Most people think this is a case of “to-mah-toes vs. to-mae-toes”. But nope! Mobile wallet, e-wallet and digital wallets are actually three different things. With digital payments on the rise, it’s a good idea to know the difference so you can choose the best wallet to use. Plus, you probably have several different payment apps on your phone and wonders which is which? Let’s dive into the differences between digital wallets, e-wallets and mobile wallets.

Digital Wallets

Digital wallet are technologies that electronically stores credit card numbers, debit card numbers, loyalty card numbers, etc. on the cloud. Your money still stays in your bank or credit card account. Digital wallet basically keeps your details to make transactions easier. Examples of digital wallet are Google Pay, Masterpass & Visa Checkout. With digital wallets, we can not only go cashless, we can also go cardless.


E-Wallets are prepaid wallets that requires money to be loaded prior to any transaction. It can either be accessed on the e-wallet’s website or applications via laptop, tablet, or phone. Some of e-wallet functions include:

  • Storing credit and debit card information
  • Storing funds (e-money)
  • Keeping coupons or loyalty credits
  • Enabling payment for purchases at physical or online store,
  • Splitting bills
  • Peer-to-peer transfer,
  • And of course, security.

Mobile Wallets

A mobile wallet can be installed on your phone as an application and allows you to “tap to pay” in stores, often using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. With a mobile wallet, a user typically pays by tapping a terminal or scanning a QR code with a smartphone or devices such as a smartwatch or a fitness tracker.

More than one thing

Each of the above terms shows specific functionality of a wallet. However, they are not bound to be only one thing. Mobile wallets can be a digital wallet and/or e-wallets but not always. For example, PayPal are both digital and e-wallets but is not mobile as the PayPal mobile app does not have the NFC technology to pay in brick-and-mortar stores.

On the other hand, GrabPay, Boost, GCash, Alipay, LINE Pay, and Touch ‘n Go are all both e-Wallet and Mobile Wallet, but are not a digital wallet as they do not keep card information for direct payments from the bank account. If you have a physical store, these wallets should be considered as they allow customers to make payment at your store.


Openness of Digital, Mobile & e-Wallets

While the classification between Digital Wallet, e-Wallet & Mobile Wallets can be interconnected, the classification based on their “openness” is very distinct. They can only be either closed, semi-closed, or open wallet.

Closed Wallet

A closed wallet is made to be used exclusively for the purchases in that company. You cannot withdraw the money you’ve topped up, but the value will not expire. Usually closed wallets give loyalty rewards and discounts coupons that can be claimed and used through their platform.

Example: Starbucks

Semi-closed wallet

A semi-closed wallet enables the purchase of goods and services from their registered merchants. Some wallet lets you withdraw money out, even though if left in there the value will not expire. Semi-closed wallets also give loyalty rewards and coupons for purchases made using their payment system. Registered merchants are welcome to make a promotional offer for wallet users.

Example: Boost, GrabPay, AliPay, Touch ‘n Go, GCash, LINE pay

Open Wallet

Open wallet enable purchase from any merchants that accepts cards. With open wallets you can withdraw from ATMs. As any other type, the fund in your wallet should not expire. The difference between open wallet and the bank is the ability to provide savings account, issuing credit cards and other banking services.

Example: Visa Checkout, GooglePay, Masterpass


Okay, so let’s recap the online wallet differences:

Digital Wallet eWallet Mobile Wallet
Store credit/debit card information. Stores credit value in the wallet. Need to download mobile application.
Payment deducted directly from bank/credit account. Requires reload to deduct amount from wallet account. Payment can be made at physical stores by tapping or scanning.

And they can either be:

Closed Wallet Semi-closed Wallet Open Wallet
Exclusively for purchases at a specific company only. For purchases at registered merchant stores. Open to any merchant with credit card terminal.

Learn something new today? Tell us what’s your favourite wallet and why. 😊