Use Google Wallet on iOS to manage loyalty cards

Leave your loyalty and membership cards behind and just carry your iPhone with the Google Wallet application for iOS.

Google Wallet

Avoid wallet bulge and carry Google Wallet, an application that has been around for a while on Android but has just recently been brought to the iOS platform. With this app, you can scan in and store your loyalty cards and enter your credit cards, allowing you to leave your physical cards behind and use just your iPhone at participating stores. In this article, we'll show you how to use your Google Wallet by scanning in your loyalty cards, and we'll also provide some tips for using them in stores.

Scanning in loyalty cards

Loyalty cards are ubiquitous, and almost every store has their own. What are you to do with all of those piece of plastic? You can't carry them with you at all times -- or can you? With Google Wallet, you can easily scan in those cards and load them on your phone for easy access. No bulging wallet, and no worries about leaving your cards at your home or office. The best part is that Google Wallet also works with membership cards like Costco.

To get started scanning in your cards, download the free Google Wallet application, and then open it on your iOS device. Navigate to Sidebar | Loyalty Programs | Explore. From here, perform the following steps:

  1. Select your loyalty card program if it appears in the list of select Google Wallet-specific loyalty card programs.
  2. If your card program doesn't appear, select Add your loyalty program (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  3. In the view that appears, you can scan the barcode on the back of your card. However, if the card doesn't have a barcode, you can manually enter your number by tapping Enter Manually (Figure B).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  4. After scanning your cards, you'll be able to enter a name for them -- that is, if the barcode wasn't immediately recognized by Google Wallet (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C

Once you've added your cards, they'll be synced with your Google account into your personal wallet. You can easily view all of your cards by going to Sidebar | Loyalty Programs | My programs. From here, you'll see a listing of your cards that are colored and categorized by the type of program that they're associated with (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D
View all of your scanned loyalty and membership cards in the My Programs tab.

Tapping on any of the cards in this view will give you a barcode that can be scanned at the store. It will also list the number in case the in-store scanners are not compatible and needs to be manually entered.

Sharing loyalty and membership cards

If you work in a large team and all share a set of community loyalty cards, then Google Wallet could be a unique way to share a set of loyalty cards and membership cards. Simply create a community Google account, scan in the loyalty and membership cards, then share that login with all of the team members -- just like that, they'll all have access to the cards stored in the shared Google Wallet account. Take note, however, that some membership cards require a photo on the card in order to be valid.

Tips for using loyalty cards in-store

Not all stores will be able to scan the barcode from your screen due to incompatible scanner hardware, but there are some tips that you can try when experiencing scanner issues:

  • Make sure your screen is clean and doesn't have cracks over the code.
  • Increase your brightness for the best results.
  • If available, have your cashier scan the screen using a handheld barcode scanner. Flatbed scanners are less effective at scanning screens.
  • If scanning doesn't work, ask the cashier if they will manually type the barcode into the register.

The good, the bad, and the cha-ching

The iOS version is a little limited in comparison to the Android version of the application: It doesn't allow for NFC payments by tapping your device on the credit card reader in stores, and it doesn't have the same payment capabilities of its Android counterpart. Due to these things, and the limited number of stores that accept payments through the application, Google Wallet on iOS may not be the best way to pay for merchandise. That being said, the Google Wallet application is really handy if you don't want to carry around loyalty cards or membership cards, and I personally use it on a regular basis for that.

Even if you use this application, don't expect every store to be keen on your use of the Google Wallet. When traveling, don't mess around: Keep your original cards handy in case the application doesn't work properly.

Do you use Google Wallet or another mobile payment service like PayPal or Square Wallet? Tell us about your experience in the discussion thread below.