Google Wallet Is Coming. Don’t Be Afraid.

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At last, Google has revealed its plans to slowly replace credit cards with cell phones in a new initiative called Google Wallet. The service will allow Nexus S 4G owners to buy stuff by touching their phones to Mastercard PayPass kiosks at participating retailers in select cities. If that sounds scary to you, it shouldn’t. Here’s why:

Google Wallet Has Safeguards

Ideally, cashiers would check your ID every time you made a purchase by credit card, but in reality, it’s a crapshoot. With Google Wallet — and presumably any near-field communication (NFC) payment system that follows — the security is built-in. As Google explains, you can’t make a mobile payment without entering a PIN. The phone must also be unlocked from sleep mode, which itself can be password-protected. And if someone does make off with the phone, the payment information is hidden in a “Secure Element,” which is separate from the phone’s memory and only accessible by trusted programs.

Who Loses Their Phone Anymore?

Maybe you’re worried that a phone-as-wallet is more susceptible to theft. I don’t know about you, but I guard my smartphone as vigilantly as my wallet, perhaps more. Sure, if my wallet gets swiped, it’s a major inconvenience, between cancelling credit cards, replacing my license and losing whatever cash was inside.┬áBut if my smartphone disappears, there’s already a huge monetary value attached. A new smartphone costs about $200, but it’s even more expensive to replace if you’re in the middle of a contract. You should already be keeping a close eye on your phone, even if it can’t make payments.

Who Needs a Wallet, Anyway?

The more things of value you carry around, the bigger the risk of losing something. I’d much rather consolidate everything into a smartphone, which I’m going to be carrying around no matter what, than a wallet, which increasingly looks like an antiquated idea. Of course, Google Wallet and its ilk will be a novelty for quite some time — it needs wide adoption among retailers and phone makers, and the wallet has other components that need replacement, such as identification and membership cards — but I look forward to the day that smartphones and NFC render the wallet unnecessary.

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