Electronic money (e-money) is broadly defined as an electronic store of monetary value on a technical device that may be widely used for making payments to entities other than the e-money issuer. The device acts as a prepaid bearer instrument which does not necessarily involve bank accounts in transactions.
E-money products can be hardware-based or software-based, depending on the technology used to store the monetary value.
In the case of hardware-based products, the purchasing power resides in a personal physical device, such as a chip card, with hardware-based security features. Monetary values are typically transferred by means of device readers that do not need real-time network connectivity to a remote server.
Software-based products employ specialised software that functions on common personal devices such as personal computers or tablets. To enable the transfer of monetary values, the personal device typically needs to establish an online connection with a remote server that controls the use of the purchasing power. Schemes mixing both hardware and software-based features also exist.