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Use your credit card without actually using your credit card

By , CardRatings contributor
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The latest trend in credit cards may have you forgetting your cards completely. The next big thing seems to be the movement toward card-less payment methods. Rather than search your wallet for your best credit card, you may only need to scan your phone, or your fingers, to make purchases in the future.

Mobile wallets - the futue is now

You don't need to wait long to take advantage of the newest way to pay with your credit card. It is already here.

Mobile wallets turn your smart phone into a paying machine. Using third party apps, such as Google Wallet or Isis Mobile Wallet, you can load your Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express and then present your phone at stores for payment.

Typically, mobile wallet apps use near field communication (NFC) to transmit information directly from the phone to a terminal without any scanning or number punching involved. As a bonus, some apps can also be loaded with loyalty cards so you can pay and earn rewards in a single tap of the phone.

According to Google Wallet, some of the retailers equipped to process both payments and loyalty cards at the same time, as well as redeem special offers such as coupons, include the following national chains:

  • Toys 'R Us
  • Office Max
  • Old Navy
  • Jamba Juice
  • Macy's

Although still relatively new technology, mobile wallets are expected to become big business in the next few years. According to a recent report from Transparency Market Research, the mobile wallet market will hit $1.6 trillion by 2018.

Payments at your fingertips

For a slightly more 'Big Brother' way to pay, you may soon be able to scan your fingerprint at participating retailers to make a purchase via PayTango. The brainchild of Carnegie Mellon University students, the start-up solves the age-old problem of how to pay when you have empty pockets.

To use PayTango, individuals need to place two fingers on a reader pad and then swipe their credit card or debit card. Then, for each subsequent visit, customers simply need to scan their fingers to bring up their payment information. To register, all users need to provide is their fingertips, a phone number and a card with a magnetic swipe strip.

For now, you'll need to visit the Carnegie Mellon dining halls to use PayTango, but the service has the potential to replace cards in a number of settings. For example, since any card with a magnetic strip can be stored by PayTango, the company is looking to expand to gyms where fingerprints could be used in lieu of membership cards.

Widespread adoption of PayTango may be a ways off, but the company got kudos from Inc. Magazine for being one of America's Coolest College Start-ups for 2013.

Although I imagine some may balk at the thought of tying payments to their fingerprints, it certainly makes identity theft a little more tricky. Along with mobile wallets, PayTango envisions a brave new world in which your best credit card may not be a card at all.

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