In September, 2011, Google posted a video on its YouTube channel promoting a new mobile payments service. It was a reworked version of a famous scene from the sitcom Seinfeld, and showed George Costanza looking at a poster for something called Google Wallet. Intrigued, he tears a reminder strip off the bottom of the poster, and tries to cram it into his leather wallet, which is already overstuffed with cash, receipts and bank notes. It’s the final straw, the wallet explodes in a shower of cards and paper, and its entire contents are scattered to the wind.

The answer? A digital wallet. Google had partnered with Mastercard, CitiBank and others to let people make payments in a store simply by “waving their phones at a special cash register”, as one commentator of the time described it.

Osama Bedier, then Google’s VP for Payments, announced that this was “just the beginning” of the digital wallet story – and he was right. Today, digital wallets are used for nearly 30 percent of global in-store payments, and are also used online for more than half of all global e-commerce payment transactions. Usually available as an app, the leading wallets include those that come with your phone, such as ApplePay for iPhones and GooglePay for Android phones, as well as the likes of Paypal, Venmo and Cash App.

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