Google Wallet is basically Google's version of Paypal; a service you can use to pay for goods and services either online or using an Android equipped with a Secure Element microcontroller. I wrote about Google Wallet about a year ago to examine how it works, what credit cards it can be linked with (all major ones) and which phones are eligible to run it.
At the time of my original article only a fairly limited set of phones were capable of using Google Wallet due to the need for the secure element chip. While iPhones remain out of the mix, the upcoming Android 4.4 KitKat OS will include a feature called "NFC Host Card Emulation," which will allow any Android 4.4 device to use Google Wallet to pay for items in stores that have NFC readers installed.
In addition, last year I stated Google Wallet would be available on a physical card at a later date. That date is now.
Why would I use a physical Google Wallet?
The attraction to a tangible Google Wallet card is that you can associate it with any number of credit and/or debit cards, so instead of carrying a heap of plastic you can just carry one card. It also allows you to take cash out of ATMs ($300/day) without a Google-based fee (though the bank can and likely will charge a fee). You can spend up to $5000 every 24 hours. However, it should be noted that you must transfer money from your source bank/credit card into your Google Wallet account so it will be ready for use, and you must replenish your account as needed.
There are also some overall Wallet benefits; you can send money to people via email. Google also provides purchase protection for Wallet-based transactions, whereby you will be 100% reimbursed for any unauthorized transactions within 6 months of the purchase date.
What's in it for Google?
Google doesn't provide entirely Wallet for free; there are some fees involved. For instance, there is a 2.9 percent per transaction fee when sending money to/from a credit or debit card. As with many services they get name recognition out of the arrangement as well as continuing to provide "one stop shopping" for users who rely on an array of Google products. Finally, it's likely that they are looking at spending habits to get more insight into user habits, which of course translates to targeted advertising or profitable marketing data.
Where can I use a Google Wallet card?
This is where it gets easy. Stores and businesses don't need to install NFC readers to accept Google Wallet cards; any establishment which takes MasterCard can do so. However, at present it will only work in the U.S. due to the fact it has a magstripe which can't be read in other countries as they use EMV technology instead.
How do I get my own Google Wallet card?
In either case if you haven't done so already, you'll need to verify your identity, which involves providing your name, address, date of birth and the last 4 digits of your social security number. You can then add a bank account or debit/credit card if needed.
To request the card using the Google Wallet app on your Android, open the program. The main screen will appear as shown:
Tap "Wallet Balance."
Scroll down and you will see the "Get the Google Wallet card" section:
Tap "Get your card."
You will need to confirm your delivery address then tap "Send it to me."
Once the card arrives it must be activated, the same as any other kind of physical card. This is done either online or through the Wallet app.
Where can I learn more about using Google Wallet?Google's "Google Wallet for Business" page has a lot of good information, and there is also a FAQ available which covers all the details.
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.