Black Friday 2012: how to shop with your smartphone
Leave your wallet behind and try one of these virtual payment methods instead
Black Friday deals can really bring out the worst in people (cue last year's Walmart pepper spray incident). But not every door-buster deal is worth a criminal record, guys (unless it's some kind of Apple product, because for real, that's about as rare as unicorns).
But seriously, carrying around a thick roll of cash or a wallet packed with plastic can be risky business during holiday spending sprees. Thankfully, there are a few smartphone apps that can handle the billfold burden. Check out these popular mobile payment systems and consider leaving your handbag or wallet at home this year.
Currently, LevelUp is one of the most popular payment methods with merchants nationwide. The app uses good 'ole fashioned QR codes to initiate transactions, which is an easy transition (at least on a comfort level) for first-time mobile payment users. You can check out a complete list of the shops that accept LevelUp's mobile payment method here. The free app is available for both iPhone and Android.
Admittedly, this one is a little creepy, as a merchant using Square only needs your face, name and phone to process your transaction. The mobile app will show you which shops use Square. You can then select the location you want to purchase from and simply leave that tab open until your transaction is complete. When you're ready to pay, the cashier will be able to access whichever username and credit card you've listed on Square. No pin is required, no bumping your phone against another handset -- it's perhaps the most stripped down approach to virtual payments so far. Square's Wallet app is free, and it's available for iPhone and Android.
If you're an Android owner, you may already be familiar with Google's mobile payment system. Google Wallet uses NFC (a near-field communication chip inside your phone), which is compatible with a PayPass reader. Google's mobile payment service also requires you to put in a four-digit PIN before it can verifty your transaction.