What The Heck is Google Wallet?

Posted by Eric Torres

Sep 20, 2011 10:43:00 AM

Google Wallet LogoHow many of you have more than $50 in your pocket right now? If you’re like me, you rarely ever have cold, hard cash in your pocket. Just about every purchase I make is used with a card. Well, for some of us, that is about to change. Soon you will be able to pay for everything using your smart phone. Wait a minute…what? Want to pay for something? Walk up to the register, have the clerk check you out, and then tap your phone to the front of the register. The register picks up some data on your phone, and the bill is settled. No sliding a card, no pulling out cash, just tap your phone to the register and you’re on your way.

All of this is made possible thanks to technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) and Google Wallet. This week, Google Wallet became available to the public, and provided you're in the right place, you can use it to pay for your goods.

How does Google Wallet work?
Let’s start with the basics. Google Wallet is an Android application. It’s a free download and you can add the details of your credit cards so that it stores all the basics that you need to make payments – your credit card number, expiration date, name and the CCV security code on the back.



Google Wallet works by communicating with the checkout terminal when you go to pay for goods or services. Tap your phone to the register and your phone sends wireless data to the store and your products are paid for. There's no cash involved.

Right now the Google Wallet app is only available for the Sprint Nexus S 4G phone works with a Citi MasterCard credit card. Google has said that it’s looking to support all cards from all suppliers in the future but, until then, you do have another option - the Google Prepaid Card, a virtual credit card that then serves as a source of cash to make your Google Wallet payments.  As an added bonus for early adopters, if you get a Google Prepaid Card before the end of the year, you'll get an extra $10 deposited courtesy of Google.

Also, while MasterCard is the only credit card that will currently work with the system, Visa, Discover, and American Express have come onboard as well recently, meaning that soon everyone's credit cards and check cards should be working with the system.

Who accepts Google Wallet payments?  
03 google walletOf course, to use Google Wallet you will need to find a place that accepts it as payment. At the moment just over 124,000 merchants are using the MasterCard PayPass NFC terminals currently required for the task. Within that number, you’ll find those who will process the payments as well as supply the full Google Wallet benefits of loyalty points and voucher redemption, and those who are just enabled to take the payments alone. The former are known as Google SingleTap merchants and include the likes of Bloomingdales, Macys, Subway as well as other big names.

If you’d like to find out your nearest PayPass and Google Wallet-ready locations, then you can enter your zip code in the Google Wallet site. The PayPass locator Android app also has a location feature to help you find what you’re looking for. Finally, it’s also worth keeping your eyes open at the check out, Spot the PayPass symbol and you’re in luck. 

How safe is it?
Google Wallet SecuritySecurity and consumer trust are obviously going to be massive issues if Google Wallet is to succeed. As such, Google has done its best to put users at rest by outlining how safe the system is going to be with your money.

Once entered into the app, all your card details are encrypted and stored on a separate chip within your handset known as the Secure Element. The Secure Element apparently can be thought of as a distinct computer capable of running its own programs and storing its own data. It uses storage separate from the normal Android memory and will allow trusted programs to access your information.

On top of all of that, the Google Wallet app also requires users to enter a PIN each time a transaction is made and, just to make sure there’s as little damage potential as possible, each Google Wallet transaction is currently limited to just $100. You can spend more but it requires an activation code being sent to your handset.

Should all else fail, the consumer will find themselves with the same rights and liability as if it were a normal credit card.

What’s next?
Along with the expansion in credit card types, expect to see Google Wallet come to a variety of different platforms and phones quickly. Even though Google is only rolling out things on Sprint's Nexus S 4G, it's just for the initial testing. It won't remain on Sprint alone forever. Current iPhones don't have NFC technology, but it's entirely possible future models might.

google offers

There is also the matter of a service known as Google Offers which will be starting up in an area nowhere near you shortly. Google Offers will be for both online and local deals in a rather similar way to which Groupon currently works. The added push is that anything you purchase via Offers will automatically sync with your Google Wallet. Once at the store in question, you’ll be able to present the barcode on your screen for the sale staff to scan or complete the transaction via NFC if they happen to be fitted with a reader.

Where can I get Google Wallet?
Currently Google Wallet is only available on Sprint Nexus S 4G phones through a software update. To get this update and to get started using Google Wallet click here!

Topics: Google, Communications, Apps, Smartphone

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