How many debit cards, credit cards, gift cards and customer loyalty cards are in your wallet right now? According to a recent study, the average American has 17 different cards in his or her wallet (men typically carry 16 and women 18). If you're tired of all that bulk in your pocket or purse, a mobile wallet might be the perfect solution. (See also: Best Mobile Payment Apps for Tap and Pay.)

Although sometimes the words "digital wallet" and "mobile wallet" are used interchangeably, there is one slight but important difference – mobile wallets are housed in an app on your mobile device, while digital wallets can be accessed via the web on a desktop, laptop or mobile device. 

Three of the four most widely used mobile wallets are currently device or operating system specific (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay), while PayPal (PYPL), the other major name, works across all major devices. Other popular wallet apps are retailer or brand specific, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.'s (WMT) Walmart Pay, Capital One Financial Corporation's (COF) Capital One Wallet and the ubiquitous Starbucks wallet app from Starbucks Corporation (SBUX). 

Now, however, mobile payment startups are getting in on the mobile wallet action and adding new features that not only manage your debit and credit card payment transactions but can also track customer loyalty programs and gift cards, completely replacing the plastic you carry.

And contrary to popular opinion, transactions made using today's mobile wallet apps are actually more secure than those made by physically swiping a debit or credit card because the apps use encryption and tokenization technology similar to that used by chip cards. As an added bonus, the mobile pay transactions are typically completed much more quickly than chip card transactions.

So if you’re considering making the move to mobile pay, here's a look at the top movers in the mobile wallets niche for 2018


Gyft is the major name in the gift card space, which is a $46 billion per year market. Gyft's platform lets users buy, send, manage and redeem gift cards from over 300 retailers, all via a mobile app.

Launched in 2012, Gyft initially received seed funding from Karlin Ventures and A-Grade Investments, a firm co-founded by Ashton Kutcher. In July 2014, Gyft was acquired by First Data Corporation (FDC), a global payment technology company, in a deal rumored to be worth around $50 million. (See also: Review: First Data's First Year as a Public Co.)


Venmo came to life after two UPenn roommates, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdom-Ismail, lost their wallets and started tinkering  around with a way to send money through their mobile devices, since they already did everything else on their phones. Originally Venmo was an SMS service where you would literally pay someone through text. The app released in 2010 and Paypal now owns Venmo through a series of acquisitions. 

Today, Venmo has over 10 million users who are able to use the app for absolutely free. How do they make money, you ask? By charging a small fee to allow you to use your Venmo account to pay for things from your phone! In addition, Venmo is expanding to merchants and will charge larger fees for these industrial services. 

eWallet (Ilium Software)

eWallet is one of the few mobile wallet apps that isn't free to download (It costs $10). However, it comes with the ability to encrypt and store sensitive financial data and account numbers, and it can give you access to all of them using just one password or touch ID for enabled devices. It's a true mobile wallet in that it can store everything from passports and insurance cards to loyalty programs and library cards.

It also has a powerful password-building and retrieval feature that creates passwords matching each site's criteria and organizes them for easy access.

eWallet is a service of Ilium Software, an independently-owned company launched in 1997 and based in Ann Arbor, Mich. (See also: 4 Best and Safest Password Manager Apps for 2016.)

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