ApplePay

Listen to some people talk about Apple Pay, the new mobile payment system from the tech giant, and you would think that they invented the category. But while Apple has raised the bar in a few areas, they are hardly the only game in town when it comes to making mobile payments. Here are four other ways that consumers can securely make payments while they are taking care of their holiday shopping this year.

Google Wallet

From that other west coast tech giant, Google Wallet for a while now has made it possible for consumers to make purchases with their phone, and that includes lots of phones. While Apple Pay currently only works on two phone models, Google Wallet works on hundreds of Android phones, basically, any phone with open NFC capabilities will work. You actually can install Google Wallet on iPhones but, lacking open NFC, the touch to pay capabilities won’t work. However, like most phone-based mobile payment systems, the requirement for NFC means that, despite press releases to the contrary, many retailers won’t be set-up to accept these mobile payments. On the security side, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet uses unique tokens rather than credit card numbers for payments, meaning that the transaction is more secure than a credit card swipe. However, if the phone lacks a touch biometric security option (like Apple’s TouchID), users will need to enter a pin when making purchases, which does reduce the convenience factor.

Softcard

A joint venture between major carriers, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, Softcard is an Android-based mobile payment system that, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, uses NFC to enable smartphones to make payments at supporting retailers. The biggest drawback to Softcard starts with that joint-venture, if you’re not on one of those carriers, never mind. Also, Softcard only works with a few credit card providers. However, they do provide a security experience that stands up well to Apple Pay. Through the use of a special Secure Element SIM card, they are able to keep data secure in hardware. And Softcard also uses unique tokens as an added layer of security to protect credit card information.

LoopPay

One of the more interesting mobile payment systems out there is from start-up LoopPay. This system can work with the widest variety of phones, since instead of relying on the phone to have NFC, LoopPay requires users to purchase a keychain fob or a special case for their phone. The fob or the case handles the payments and wallet information, and the phone essentially becomes a management interface. In fact, payments can be made with just the fob (useful if your phone battery dies). Interestingly, LoopPay claims that it can work at nearly any credit card reader, the device can be held next to the swipe slot and uses vibrations to mimic a card swipe. Independent reviews have shown that this works, which gives LoopPay probably the largest supported retailer list. Biggest drawbacks require the need for the extra hardware and no tokenization in the payments. Also, the name does sound kind of like “loopy” if you say it fast.

More Secure Credit Cards

This isn’t really a phone-based payment system but it is certainly mobile. While consumers in the rest of the world have been utilizing secure EMV (which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) credit cards for years now, in the U.S. we’ve been using regular and insecure magnetic strips, which is why our credit cards are so easy to copy and why a large portion of credit card fraud happens here. By using a chip on the card itself, these cards are more secure than traditional credit cards and can be tied more easily to mobile and online payment systems.

Upcoming Competitors

One of the biggest challengers to Apple Pay (and all of these systems) is sure to be the planned CurrentC, from the Merchant Customer Exchange. Since this is a mobile payment system being created by a massive collection of retailers, it will have a serious amount of clout behind it, as well as the ability to make life hard for competing mobile payment systems. Also, look for PayPal, which dominates online payments, to make a hard push into mobile payments.

For more on mobile payments, read the Aberdeen report Purchasing Cards: Redefining Identity in the Evolving Payments Landscape