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From Cashless to Cardless: Increasing Use of Digital Wallets

Christina Trampota

As smartphone adoption only continues to grow, there’s been a lot going on in the world of mobile fintech over the past few years. And the pandemic has only accelerated those developments. In-person banking has become increasingly irrelevant; after all, most consumers can handle nearly all their banking and financial transaction needs on a smartphone. And with advancements in Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and digital wallets like Venmo and Cash App, consumers have more mobile payment options than ever. But even with over 80 percent of Americans owning a smartphone, prior to COVID-19, contactless payments and digital wallet adoption rates had been fairly low. For example, only about nine percent of US consumers and five percent of consumers globally had been using Apple Pay at POS.

Our latest guest on the Fintech Growth Talk, Ahmed Siddiqui, VP of Product at fintech company Branch, believes it’s not necessarily POS environments that will foster greater mobile wallet growth. Instead, adoption will belong to the platform that provides the most seamless user experience. Right now in the US, Apple leads that charge. A report from Loup Ventures estimates Apple Pay is now active on 507 million iPhones as of September 2020, a 15 percent growth partially fueled by increasing contactless payments adoption during COVID-19.

Globally, Siddiqui sees Alipay leading the way in China. The key to adoption is offering a “slick and seamless” method that integrates not only at POS, but also in numerous digital applications. Siddiqui’s advice for developers in the mobile Fintech space: make things easy and make them accessible both online and offline. In-app integration of payment services like Apple Pay or Google Pay are becoming essential for merchants. The more seamless the integration, the easier it is to use and the greater its adoption will be.

Another arena where digital wallets can gain traction is in banking. The pandemic has seen a rise in demand for banks to provide not only cashless, but also cardless services. For example, Branch offers an Apple Pay or Google Pay virtual card during the sign-up process. This allows users to instantly conduct transactions from their new account at both online merchants and POS locations using their mobile device, without having to wait for their physical cards to arrive.

Of course, when you’re talking about digital payment methods, security is always a concern. But Siddiqui says that while no system is fully impervious to theft or fraud, new digital payment methods and innovative cards with advanced chips actually offer additional security layers that traditional credit cards do not. This includes implementing additional security layers such as 3D-secure, which is popular in Europe but hasn’t been implemented widely in the U.S. Two-factor authentication is also an important tool in the security toolbox and essential for growing adoption.

The good news is that these systems are becoming easier to integrate in a variety of applications, making the future of mobile payments extremely promising.


Ahmed Siddiqui is the VP, Product at Branch, and previously VP, Product at Marqeta, a payments technology Unicorn valued at over $4.3 Billion. When he’s not making stick figure drawings to grasp the concepts of card-based payments, he's building the next wave of Fintech startups. Siddiqui is the author of The Anatomy of the Swipe: Making Money Move.

Check out our full conversation with Ahmed Siddiqui here.