But while news about the mobile payments space has intensified lately -- Square's deal with Starbucks, Discover's nod to Google Wallet and Dunkin' Donuts's new gifting/payment app -- pay-by-phone services have yet to hit mainstream status as many consumers are still confused about their options.
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To help clear confusion, here are five ways you may start paying for your next dinner with your phone.
Order Meals With Digital Delivery and Takeout Services
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Eight-year-old GrubHub, for example, serves 300,000 monthly users and has grown significantly as more consumers make the move to smartphones. GrubHub's services have seeped into 400 U.S. cities.
"We're serving a need in the market and having fun in the process," company spokeswoman Abby Hunt told Mashable. Fun? Yup. Just check out the playful advertisement above.
To see how one of these apps works, watch this video demoing Seamless's iPad app.
Pull Out Your QR Code
LevelUp, a branch of startup SCVNGR, is an app that lets you pay for meals using a personalized QR code on your phone.
Wielding their own phones, businesses scan diners' QR codes via a mini kiosk at fast-food locations or a waiter at sit-down restaurants.
The app then issues a digital receipt as a push notification in your app.
"When you try a new place, you’ll instantly get a few bucks to spend there," LevelUp says on its site. "You'll unlock more savings as you go back to your favorite places."
LevelUp works in more than 3,000 businesses.
Check out this slick map to see if LevelUp is enabled in your city.
Transfer Money to Friends at Group Dinners
We've all been there: You're at dinner with a big group of friends and the inevitable tab arrives. Then, mass confusion sets in because of the calculating of who owes how much and fumbling of cash and cards.
Users can send money to one person, who can then pay the tab. Venmo transfers funds overnight, and Paypal and Dwolla take a few days to process transfers.
"We wanted to solve some big problems the country has had with moving money the last 40 or 50 years, and that meant not embedding the legacy problems of traditional card networks," Dwolla spokesman Jordan Lampe says. "We removed a lot of the cost and fraud and created our generation's Visa."
Another money transfer service, Bump, works the way its name implies. You type in an amount you want to give someone else and then bump phones to make the transfer.
Swipe Your Virtual Wallet When You're Out
Still in its infancy, it's available to use at only a few restaurant branches' participating locations for now: Jack in the Box, Subway, McDonald's and Dairy Queen. Other places where you can pick up food with your Wallet are Tim Hortons, CVS, Walgreens, Jamba Juice and 7-Eleven.
The Wallet -- available on six phones on Sprint and Virgin Mobile as well as the Nexus 7 tablet - syncs to your credit, debit, gift and loyalty cards.
Try These Growing Apps in Restaurants
Square put mobile payments in the limelight this month when it partnered with Starbucks to process all of the company's debit and credit card transactions from customers.
The Square technology behind the Starbucks deal is already in several U.S. restaurants, which use Square Register and Square's white card readerS to power transactions.
On your end, the Pay With Square app lets you open a food tab or have the tab auto-open when you arrive. Your face will appear on the merchants' checkout screen and they will charge you for your meal.
TabbedOut is a similar app. Like Pay With Square, it eliminates the need to hand your payment to a cashier or waiter. Both apps eliminates the time you would spend waiting for the check and closing your tab.
Here is how Square Register works for merchants and Pay With Square operates for you:
Square Register helps merchants keep track of their inventory,allowing them to gain insight on what's selling well and when.
This doughnut shop, for instance, keeps track of each individual type of doughnut it sells using the service.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- Technology & Electronics
- Google Wallet
- Mobile payment