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Friday Favorite: Lemon Wallet

Back in the frosty days of February, the guys over at Distil Union sent me one of their very cool Wally iPhone 5 wallets to try out. That ended up being a fortuitous review for a few reasons. First, I found out that the back pain I had experienced for the previous year was due to having a George Costanza (i.e., thick) wallet in my right rear pocket, and second, it pointed me in the direction of Lemon Wallet (free, Plus service available for US$40/year in-app purchase).

Lemon Wallet (now in version 7.1.1) has become a favorite of mine for exactly one reason -- it allows me to take a lot of things out of my physical wallet that I really don't want to lug around. What kind of things? Oh, like those frequent shopper cards that businesses like you to sign up for so that after $10,000 in purchases you can get a free can of Spam. Or membership cards for organizations that never require you to actually show the card. Even those credfit or debit cards that you never use, but keep around just in case...

To enter cards of any sort, you start out by taking a picture of them. For a credit card, you're then asked to type in your cardholder name. The app uses OCR to make an attempt at filling in the card number and does a pretty good job; if it's wrong, there's a simple way to correct the information. That same OCR capability also tries to pick up the card expiration date, once again allowing for corrections if it selected the wrong date. It's then time to give the card a name like "Company Visa", enter information like the issuing bank's phone number, and then you drag a little window over the CVV number on the back of the card to highlight it.

What you end up getting in your virtual wallet is a fairly accurate representation of what your card looks like. I find this to be quite helpful when I am making an online order and don't want to dig out my wallet -- I just go into Lemon Wallet, pull up the virtual card and grab the information from it. One more feature -- any card that you create can added to Passbook with a tap. That's not a good idea for credit cards, but perfect for those membership cards you want to keep at hand.

With the free account, you get an up-to-the-minute card balance for one credit card in your virtual wallet. That Plus service I talked about earlier expands that to all of your credit cards in Lemon Wallet through BillGuard. For each card, the balance shows up along with a list of "questionable" charges that you can approve or flag for review. With the Plus feature, every credit or debit card is monitored, and you'll get balance updates, notification of expiration dates, and if you lose your real wallet, you can cancel and restore all of your cards with one tap.

One other feature of Lemon Wallet that I don't currently use (but should!) is its ability to let you capture receipts for expense-tracking purposes. You simply snap a photo, add some details and you get a history of all of those purchases you've made. With the Plus plan, the raw data can be exported either as a CSV file or sent to Expensify, Evernote or Box.

One note: many reviewers on the App Store were complaining that Lemon Wallet previously did an OCR scan of all of your receipts as well, making it much easier to compile receipt data. Many of the negative reviews I've been seeing say that this much-desired feature was removed in the most recent version update.

With all of this personal information, most readers probably wonder how good the app security is. The data is stored and encrypted on your device, then backed up to the cloud. A PIN is required to look at just about anything, and if you go for the Plus service, you'll also get App Lock for adding one more layer of password protection to the app.

I've been pretty happy with the app, and it seems to get fairly good reviews on the App Store, except from people who want all of the Plus features at no cost and think it's a "rip off, man!" Anything that keeps me from having to carry a two-inch-thick wallet is OK in my book.

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