The young people have spoken: wallets are not cool. Go digital.

For a growing number of young people, a wallet full of cash and cards is as out of fashion as the millennial bag, no-show socks and skinny jeans. Carrying only a smartphone is the solution. Iykyk — it’s “if you know, you know,” for those who don’t know.

I, Brian Chen, an aging 39-year-old technology columnist, am not one of those in the know. It is inconceivable for me to part with my wallet, which contains crucial items like my driver’s license. So, in an effort to get hip again, I recruited my colleague Yiwen Lu, 23, to ask young people how they live like this, and then took the plunge myself.

In giving up my physical wallet, I join young people like Ruby Hegab, a 19-year-old student in Fremont, California. As soon as she got her first credit card last year, she said, she went all out to use her iPhone. to pay for groceries, parking meters and restaurant meals, as well as to carry insurance cards.

“If a store doesn’t accept Tap to Pay, I won’t give them business,” Ms. Hegab said. But that rarely happens, because the overwhelming majority of merchants she visits, including big box and mom-and-pop stores, now accept some form of mobile payment from services like Apple Pay and Venmo.

In a survey asking just over 2,500 Americans about digital payments, about 80% of Gen Z respondents said they use mobile wallets, and of those, half were eager to use their phones for more than just that. paying for things, according to recent data from Pymnts Intelligence, a research firm that studies commerce.

Young people are increasingly using their phones for purposes that older people would use a traditional wallet for, such as carrying documents such as a driver’s license, boarding passes and event tickets. Some of these digital items can be added to Apple and Google wallet apps, while others, like insurance cards, can be downloaded through third-party apps.

The change in behavior reflects how far mobile wallets have come. About ten years ago, when I talked about new mobile payment apps, most people shrugged their shoulders at the technology, because tapping a phone on a scanner was no more convenient than swiping a card credit. In recent years, amid a global pandemic that has pushed people toward contactless payments, Apple and Google have expanded their software to support digitized driver’s licenses and transit cards, a perfect storm that has made more useful mobile wallets.

Braving it without a wallet for a week, I used only my phone to do my shopping; going to bars, going out to dinner and going to the movies; and even buy crab from a fisherman’s boat. The phone sufficed in almost all of these situations, although paying for dinner was trickier and using a digital driver’s license to buy wine at a grocery store was a no-go.

If you’re hoping to ditch your wallet or just want to reduce your pocket size, here’s what you need to know.

In many stores, Android and iPhone users can use Google Pay and Apple Pay by tapping their phones on the readers next to the cash register. Many small businesses such as food trucks accept payments through third-party apps like Venmo, which let you scan a barcode to send money.

Still, there is an inherent risk when relying entirely on a mobile wallet. Abi Hoyer, 21, of Punta Gorda, Fla., said she doesn’t carry a wallet for security reasons: In the event of an assault, a thief would only get her phone. However, thieves could potentially make payments and withdraw money from your account if they forced you to share your password.

That’s why it’s important for iPhone users to enable a new security feature in Settings called Protecting Stolen Devices, which prevents password access to data such as stored passwords and credit cards when the device is in an unknown location. And Android users should be aware of the steps to lock and purge data of the device in the event of theft.

Additionally, not all businesses accept mobile payments. Hoyer learned this the hard way at Walmart when she discovered she was unable to pay for her items and did not have her full credit card number to sign up for the wallet from the store, Walmart Pay. A workaround: Password manager apps like 1Password and Bitwarden can securely store sensitive data, including credit card numbers, in case you need to look it up.

Jillian Gillespie, 27, of Chicago, switched to Apple Pay after losing her wallet more than a year ago, she said. This works well for fast-casual restaurants where you pay at the counter, but in sit-down restaurants where servers drop off a bill and expect to use a credit card, she sometimes has to rely on friends to pay. In these cases, she usually uses Venmo to pay back her friends.

“I don’t really carry my wallet with me, which can bite me in the butt sometimes,” Ms. Gillespie said.

I encountered similar problems. Out of three restaurants, only one brought me a reader so I could pay on my phone, while the others asked for a credit card, requiring my wife to pay.

Digital scans or photos of important documents such as health and auto insurance cards are now widely accepted as substitutes for actual documents. Some insurers, like State Farm, Aetna, and Anthem, make their digital cards available through their apps, which can be added to your mobile wallet. However, not all insurance cards work this way and it can be difficult to find these cards at all times. You don’t want to have to sift through photos or find the right app to charge your insurance card after a car accident. , For example.

I’ve found that the easiest way to make insurance cards easier to find is to attach images of each to a digital note stored on your phone. On iPhones, you open your insurance card photo, tap the button in the lower left corner and select the Notes app to save the image as a new note. Then rename the note “Insurance Cards”.

Likewise, Android users can use the Google Keep note-taking app. In Keep, at the bottom, tap “Add Image.” Then choose your insurance card photo and label the note.

Other types of cards and documents, like my Clipper card for public transportation, movie tickets, and gift cards, were all pretty simple to scan: tapping the Add to Apple Wallet button loaded them in my Apple Wallet app.

Digitized versions of driving licenses are still relatively new and currently being tested in various states, including California, Arizona, Connecticut, Maryland and Utah. This is where the mobile wallet fails.

Here in California, for example, you register for the digital driver’s license through the California Department of Motor Vehicles app. The app generates a temporary barcode that can be scanned to verify your age and identity. Airports in some states now post signs saying they will accept digital ID from those who have enrolled in the Transportation Security Agency’s PreCheck program — but many states have not yet participated in this experimentwhich makes it impractical to leave your driver’s license at home.

Digital ID is also not an acceptable substitute for a physical driver’s license. The California DMV says law enforcement officers cannot accept the mobile driver’s license if you are stopped, and the Arizona Division of Motor Vehicles says people must always carry a valid ID. physical identity.

For alcohol purchases at several grocery stores last week, cashiers were unfamiliar with the California digital driver’s license and did not have a scanner to check the barcode. And at a cocktail bar, a bouncer rejected digital ID cards and demanded physical ones.

In an emergency, someone may also have difficulty identifying you. Apples Medical ID card and that of Google Personal security Features can be set up to show people your name, age and emergency contacts by pressing a shortcut on the phone – but first responders need to know how to use this feature.

It is therefore preferable to continue to have a physical ID. To do this without carrying a wallet, you can do what some young people do and place the ID between your phone and its case. I found this to be an imperfect solution because the card raises the phone closer to the edges of the case, making the screen more susceptible to damage if dropped.

After a week, I opted for what seemed to me to be the best solution: a magnetic wallet that attaches to the back of my phone and holds only two cards: my ID card and a credit card. credit.

It felt like cheating. But Ms Hegab, 19, admits she uses a similar card holder to carry only her driving license.

As soon as digital driver’s licenses work everywhere, she said, she will get rid of them.