PayPal Canada has taken a little step toward that high-tech future, starting in Toronto.
Its mobile app, available for Apple and Google Android devices, now allows users to pay for purchases at more than 50 eateries and cafes.
Previously available in other countries, the app asks the user to check-in as they arrive at a restaurant or coffee shop — which sends their PayPal account information to the business owner — and once that's done, they can put away their device.
After asking for the bill, their meal or drink is automatically paid for and a receipt is sent by email. The bill can be paid with the user's PayPal balance or with a registered credit card or bank account.
While PayPal has been in Canada for 10 years and has 5.5 million users here, they acknowledge there are many consumers who still aren't familiar with the payments company, which was acquired by eBay in 2002.
"This gives us a brand new way to interact with consumers," says Kerry Reynolds, head of consumer marketing for PayPal Canada.
"So PayPal's not a solution for just buying things on eBay, we're actually a digital wallet that's available to use online and offline."
Reynolds says she had no timeline for when the digital wallet feature might expand to the rest of the country, and also couldn't say when Canadians would get access to new mobile shopping features that PayPal has rolled out elsewhere in the world.
PayPal's Order Ahead feature lets users place an order before they arrive at a restaurant or cafe so it's ready when they show up.
Pay At Table allows restaurant diners to tap their PayPal app to see their bill and pay it immediately. No need to flag down a waiter or waitress to request the tab and then wait to pay. The Canadian app still requires that diners ask for the bill before they can pay with their phone.
Reynolds would only say that Order Ahead and Pay At Table are in the "planning stages" for Canada.
In the U.S., PayPal's app can also be used to pay for purchases in some stores, including Aeropostale, Hollister and Home Depot.
Reynolds notes Canadians can use their app for cross-border shopping in the U.S. and other countries around the world.
Some other wallet-free shopping apps:
— Starbucks: Probably the most commonly seen in action, latte sippers can load a balance onto a Starbucks account and then use an Android or Apple app to pay at the cash register.
— TimmyMe: Tim Hortons' recently launched an app for Android, Apple and BlackBerry devices that is similar to the Starbucks experience although the BlackBerry version is a little more high tech. It uses NFC communications instead of barcode scanning for the transaction.
— RBC Wallet: If you bank with RBC, use Bell as a mobile provider, and own a Samsung Galaxy S III or S4 smartphone you can pay for purchases with a tap of your phone at participating stores.
— CIBC Mobile Payment: CIBC's app is similar but requires mobile access with Rogers or Telus. It also works with two additional Android devices, the Samsung Galaxy Note II and HTC One, as well as the BlackBerry Q10, Z10 and Bold 9900.