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Lady taking payment at register

The many ways to pay.

Today there are more ways than ever to pay for goods and services. Which one you choose often depends on what you’re buying, where you’re purchasing it and your readiness to embrace the latest time-saving options.

Here’s a quick look at your choices, along with some reasons you might want to rethink your current payment habits.

Cash and checks.

While their use is declining, these “old reliables” are still good alternatives for some payments. Cash is often your best bet for small retail transactions or face-to-face exchanges with friends or family. While personal checks are frequently used to pay for groceries or rent, some retailers no longer accept them, preferring methods that enable them to verify that customers have sufficient credit or funds to cover their purchases. Checks are also one of the slower methods of payment – as the people behind you in line will likely attest. 

Credit and debit cards.

We all know that a credit card allows you to buy goods and services on credit, while a debit card immediately deducts the funds from an account linked to the card. But did you know that an increasing number of plastic cards can now also be used for fast “contactless” payments?  In addition to swiping them or inserting them in a chip-reading terminal, these cards can simply be waved above card terminals that feature a contactless icon. Approvals are virtually instantaneous, and transactions offer the same security protections as chip payments. 

Some banks also offer specialized credit cards that enable you to schedule automatic payments or link specific types of purchases to specific accounts. Others allow you to select the account from which funds should be drawn at the point of sale.

Prepaid cards.

Some banks now offer plastic cards that can be loaded again and again with funds, rather than linked to a specific account. Functioning like prepaid debit cards, these general purpose cards can be used at any establishment that accepts credit or debit cards. They are especially popular among younger consumers, as well as those who don’t have bank accounts or may not qualify for traditional credit cards. 

Digital wallets.

It’s more convenient than ever to use your mobile phone or wearable device to make payments.  Apple, Google, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin all offer mobile apps for contactless payments.  By linking to existing accounts, these apps make it possible to complete transactions without entering payment information or physically sharing a plastic card. Fast and easy, digital wallet use typically results in shorter lines and faster checkouts. These payment apps are a great alternative for people on the go, parents of young children – or anyone who leaves their wallet at home – whether they mean to or not!

Online banking.

In addition to your mobile phone, your tablet or computer can be transformed into a payment device, allowing you to pay bills, set up recurring payments or transfer funds on your bank’s online banking portal. These conveniences can save time and give you a leg up on managing your money.

The bottom line:

No single payment method is right for every transaction. By having several options in your toolbelt, you’ll be prepared for whatever payment challenges life throws you.

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