Digital Wallet vs Mobile Wallet - What Are Their Differences?

July 1st, 2023 by Felix Cheruiyot

digital wallets vs mobile wallets

Digital and mobile wallets are e-wallets, but they aren’t one and the same. Not sure which way to go, digital wallets vs mobile wallets? Discover the differences.

Not long ago, it was unimaginable that there would be any other wallet than the leather variety with a slot for bank notes and several pockets for bank cards. The idea that it could soon be nothing more than a fashion accessory doesn’t sound so far-fetched anymore.

The smartphone is the new wallet. In fact, your phone can hold more than one type of wallet - a digital wallet and a mobile wallet. These two wallets can carry your money, bank cards, and more.

But what is the difference between a digital wallet and a mobile wallet? What are the benefits of a digital wallet vs a mobile wallet?

You will get answers to those and other questions in this article. Let’s right down to it.

Digital wallet vs mobile wallet: What are they?

A digital wallet is an application that runs on an internet-connected device that you can use to perform financial transactions. Instead of the physical cards you carry in your regular wallet, digital wallets store the information those debit and credit cards hold, such as the card, CVV number, and PIN.

Since digital wallets store your payment information in the cloud, they remove the need to present your physical debit and credit cards when you shop.

A digital wallet can store all personal data, including your electronic cash, identification cards, digital car keys, tickets, coupons, as well as loyalty, gift, and membership cards.

An example of a digital wallet many people are familiar with is PayPal. Others are Apple Pay, Alipay, and Google Pay. PayPal is commonly used as a payment method on online stores and e-commerce websites. You will find the PayPal branded button on most checkout pages.

There are also business-focused digital wallets like IntaSend that you can access through a web app.

To pay for something in person, digital wallets use Bluetooth, QR codes, or NFC (near-field communication) to connect your mobile device to the point-of-sale terminal.

To complete the in-person payment, you must tap or hover the connected mobile or wearable device over the POS terminal. So instead of your physical debit or credit card, you present your smartphone or smartwatch.

On the other hand, a mobile wallet is an application that runs on a connected mobile or wearable device that stores your payment information and can be used to conduct financial transactions. A mobile wallet is convenient for buying things both online and in person.

Mobile wallets store the same information that a digital device can hold. Many smartphones now come with built-in mobile wallets. For example, iPhones and iPads come with Apple Pay built.

Likewise, some Samsung smartphones and tablets have Samsung preloaded, while some premium Android smartphones have Google Pay built-in. However, you can also download these mobile wallets if they aren’t preloaded into the mobile or wearable device.

The most familiar example of a mobile wallet for people in Kenya is M-Pesa. The ubiquitous mobile money wallet can be used to send money, pay utility bills, pay for goods and services online and in person, and even access loans.

What is the difference between a digital wallet and a mobile wallet?

The main difference between a digital wallet and a mobile wallet is that a digital wallet can be used with any connected device - computer, smartphone, or laptop. In contrast, a mobile wallet can only be used with a connected mobile device, like a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch.

As the variety of digital wallets and their different use cases widen, distinguishing them from mobile wallets is getting more difficult.

Many digital wallets can be installed on a mobile device. So you could say the difference we noted above doesn’t distinguish the two types of electronic wallets.

The other difference that is getting increasingly less applicable is that mobile wallets can be used to make payments at brick ‘n mortar stores while digital wallets primarily work for making online payments.

The PayPal digital wallet, a ubiquitous online payment method, does not work in-store. You can’t use it to make contactless payments at checkout in supermarkets. Mobile wallets like M-Pesa, however, are a perfect fit.

Even this difference doesn’t quite mark the two wallets apart because there are now digital wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay that can make in-store payments.

Mobile wallets, with the notable example of M-Pesa, can also be used to make online payments.

Using the IntaSend payment gateway, merchants can add the pay with M-Pesa button on their checkout pages in the same way PayPal, Visa, and Mastercard appear as payment methods. The IntaSend payment gateway for Shopify also adds Bitcoin as a payment method.

