Mobile technology that could render the wallet obsolete is taking off in the United States, but is unlikely to reach New Zealand until next year.

Google Wallet, which lets users makes purchases by swiping their smartphone at the checkout, went live in the United States on Monday.

The service works by using a near-field communication (NFC) chip inside a smartphone, which is linked to a customers' credit card account.

NFC is technology that allows information to pass from one device to another when they are near each other.

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It is regarded as safer than Bluetooth for transferring personal data as it has a much shorter range, reducing the risk of information spilling into the wrong hands

As well as making purchases, NFC could potentially let users check-in to a flight or hotel room, or unlock doors.

Google Wallet is only able to be used with a Nexus S smartphone, but it is due to be made available on more Android phones.

Although Google Wallet works at over 300,000 locations across the world, New Zealanders are unlikely to see a similar payment service this year.

Vodafone, who announced they were experimenting with NFC in July, said trials with a number of suppliers were underway.

"We expect to see it begin to roll out next year with adoption quickly picking up from then on," said Vodafone's Matt East.

"We are excited by the potential NFC will bring to New Zealand and we believe this will be the way many items are paid for in the future; the potential for use beyond payment is also endless," he said.

MasterCard and ANZ are also testing a mobile payment initiative, called PayPass, which uses a sticker placed on a phone.

PayPass is popular in a number of countries and terminals have been set up at several Rugby World Cup venues.

In the US, Google Wallet uses PayPass terminals to process purchases.