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Stacey Vanek Smith: A big cell phone industry conference is wrapping up today in New Orleans. This year's big theme: turning your phone into a mobile wallet. But one question remains unresolved: Who will benefit most from the new technology?

Marketplace's Eve Troeh takes a look


Eve Troeh: When we shop in actual stores, we pay with plastic or cash. But soon -- techies agree -- millions of us will pay with cell phones. Lots of companies -- from banks to websites -- really want to help us do that. At the convention Visa, Mastercard and PayPal rolled out new systems to pay by phone.

Anil Malhotra: All jockeying for position. All trying to get their brand accepted.

Anil Malhotra is there with his wireless company, Bango. He says winning the mobile payment space is about convincing individual shoppers, but also...

Malhotra: Getting that merchant network to accept your payment method.

Visa and Mastercard have an edge because most shoppers and merchants already trust them with money, says David Wolman, author of the book "The End of Money." But cell phone companies?

David Wolman: You know it's one thing if you drop my calls. It's another thing if you drop my money, and it vanishes into cyberspace.

So we'll likely see more wireless companies partner with big names in finance, like Visa and Mastercard. Now, they just need to get more stores to ask at the checkout: cash, credit, or phone?

I'm Eve Troeh for Marketplace.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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