Recently I opened a new current account with a bank which offers Apple Pay as one of their payment methods. Being a bit of a technologist, I have an Apple watch (albeit a Series 1) to go alongside my Apple iPhone SE, but I also have a Kerv Payment ring.
For those who don’t know about the Kerv ring, it is a contactless payment device built into a wearable, in this case, a ring. Basically, it is a wearable pre-paid Mastercard, you go to the Kerv website and top your account up and then you can use your Kerv ring offers at all contactless points of sale. I invested back in the Kickstarter phase, but they now retail for about £90 sterling. You can find out more at Kerv.com.
Anyway, I basically find myself with six payment methods on me at any one time. I feel like it’s good time to have a look at these various payment methods and weigh up the pros and cons of each. Obviously I am not trying to pick a favourite, the ring is obviously my favourite, I am just trying to be objective…
Cash: Cold Hard Moolah
It’s still here and will be for a long time yet. Generally I like to get €40 from the ATM until it dwindles away. It still feels like the go-to payment method in pubs and non-chain stores. I keep the paper stuff in my wallet and the metal stuff mainly in my pocket. Like many people I also have a mug on my desk where I throw the coppers.
Back in the days when we all got paid in little brown envelopes, cash was great. Now, we have to go out of our way to get it. Nobody (or virtually nobody) uses cashback despite Alan Partridge extolling it’s virtues.
However, it is the easiest way to pay our way with family or friends.
This is where Cash is King. Merchants might be happier not to, but everywhere takes cash. Maybe not so great when shopping online though!
It’s been around a fair while now so… not really.
Cash: The Verdict – 5/10
Pros: Universally accepted
Cons: Not particularly convenient, especially when travelling (even to our nearest neighbours).
Debit Card: Laser No More
Many of us still call it the Laser card despite Laser being something of the distant past. Now the Debit schemes that we all use are run by Visa or Mastercard depending on who you bank with. The introduction of contactless has been huge for Debit cards, Tap for anything up to €30 is just great. €30 feels about right too. Any more and I’d want the higher sense of security that only a PIN can offer! Again I keep mine in my wallet but I have to confess – I have a soft spot for my permanent tsb card. Being able to put my own picture on the card might be a gimmick, but it does increase my loyalty to the card.
Reverting to the PIN after every three uses is a bit of a pain for low-level transactions but overall it is easy to use. Not great for paying out pocket money, although nothing other than cash is.
Just about anywhere and everywhere takes Debit cards. You do come across the odd place that doesn’t (like the student shops in Trinity) but it is the exception rather than the rule. Also great for the online retailers where it is increasingly replacing the credit card as the payment method of choice.
Unless you have yours personalised with a picture of your favourite cat, nothing much here to excite.
Debit Card: The Verdict – 7/10
Pros: Wide acceptance, pretty convenient
Cons: Still calls for the use of a PIN
Credit Card: Like the Debit Card But With Someone Else’s Money
The Credit Card has its place. For example, you can’t hire a car without one. It is also a good source of short-term credit but generally, it is a really bad idea. With interest rates running at around 20% it is an expensive way to pay for stuff. We all have great intentions of paying it off as soon as we get paid but which of us ever do?
There is a reason why Visa and Mastercard are hugely profitable and why legislation such as PSD2 is trying to lessen their grip on the payment economy. I keep mine in my wallet (as much as possible!).
The Irish banks will all be rolling out contactless Credit Cards over the next year or so, but in the meantime, it’s another PIN to remember. Unless you’ve got it attached to your Apple or Google Pay digital wallet. To be fair, it is convenient to be able to pay for larger purchases up front and pay it off when you can, but it can be a dangerous game…
Again, just about anywhere: on or offline. Still not great for paying pocket money.
What there is can wear off pretty quickly once the bills start to come in.
Credit Cards: The Verdict – 6/10
Pros: Wide acceptance and easy access to credit
Cons: Expensive and reliant on the PIN
Apple Pay by Phone: Who Needs a Wallet?
OK, so it sits in your virtual wallet, but you know what I mean. In essence, Apple Pay is a way to use your normal bank Debit Card through your phone. It is a digital version of that card which sits in your real wallet. Yes, we could go into tokenisation and how Apple is eating into the interchange rates (bank speak) but what really matters to most of us is that instead of tapping our card, we will be tapping our phone. The payment still comes from the same bank account.
The big win here is that sometimes we all forget our wallet or purse but we never forget our phone. To be fair, I was a bit of a cynic until I started to use Apple Pay. It does pain me to say it, but it is so much handier than the card. Double tap on the home button and it is ready to go, it takes your fingerprint for authorisation. It might only be saving a few seconds but it feels so much quicker.
Almost perfect. Is there a more convenient way to pay? (Spoiler: see below).
Accepted wherever they take contactless. It also makes online purchases that much easier.
Up there for the moment but will become more and more mainstream as time goes on.
Apple Pay by Phone: The Verdict – 9/10
Pros: Wide acceptance and fingerprint authorisation
Cons: Double pressing on the home button happens more than you think when you are opening your phone. Apple pay popping up can be an annoyance.
Apple Pay by Apple Watch. Still Rooting in your Pocket for Your Phone?
All that’s good about the phone, just on the watch. Double press your button and you are ready to go. I wear my watch all the time, except when it is charging, and this really is exceptionally easy to use. How long does it take to press the side of your watch twice?
Even better than the Apple Pay on your iPhone
Exactly the same as Apple Pay on the iPhone.
Still raises the odd eyebrow and it’s hard to get tired of that.
Apple Pay by Apple Watch: The Verdict – 10/10
Pros: Wide acceptance and ease of use
Cons: Not so many people have the watch
Kerv Payment Ring: Still Bending Your Wrist and Pushing Buttons?
OK, so I have to go to the website every couple of weeks to top-up my account. It takes about 10 minutes to register and then a few days for Mastercard UK to authorise for use in Ireland. But once it is up and running my Kerv Ring is the easiest, most convenient and coolest way to pay for stuff. It’s on my finger. I fist bump the payment terminal. Done.
To be fair, I use it mostly for low-value payments: coffees and that kind of thing. I have used it here and abroad, it usually gets noticed and makes a great icebreaker. I have had it now for about 6 months and I use it every day. It comes in a range of colours and sizes, mine is black on the outside and red on the inside or ‘Black Fire’ as it is called on the website.
The easiest way to pay at a point of sale. It’s not for online shopping or pocket money, but it is brilliant for what it is meant for.
More or less everywhere that takes contactless.
Always starts a conversation. Wherever I use it without fail. It’s the most fun of all the payment methods I’ve mentioned here.
Kerv Ring: The Verdict – 10/10
Pros: Quickest payment method, very easy to use.
Cons: Set up required and at £90, a bit of an extravagance.
So what should you take out of this? Probably not much. Like so much else in life, your preferences around how you pay will remain yours. You will use whichever suits you the most. The real call out here is that the range of options is widening and will continue to do so. Back in the early 90s, I would have sworn that we would all be using our retinas to pay for stuff by now. For the time being, I’ll use my ring.