You Could Be Putting Your Virtual Wallet to Better Use

In nearly every state, your car and health insurance cards can be mobile — but there are still some limits to going fully digital

I’ve figured out how to use Apple Pay in person maybe twice before, and I’ve finally figured out how to get my plane ticket on my phone for nearly every trip. That said, my health insurance card is, uhhh… somewhere around here. Considering my phone is essentially a repository for all of my memories of the last five years and the site of at least 50 percent of my daily activities, you’d think I’d have nailed down how to actually keep the important shit on there. 

But how much of that information can I safely keep on my phone, anyway? 

Let’s explore… 

Health Insurance

There’s a really good chance your health insurance provider has an app. I would be very surprised if they didn’t. On that app, you should be able to pull up a digital version of your insurance card containing your relevant ID numbers and all that, which should in turn be accepted by your pharmacist or when checking in for an appointment. 

If you have an iPhone, you can also add your health insurance information to the Health app. There, you can input any essential medical information about yourself in the event of an emergency (for example, you get into a car accident and an EMT wants to know if you have any conditions or take certain medications) and also link the app to your health records with specific hospitals and insurance providers. There are strict laws surrounding the privacy and protection of your medical data, but if the Health app still sketches you out, your insurance provider’s app might feel like a safer alternative. 

Car Insurance

Similar to your health insurance, you can likely access your car insurance info via the company’s app. In every state except for New Mexico, you’re allowed to show a digital version of your car insurance ID to an officer during a traffic stop. This also works if you’re in an accident and need to share your information with another driver. In regards to privacy with the police, some states have laws prohibiting an officer from accessing other information on a phone when it’s used as a mobile car insurance ID. Not every state has these laws in place, though, meaning your phone could potentially be used to incriminate you for other crimes. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep a physical copy of your car insurance information in your car with you. Keeping it on your phone is still a solid backup, though. 

On a related note, you can also access your AAA membership through the AAA app, and can add a digital version of the card to your Apple Wallet. 

Government Identification 

This is a field where we’re still entirely living in the past. Various states have tested versions of digital driver’s licenses and other forms of government IDs, but nothing has ever been rolled out in its entirety. Per the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators website, mobile driver’s licenses are still something being plotted and studied. There are a couple of concerns surrounding the topic from governments’ perspectives, like the potential for fraud or identity theft. But from the people’s standpoint, there are a number of privacy and security concerns, as well: Like the state laws prohibiting police from using car insurance IDs as a means of gaining access to phones, government IDs could similarly be an area of control and tracking. While it’s possible that digital IDs will become the norm in the next several years, it’s unclear whether everyone will be on board with them. 

A Potential Middle Ground 

For those of us who don’t want to plug all our personal data into our phones (even though our phones probably know everything about us, anyway) and also have a tendency to lose all the little cards in our lives, I propose one easy solution: the wallet phone case. My phone case looks like any other basic black one, but it has a slot built into that back that can hold four to five cards. I keep my driver’s license, debit card, credit card, transit pass and health insurance card in mine. It basically serves the exact same function as keeping digital versions in my phone, but is less paranoia-inducing and easier than actually unlocking my phone and opening an app, and is definitely way easier than having to dig around my purse for my wallet as that’s disorganized as it is. 

Best of both worlds.