It happens every time.
You’re standing in the checkout line, innocently loading your items on to the conveyer belt when the cashier ambushes you: "Do you have a membership card with us?" You reach for your wallet, fumbling to locate the—blue? red? orange?—card among all the others, flipping through rewards cards for BevMo, Walgreens, Safeway, a random library card... The cashier waits with a frozen smile while the line behind you grows longer, everyone shifting restlessly from foot to foot as you panic and dump your entire wallet onto the counter, only to realize the card is clipped to your keychain.
But what if it could be different? What if you could nonchalantly pull out your phone and display a screen that holds all of your membership information for the cashier to easily scan? Hey, guess what kind of apps we have for you below?
The oldest and best of the bunch, CardStar (free; iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8) collects and organizes all the loyalty cards you already have, instead of creating yet another new loyalty point system for you to follow. When a store gives you a credit card-size loyalty pass along with two keychain-size ones, CardStar lets you scan in the barcode on the spot and chuck the plastic trinkets.
CardStar supports hundreds of merchants, and, fortunately, all of them are listed in the app so you can quickly find out if your favorite store is available. CardStar also recognizes digital cards, so you can save online-only store information alongside that of physical stores. It’s all available in a smooth, no-frills interface.
An alternative to CardStar is Key Ring (free; iOS and Android), which also stores the info from your physical loyalty cards. The great part is that you can join loyalty programs straight through Key Ring. It’s connected to the powerhouse Gannett organization, so plenty of merchants support the app. You can also share your loyalty cards with other people—just have the other person download the app, too, and you can then email them a link to the cards you’d like to share.
Key Ring outshines CardStar in one big area: exclusive coupons. A blend of an aggregator and a stand-alone loyalty system, Key Ring offers deals only available within the app. It also just launched Rx Savings, a cool program that gives discounts on all your prescriptions. Adding more programs like Rx Savings could make Key Ring the app to get.
If you want to cull more than just loyalty cards from your wallet, check out Lemon Wallet (free; iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8). The service streamlines the process of digitizing your cards by only scanning them: Load the app and type in your email address, and the app will immediately ask for the first card to scan. Show Lemon Wallet the front and back, and verify a few details, and you can now safely toss out your plastic card. If you’re on iOS, you can add the digital card to Apple Passbook for quick access.
Unlike the other options, Lemon Wallet isn’t dependent on merchants using it—it can scan in any card. The app handles not only loyalty cards, but also insurance, ID, and even debit cards. In fact, Lemon Wallet has launched a sister service, Wallet Plus ($5 per month or $40 per year) focused exclusively on your credit and debit cards. Wallet Plus provides fraud protection, account balance information, and other details. Lemon Wallet offers a 15-day Wallet Plus trial, and you can extend the service with an in-app purchase.
A nice indie app, Cardy (free and $1 versions; iOS only) keeps things simple and secure. The built-in barcode scanner takes a shot of your loyalty card, grabs the number, and locks it in with any additional details you’d like to add. It keeps your information secure using a four-number password, a format familiar to iPhone and iPad users.
Other apps give visual facsimiles of your cards, but Cardy skips the skeuomorphic approach and provides just the facts. Your current cards are streamlined into a text-based list, making it quicker to jump from item to item. And the app lets you star your favorite cards so that you can access them faster.
Quomai (free; iOS and Android) has both visual style and smart shopping suggestions. Like Key Ring and CardStar, Quomai has you choose from dozens of merchants. The current physical look of all the cards is built in, so Quomai just needs to plug in your name and specific member number to complete your virtual card. The app can also scan your physical card and automatically get the membership number.
Quomai helps you take advantage of your current loyalty cards with a cool map feature. Once you input a few cards, tap on Map and the app will show you all the local places you can use it. The map feature not only helps you find a specific store, similar to Yelp, but also subtly reminds you to use other loyalty cards you may have forgotten—a nice perk if you’re drowning in a sea of memberships.
This story, "Ditch your Costanza wallet with these card-keeping apps" was originally published by TechHive.