Google Wallet Makes Payments Truly Mobile

One of the features of the Galaxy Nexus that I was most excited for was the inclusion of a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip. NFC allows devices in close proximity (very close: about 7 inches) to send information to each other. This can work for just about anything; v-cards, directions, websites, apps, and even money. I think with wide-spread adoption, NFC could be the next big thing; but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. For today, I’m going to review Google’s flagship app for NFC, Google Wallet.

Google Wallet is an app that allows you to pay right from your phone using NFC. Simply open the app and (after entering your PIN) tap your phone on any MasterCard Paypass receiver to make a payment.

It’s true that Google Wallet is only available on certain phones, one of which is not the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon. However, there are ways around that…and you don’t have to root either!

Setup

Setting up Google Wallet is pretty straight forward. Open the app, choose a PIN (make it something hard to guess) and you’re in. And Google even rewards you with a prepaid gift card for $10.00.

The PIN and Home Screens

From there, there are four icons for areas you can view: Payment Cards, Reward Cards, Offers, and Transactions. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Payment and Reward Cards

This is the area that harnesses the true power of Google Wallet. You have the ability to add certain credit, gift, and reward cards to your Google Wallet. Let’s take a look at Payment Cards first.

Payment Cards

There are three sections here: The Google Prepaid Card, Add Citi MasterCard, and Add Gift Card. With Add Citi MasterCard, you click on the card and add your credit card information (rather than signing up to a new credit card).

Remember, this is for Citi MasterCard only – not all MasterCards. Google says they are working to add support for more cards. I hope it comes soon!

Adding a Credit Card

But even if you don’t have a Citi MasterCard, you can still use Google Wallet by adding funds to your Google Prepaid card. Just press on the card and press, “Add Funds.” You can then choose an amount and input your credit card info to add funds from that card. Finally, you can choose to save that information for future ‘top ups.’

Topping up a Google Prepaid Card

If you scroll over to Add Gift Card, you’ll be presented with a list of gift cards you can add. Right now, the list is pretty sparse, as there are only four options: American Eagle, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, and The Container Store. Hopefully they will add more support here as well, as I can see more people inclined to add gift cards than adding credit cards or financial information.

Gift Cards

Finally, there are Rewards Cards, which are kept in a separate section, as you cannot use these cards to pay for items; the idea is the same, though. Press “Add rewards card” and you’ll be taken to a list of valid reward cards to add. This list is a little longer than the gift cards list, featuring American Eagle, Champs Sports, Footlocker (plus Footaction, Lady Footlocker, and Kids Footlocker), Guess, and Office Max. The list is still short, and again, I’d love to see more cards supported (*cough* Best Buy would be awesome *cough*).

Reward Cards

Google Offers And Transactions

Google Wallet offers more than just the ability to pay using NFC. With Offers, you get a list with two types of offers. One type listed is nearby offers, which are also available in the standalone app of the same name. While this technology is relatively new (within the last few years with the rise of location aware phones), it’s not all that groundbreaking. The other type, however, is.

Google Offers - NFC and Location Based

The first type of offers listed in this section is coupons redeemable via NFC. That is, you select the offer, hold your phone device near the store’s receiver, and boom! Instant discount. This type of technology could spawn a whole new way to “clip coupons” (a more organized, paperless way). I can definitely seeing other organization like Groupon following suit on this (but more on that in a later post).

The Transactions section is exactly what you’d think it is: a list of your transactions using Google Wallet. Tapping a transaction will give you all kinds of information, including price, merchant, date and time, and location. You can even add notes.

Transactions

This is a really informative section. I can see it being useful for me personally if I use Google Wallet for business purchases. Then I can add what I bought and the justification, as well as see where exactly I bought it so I can record the mileage. Nicely done, Google!

How Well Does It Work?

So how does well Google Wallet work? In two words: really well. I’ve used it a couple of times to make purchases and it was incredibly quick and easy. It works with already existing technology – namely MasterCard PayPass – which means there is already widespread support for it at both stores and vending machines (and really, how awesome is that?).

You do need to have Google Wallet ready; that is, app open and PIN entered, but I can’t really see a way around that since without those measures people would easily be able to steal your money or financial information.

Final Thoughts

NFC is a fairly new, very useful contender in the mobile space. Google Wallet leverages NFC in a way that can really popularize it. As far as the app itself: it’s clean, stable, and works really well. I do wish that they supported more cards in each section as I really don’t use any of the ones they support right now, but hopefully we’ll see more additions in the near future.


Summary

Google Wallet is an app that allows you to pay right from your phone using NFC. Simply open the app and (after entering your pin) touch your phone to any MasterCard Paypass receiver to make a payment.

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