Top 3 Mobile Wallets of 2017

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. (See also: Digital Wallets and the Future of Payments.)

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 Holdings, Inc. (PYPL), the other major name, works across all 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). (See also: Apple Pay In-Browser Payments Could Threaten PayPal.)

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 2017.

Gyft

Gyft is the major name in the gift card space, which is a $100 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.)

Key Ring

Long-time technology veteran Chris Fagan launched Key Ring in 2009 as a solution to managing all his loyalty rewards cards. A frequent business traveler, Fagan was looking for a way to take advantage of as many rewards programs as possible without dealing with bulky cards and tracking points. The Key Ring app for Android hit the market and topped 400,000 installs in its first year. By 2013, it had over 10 million downloads. (See also: 5 Expensive Places to Travel.)

Key Ring was initially funded by Austin Ventures but was acquired in 2012 by Gannett Co., Inc. (GCI), the publishing giant that owns USA Today, among other major publications. The company operates as a stand-alone business under Gannett's Digital Marketing Services Division. (See also: Gannett Ends Its Pursuit of Tronc.)

eWallet (Ilium Software)

eWallet is one of the few mobile wallet apps that isn't free to download. 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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