Something to think about as you stand in a checkout line this holiday season: “Gone are the days of searching for your wallet. The wasted moments finding the right card. Now payments happen with a single touch.”
That’s the promotional promise behind Apple Pay, the mobile payment service recently rolled out by Apple.
The service, which is built into the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and will be featured in the 2015 launch of the Apple Watch, allows users to pay for hamburgers, running shoes, dog treats, clothing and a bunch of other stuff by swiping their mobile phone on a reader device at selected merchants.
Apple calls its payment technology “contactless,” meaning you won’t have to fumble at the service counter for your plastic, a checkbook or cold hard cash. Since your credit or debit cards are already synced with the system, just swipe your phone and you’re done — in short order.
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In other words, spending for things you want — or perhaps never knew you wanted until you saw them on sale — has never been easier.
The list of Apple Pay partners with scanning devices is small but growing. It includes McDonald’s, Subway, Panera Bread, Nike, Walgreen, Petco, American Eagle and Macy’s.
Apple Pay is among a new wave of instant purchase services and applications on smartphones that are coming fast and furious. While the technology provides an even easier way to make purchases, there is a flip side to consider, especially if you’re a parent with children under your roof.
My concern? The lines of defense that guard against instant gratification are getting thinner and thinner.
Before young consumers make transactions by swiping a smartphone across a pad, parents need to teach them to stop, think and reflect on how they’re spending their money.
“The spread of technology for instant purchases makes its imperative that (young) people develop self-control and good money habits when it comes to saving and consumption,” said Alan Krueger, an award-winning Princeton University economist, former White House chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and author of an economics textbook for high school students.
The bottom line, Krueger said in an email interview, is that “people are increasingly responsible for their financial futures” and need to get a grip on their wallet early on.
What can teens do to control spending impulses?
Krueger said teens should write out a budget (or spending plan, if you prefer) that specifies how much they want to spend and save each month. Then don’t sabotage the plan by straying outside the limits.
Another useful rule, he said, is to wait before making big purchases, whether by taking a walk through the mall before circling back to the store or going home and sleeping on the decision.
Finally, here are some financial facts to share with your teen. According to Dun & Bradstreet research, people spend 12 to 18 percent more when using credit cards than when using cash. Separately, McDonald’s has said its average transaction increased from $4.50 to $7 when customers used plastic rather than pay with cash.
Will mobile payment services skew the numbers further? That’s something else to think about during holiday shopping trips to the mall.