It's 2012, and we're still fussing with paper currency. Why isn't everything electronic? Or at the very least, exclusively utilizing magnetic strips on plastic rectangles? Where are those ID/Passport/money-replacing cards we were promised in the 90s?
There's hope. Over the past few years, a handful of savvy startups and developers have begun exploring the electronic money transactions made possible by the rise of smartphones and tablets, the lowered cost of technology and the ubiquity of the internet. It may not yet be 100% possible to avoid cash altogether, but you can get close.
You already know a few things you can do. Buy things online, use a credit card, set up automatic payments, etc. That's obvious. But what about day-to-day stuff? We've narrowed that down to three main areas you may deal with in your daily interactions with money: Buying goods, selling goods, and exchanging funds. For each category, we've gone and found apps, services, and hardware that will help you in your quest.
Google Wallet is probably the most mature e-wallet technology around. It supports all the major credit cards and is compatible with the NFC terminals already active in restaurants, shops and retail outlets. All you do is load your data, and when it comes time to pay, you tap your phone to your terminal and voila! PAYMENT RECEIVED. Plus, you can take advantage of merchant deals and rewards without having to carry around a card or piece of paper. Sadly, Google Wallet is only available on a handful of Android phones at the moment (and will likely be Android-only for the foreseeable future).
Pay With Square
Square was one of the first companies to make electronic payments cheap and easy for small businesses and individuals alike. Their next evolution as a company is Pay With Square, an app-based system which uses mobile apps, GPS and wireless networks to connect you and the merchant. In an ideal world, you walk into a participating store, the Pay With Square app detects your location via GPS, and it automatically negotiates details between you and the merchant. All you have to do is approve the transaction. Maybe not quite as elegant and easily implementable as NFC, but if done right, shopping would feel like magic.
Apple's new thing doesn't really have many apps supporting it at the moment, and the ones that do are more about rewards and ticketing than payments. But Amex will allow you to buy things with your credit card, and Starbucks will allow you to add gift certificates, which counts for something, I suppose.