The Mobile Wallet Disconnect

  • Philip Ryan
  • April 1, 2013
  • 2

disconnectAre mobile wallets the wave of the future? Maybe, but they’re sure not here yet, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Board on 2102 mobile phone usage for financial service. The report is called Survey of Consumers’ Use of Mobile Financial Services, and the 2012 edition is the second report of this kind from the Federal Reserve.

Here’s the data point highlighted in the report:

  • 6% of smartphone users used their phones for payments at a point-of-sale in the past 12 months, up from 1% a year ago.

This is a big growth number over last year, but hardly an explosion of mobile wallet usage. And here’s the real issue: 22% of customers expressed an interest in using their smartphones at the point of sale. This disconnect is a big problem for mobile wallet evangelists.

Another set of numbers that caught our eye involved underbanked customers. The so-called “underbanked” are more likely to own smartphones and use mobile banking than the population at large, according to the report.

Consider the following numbers:

  • 52% of the mobile phones in the US are smartphones
  • 48% of smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months
  • 56% of mobile phones owned by the underbanked are smartphones
  • 49% of underbanked smartphone owners have used mobile banking in the past 12 months

So what are we talking about when we discuss the underbanked? How is this word of any use in identifying a class of customers with specific needs? Time to stick a fork in this term, as many in the space have argued for some time.

The Federal Reserve Board report contains extensive information on mobile phone use for financial services generally. More information about the report and the report itself are available here.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism. He can be reached at

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2 thoughts on “The Mobile Wallet Disconnect

  1. From my side, mobile wallets won’t roll out until they can :
    • Meet expectation from merchants regarding speed and convenience of transactions ;
    • Fill security requirements ;
    • Answer questions from consumers regarding privacy and data protection.

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