Are plastic's days numbered?

Marcus Wohlsen at Wired has an article up right now speculating when physical credit cards can be expected to go the way of the dodo. Their replacement? Your iPhone -- or more specifically, a special chip in your iPhone that would make it scannable at checkout counters. Such an innovation would transfer the flow of transactions onto newer, faster networks and grant Apple a level of management control over your wallet previously reserved for credit card companies. Considering how the company's hold on the mobile industry forced telecom providers to up their game, Apple's influence on finance may not necessarily be as scary as it sounds.


"In that world, it’s Apple, not the credit card companies, that have the control, even if those iPhone wallets are being used to “store” those credit cards. The credit card becomes abstract, just another option to tap that otherwise stays hidden. Really, you’ll be paying with Apple."

Many of us already have our credit card information stored on devices or the web. Once Apple solidifies its technology and capabilities, what use will physical cards have? They would effectively become redundant. Wolhsen speculates that it also wouldn't take long before Apple enters the credit business though you can expect companies like Visa and American Express to adapt and survive based on the ways Cupertino shifts the landscape.

One element of this story that Wolhsen doesn't touch is security. Especially in the wake of recent events, it's reasonable to expect Apple customers to be apprehensive about trusting their finances to devices they misplace by the thousands per day. That's not to mention the lack of trust in iCloud security. Still, it can be expected that all of this is on the company's radar. Apple will surely dash its t's and dot its i's before trying to force plastic into extinction.

Even if the iPhone isn't the credit card's eventual executioner, there's going to come a time when a digital or web-based alternative makes it obsolete. Such is the plight of most analog devices. It's only a matter of time.

Read more at WIRED

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