How many credit cards do you carry in your wallet? According to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the average is 3.5.
There are reasons to carry multiple cards. Some offer gas rewards. Others give you frequent flier miles or have no credit limit.
Credit management issues aside, managing multiple accounts or recalling which card gives you the best payback for a given purchase can get complicated.
Many are turning to a relatively new concept – the digital wallet – to take some of the guesswork out of the equation.
Digital wallets – web-based platforms that centralize all of a user's credit cards, and sometimes offer financial management tools – have been around for a while, and some, like Google Wallet, are taking off, with vendors accepting payments from specially equipped phones and other devices. If you consider PayPal to be a digital wallet (it does offer many of the same services), then they've already become ubiquitous.
Thus far, however, they've all come up against one limitation: You still have to either be making an online purchase or shop at a retailer that accepts them.
A startup called Wallaby aims to change that. They're offering a digital wallet service that is connected to all of your credit cards.
So, let's say you want to maximize a certain bonus or reward, like cash back rebates or lowest possible interest.
You set that as a preference in Wallaby, and it will automatically charge specific purchases to the card offering the largest bonus for that type of transaction.
Their tagline is apt: "One Card to Rule Them All."
The process is relatively simple. You provide them with your card information. They ship you a single credit card.
The transactions are automatically routed to the appropriate card.
The user pays the same bills to the same companies they always have, the card can be swiped at any register that accepts major credit cards.
Wallaby does charge $50 per year for their service, but they point out that the cash back or frequent flier rewards will probably be worth more.
The cautious user will note that loosing the wallaby card does theoretically give anyone that finds it access to all credit cards linked to it.
By the same token, it's far easier to deactivate one lost card than three or four.
Right now Wallaby is in an introductory "Beta" stage and accepting signups. To find out more, visit www.walla.by.