When Will Your iPhone Replace Your Wallet?

Not a moment too soon if you’ve been in the situation I experienced…

There I was standing in the security line at Hartsfield Jackson Airport on a typical Monday morning in June. I had already been waved into the CLEAR line when the ambassador (that’s what the CLEAR staff are called) asked me to place my fingers on the print reader.

A few seconds later the machine had properly identified me, and my face and name appeared on the screen. “Alright, Mr. Linton, please follow me,” she said. I was then led to the TSA agent at the podium overseeing the entrance to the x-ray machines and body scanners. “He is good,” the ambassador told the TSA guard as I placed my iPhone displaying my boarding pass on the scanner. It turned green. The TSA agent looked at his screen, looked up at me and waved me through. 

All of this using nothing but my phone and my fingerprint: two items I would never be without. Unfortunately, there was one problem. It was a potential showstopper and it was all my fault.

I had no wallet, no cash and no ID of any sort. I had rushed out of the house without any of them. I muttered an expletive.

I considered my circumstance and possibilities. 

  • I would be in Chicago for the next three days.

  • I had my iPhone with both Lyft and Uber installed – traveling from the airport to the hotel would not be a problem.

  • I had Apple Pay and all my credit cards were loaded.

  • My wife could overnight my wallet and cash.

I even had the hotel loyalty card in my Apple Wallet. 

So far, so good.  

However, I still had no ID. The hotel requires valid ID to check in.

Even though I had just walked through airport security with only my iPhone and my fingers for proof of identity, and I could easily pay for my ground transport via an app, without my ID, I would be out of luck at the hotel.

I decided I would rather not take the chance of getting stranded without a place to sleep once I landed and went to the Delta ticket desk in the hopes of changing my flight. Easy right? Not so fast.

“Sir we have to swipe your card to process the charge. I’m sorry,” the Delta agent told me from behind the counter in the Sky Lounge. (Yep, I was able to get in there with only my phone as well.)

“Ma’am, I don’t have any ID,” I said. “I don’t have any cash, or my credit cards either. Unfortunately, I left them at home.” 

She was nice enough to finally let me charge the card on file once I confirmed all the information relating to it. 

In the not-too-distant future, leaving my wallet at home might be no big deal. In fact, I probably will not need a wallet to carry important identification, and neither will you.

According to the recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Soon Your Phone Will Be Your Driver’s License, MetroCard and More, even though digital versions of our credit and debit cards are not yet widely accepted, it is clear that the future holds a world where most places we shop will take Apple Pay and other digital payment. The article says, “Apple is releasing its own titanium credit card this summer, and even those cardholders will have an incentive to use the phone version.”

You may not be surprised to learn that government IDs, other ID cards and even hotel keys may be stored on our mobile devices sooner than later. The article noted that a number of states, including Delaware, Iowa and Oklahoma, are partnering with a company called Idemia to create mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs). In fact, the article notes, “Idemia works with 35 states to provide physical licenses and anticipates it will have mDL programs in up to 10 states by year-end. A competitor, Gemalto, is working on pilot programs in three states. Louisiana has rolled out its own mobile license program.”

Public transportation is also getting into the digital market. In New York City, the article explains, “The experience is especially great with a new iPhone feature called Express Transit. Available in iOS 12.3, the setting allows you to override biometric or password verification when paying.” Other transit systems around the world are also moving to similar technology.

While the convenience of not having to remember a wallet will help many absent-minded people who leave home without it, these mobile IDs do raise questions about privacy and security. For those using Apple Pay, transactions remain between you and the bank or card issuer. The onus will be on the user to check on terms and conditions for various digital versions of their IDs.

Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, once I pass through TSA security I will continue on my merry way with only my biometric data and…my iPhone.


arobasegroup has been consulting with clients and advising the best use of Apple Technology since 1998. We listen to our customers and solve problems by addressing their specific, unique needs; we never rely on a one-size-fits-all solution or require them to use a specific product. arobasegroup is your advocate in all things related to information technology. Contact us to learn how we can help: info@arobasegroup.com.