Digital wallets like Cash App and PayPal cannot complete in-person payments, but they can be linked to and used to fund Google Pay and Apple Pay payments.

Another difference that does not quite mark digital and mobile wallets apart is that mobile wallets have traditionally been offered by banks as a way to access their digital banking products.

However, many of these have not done as well as digital wallets offered by fintech startups and digital and virtual banking platforms like Square and PayPal.

In developing markets, particularly in Kenya, mobile wallets are more synonymous with mobile services offered by mobile telcos like Safaricom, whose own service, M-Pesa, has over 30 million users in Kenya.

Similarities between digital wallets and mobile wallets

While the definitions of mobile and digital wallets may hold for a while still, their differences are falling away. Digital wallets, in particular, are creeping into the realm of mobile apps.

The one all-important feature of digital and mobile wallets is that they hold your payment information in one central, easy-to-access place. And noting that their scope is in constant flux, we may soon resolve to call them electronic or e-wallets.

Indeed, digital wallets and mobile wallets now have more similarities than differences. Almost all consumer-focused digital and mobile wallets:

Many digital wallets can also be used to make contactless payments in stores, which is traditionally associated with mobile wallets.

Cash App, Venmo, and - locally, IntaSend, digital wallets without support for online or in-person payments, can hold Bitcoin balances.

As well as holding a cryptocurrency balance, IntaSend supports liquidation in your preferred currency and withdrawal of the cash balance to your M-Pesa or bank account.

Benefits of a mobile wallet.

Digital wallets have revolutionalised payments, making it safer and more convenient to make online and in-person payments.


Mobile payments using a connected wearable or mobile device is a smoother, more enjoyable experience than most other payment methods.

Instead of pulling out your debit card, if you remember to bring it, it is far more convenient to hover your phone over the POS terminal and pay for your dinner, groceries, or whatever you are buying.

If you are a merchant, enabling digital and mobile wallet payments on your website will allow customers to use the payment methods they want. This reduces the number of abandoned carts, which boosts your sales and creates happier, loyal customers.

Fast checkout processes.

By the time you whip out your credit card to swipe or insert it in the POS machine, you would have finished paying if you had tapped your smartwatch instead.

The same applies to online payments via M-Pesa, where you must add your phone number and PIN. So mobile payments are the solution for faster, frictionless checkout processes.

Secure payments

Physical credit cards can easily fall into the wrong hands, which risks the funds held on the card. We will not get into the dangers of carrying large sums of money. A digital or mobile wallet is the more secure way to pay online and in-store and store your cash and particulars.

Digital wallets use encryption technology to secure your payment and other confidential information against interception by hackers and other unauthorised users.

Digital wallets also secure your card information using tokenisation, when the wallet sends a tokenised number to the POS terminal instead of the actual card number. This masks the card number and makes it hard for hackers to steal your payment information.

On top of the wallet-level security features, mobile wallets also benefit from the mobile device’s security features. If a thief steals your mobile device, they must unlock it before opening the digital wallet app. This is harder to do if you use biometrics like your face, fingerprint, or iris to lock your phone.

The IntaSend e-wallet and other digital wallets like Venmo and CashApp also let you request virtual Visa or Mastercard debit cards that are more secure than physical cards. You can use these cards to make online payments and withdraw cash from enabled ATMs.

Whether you are a business or a consumer, a digital wallet offers a different level of convenience. The IntaSend digital wallet, for example, makes it easy to pay, get paid, and send money.

If you are a freelancer or an unregistered business, IntaSend makes it a breeze to raise invoices and request payment. Our no-code payment links are easy to share with clients, who only need to click and choose their preferred payment method.

IntaSend is the perfect digital wallet to receive international payments. Once your payments hit your account, you can choose a withdrawal method that works best for you, with ACH and M-Pesa among your options.

You can even request a virtual Visa or Mastercard and keep your money on the card so you can use it to pay for goods and services online.

Sign up with IntaSend, the best digital wallet in Kenya, and enjoy more payment convenience.

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