(Credit: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock)

While mobile phones connect us to the world with text messaging, email, music streaming and sharing pictures of cats, there's one other role that arguably doesn't get as much attention as it should: If you've transitioned to a cashless life, your phone can basically be your wallet. And if you have an iPhone, that wallet just got a sizeable upgrade.

Apple Pay is the company's "digital wallet" where you can store your credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and loyalty cards; when it comes time to pay for something at a physical cash register, you just tap your iPhone on a compatible card reader, and the transaction is charged to one of the cards that you've added. Today, Apple announced that this wallet can now be used at thousands more stores than before.

SEE: Best alternatives to PayPal to make payments in 2019

The official tally is: all 1,850 Target store locations, 7,000 Taco Bells and 2,200 Jack in the Box restaurants. Apple also mentions the addition of 245 Hy-Vee supermarkets and 3,000 Speedway convenience stores. In 2018, Apple Pay came to 500 Costcos, 8,400 CVS Pharmacies and 95 percent of 7-Eleven's 7,854 US stores, so its latest additions indicate that the service's momentum continues unabated.

(The Apple Pay app comes preinstalled on iPhones and is not available for Android devices. The latter group of people can use Google Pay, which is available for both Android and iOS.)

Given that wireless payments via your phone take a fraction of the time of a physical card reader, that adds up to a lot of saved time -- and perhaps more revenue for stores, since they can process more transactions in a given day. Plus, if your physical wallet is lost or stolen, you still have the means to pay for things while you wait for replacement cards.

However, it should be noted that it takes two to tango. With digital wallets, your card issuer (Visa, Mastercard, your bank) must approve support, so in some cases a store can support the payment app, but the issuer does not. Conversely, your issuer can support Apple Pay, but the store you want to buy from won't necessarily want to accept that form of payment.

The quickest way to find out if your card can use Apple Pay is just to attempt to add it to the app. If the issuer isn't an Apple Pay partner, the app will notify you within seconds of adding the card.

FOLLOW Download.com on Twitter for all the latest app news.

Samsung gets around these complications through the use of a special component in many of its phones called a magnetic secure transmission (MST) coil; the company's pre-installed Samsung Pay app can use this coil to mimic the swipe of a physical card -- wherever cards can be swiped.

Of course, there's still millions of people in the US who understandably prefer the anonymity of cash, so digital wallets are unlikely to take over soon. But for those of us who primarily pay with plastic, the technical support continues to roll in.

Takeaways

  • Apple Pay is now available for customers of Target, Taco Bell and Jack in the Box stores and eateries, which adds up to over 11,000 physical locations.
  • However, your card issuer may not have support for Apple Pay; the quickest way to find out is to attempt to add the card to the digital wallet app, which will let you know in a matter of seconds if it will work.

Read more

Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.