. It currently has a user base of 65 million people.

Venmo is a consumer-friendly digital wallet app with a social focus. It is intended to be a fast and free method for completing these transactions, whether you need to pay a friend's restaurant bill or split the rent with your roommate. Venmo is also used by some small businesses to accept payments.

Pros:

  • it is easy to transfer and receive money, as well as shop online
  • commissions are rarely charged
  • has interactive social features
  • debit and credit cards available

Cons:

  • available only in the USA
  • charges a 1.5% fee for instant transfers
  • transactions may be public to app users, making it difficult to navigate through privacy settings
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8. Zelle

Zelle is an online platform for quickly sending and receiving money between US bank accounts.

Zelle was designed by banks and made to be secure. Zelle is a secure payment method because it uses encryption to protect your payment information. Zelle also has a policy that you can get your money back "if a scammer or hacker gains unauthorized access to a bank account" and that "victims can work directly with their bank for a refund."

Pros:

  • free application
  • easy and fast to use
  • funds you send or receive are protected up to $250,000 per account

Cons:

  • does not protect approved payments from fraud
  • if you send money to the wrong person, you have no choice but to wait for that person to return it

9. Walmart Pay

Walmart Pay uses QR codes generated by its app so that any smartphone user can pay without using a new generation mobile phone with an NFC chip or their regular credit or debit card.

Walmart's new payment system, in addition to being compatible with all smartphones on the market, allows us to use any type of credit or debit card, as well as the company's prepaid and gift cards. The user just needs to install the application on their device and it is convenient to buy. When a user is about to make a payment, they just need to open the app on their mobile phone, select Walmart Pay, and scan the QR code shown by the establishment's checkout. All you need is a simple mobile phone with a camera, no NFC chips or anything more technologically advanced.

Pros:

  • works both for IOS and Android devices
  • stores your receipts, which saves on paper 
  • several layers of security
  • stores your credit, debit and even walmart gift cards information

Cons:

  • works only in USA
  • works only in Walmart sto

10. Amazon Pay

Amazon Pay makes it possible for partner companies to embed a button on their websites through which customers can pay for purchases and services. For stores, this service will be paid: 2.9% of the transaction amount + $0.3. For international transactions, the commission will be 3.9% + $0.3. To pay for the order, it will be enough to use the profile on amazon.com. The service guarantees complete data security.

Users of European countries can make SEPA payments - the service supports such a payment system. The same applies to SWIFT payments, which are available worldwide. Amazon issues credit cards for regular customers. The user does not need to pay a monthly commission for the use. You can get a card within a week after applying. The system allows you to make payments in the national currency with further conversion into US dollars at the average rate.

Pros:

  • low transaction fees
  • high level of security
  • a simple registration procedure that takes only a few minutes
  • no monthly service fee

Cons:

  • integration of the service with the store may take time
  • no free trial
  • customer support team takes a long time to process user requests
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Summary

An electronic wallet is an extremely convenient tool. It is used for a wide variety of operations: paying for services, transferring funds between different accounts, currency exchange, obtaining loans with a relatively small commission, and also for storing money in electronic form.

There are a lot of Internet wallets. You will definitely find yours, even if you are engaged in cryptocurrency. Of course, business and ordinary users have different goals in using electronic wallets, but at their core they all have the same capabilities, with the exception of certain digital payment options. 

Best Digital Wallets FAQ

1. What are the types of digital wallets?

There are several types based on their functionality and usage. Below you can find 10 main types.

  • Mobile Wallet. Digital wallets that are installed as mobile applications on smartphones or tablets. They enable users to make payments using their devices, usually via near-field communication (NFC) or by scanning QR codes at point-of-sale terminals.
  • Online Wallets. Web-based digital wallet apps that users can access through internet browsers on their computers or mobile devices. They are often used for online shopping and transactions on eCommerce websites.
  • Contactless Payment Cards. Though not strictly e-wallets, contactless payment cards have some similarities. They have embedded RFID chips that allow users to make payments by tapping the card on contactless-enabled payment terminals.
  • Prepaid Wallets. They are funded in advance, either by transferring money from a bank account or by using cash at designated locations. Users can spend from the prepaid balance until it is depleted, and then they need to reload the wallet.
  • Bank-Linked Wallets. This type is linked directly to a user's bank account. When making a payment, the amount is deducted directly from the bank balance or charged to the associated credit/debit card.
  • Closed Wallets. These e-wallets are typically tied to specific merchants or services and can only be used for transactions within their ecosystem. Examples include solutions offered by big retailers or service providers.
  • Open Wallets. It allows users to make transactions across various merchants and services, making them more versatile and widely accepted. Examples include popular solutions like PayPal and Google Pay.
  • Cryptocurrency Wallets. They are specifically designed for storing and managing cryptocurrencies. They can be software-based (online or mobile) or hardware (physical devices).
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Wallets. P2P type allows users to transfer money directly to friends, family, or acquaintances. They are commonly used for splitting bills, sharing expenses, or sending gifts.

Each type of digital wallet has its strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of a wallet depends on individual preferences, needs, and the level of security desired for making electronic transactions.

2. What are the advantages of digital wallets?

Digital wallets offer several pros that make them a convenient and secure way to manage financial transactions. The main advantage is that e-wallets provide ease of use and accessibility. Users can store multiple payment options, such as credit or debit cards, bank accounts, and even loyalty cards, in one place. This eliminates the need to carry physical cards or cash, streamlining the payment process. With just a few taps on a smartphone or a click on a computer, users can make purchases online or in-store, transfer funds, pay bills, and even split expenses with friends. This convenience is especially valuable in a fast-paced world where time and efficiency are crucial.

Additionally, digital wallets enhance security. Traditional payment methods like credit cards can be vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. Digital wallets use encryption and tokenization technology to protect user information, making it more secure than sharing card details directly. Additionally, most digital wallet providers offer two-factor authentication, biometric recognition, or device-specific verification to add an extra layer of protection. With these security measures in place, users can confidently make transactions without worrying about their sensitive data as payment information being compromised.

3. How much do digital wallets cost?

The cost of digital wallets can vary significantly depending on the type of wallet, the features it offers, and the specific provider. Many popular digital wallet services, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, are typically offered to users for free. These basic wallets allow users to add their credit or debit cards and make contactless payments through their smartphones or other devices.

However, there may be fees associated with certain transactions, such as transferring money from the digital wallet to a bank account, loading funds onto the wallet using a credit card, or conducting international transactions. These fees can vary based on the provider's policies. Additionally, some e-wallets may offer premium features or enhanced security options for a subscription fee or one-time payment. It is essential for users to review the terms and conditions of the specific digital wallet they are considering to understand any potential costs involved.