Google surprises the masses in what could be a game-changing move to offer a physical card to its digital-wallet users. Introducing an actual card is an approach that deviates from the tech industry’s goal to push the adoption of mobile payments.
In leaked version of the Google Wallet mobile application, obtained by Android Police, users can sign up for a free Google Wallet card — a physical card that will act as a proxy for other debit and credit cards that are linked to the mobile wallet.
“When you can’t tap and pay, you can use the Google Wallet card to make in-store purchase,” Google says in the card’s sign-up screen on the app.
Currently, the Google Wallet app lets users link their cards to the mobile wallet. Fitted with NFC technology, compatible mobile devices can be tapped or waved at a special payment terminal to perform a purchase, instead of swiping their cards.
If true, the Google Wallet card could start competing with physical cards that are offered by PayPal and Wallaby.
Certain Paypal users can sign up for a debit card that links their PayPal accounts. The card will first spend the funds in the PayPal account before accessing the user’s card accounts or bank accounts to pay the remaining balance. The user can select the backup payment source.
But, Google Wallet takes it one step further by turning its mobile app into a management center or “remote control.”
With the Google Wallet app, users can change the card that their Google Wallet card will link to — wherever and whenever they please. PayPal doesn’t let users change their backup payment method on-the-fly.
The proxy card approach also contends with the Wallaby card, a physical card that aims to simplify and improve the way consumers handle their rewards cards. After linking rewards cards to the Wallaby card, Wallaby will select which card accounts — that yield the most rewards — is used when you swipe the Wallaby card.
Assuming that purchases under the Google Wallet card will trigger rewards as usual, the Wallaby card (which has an annual fee) will have a fierce competitor.
Paving the path for iOS users
Right now, Google Wallet is only available on devices powered by Google’s Android mobile operating system.
With the Google Wallet card, Google may expand its mobile wallet into the hands of millions of Apple iPhone users. Apple iPhones do not have the hardware to perform NFC transactions.
By introducing the Google Wallet card and a Google Wallet iOS app, iPhone users can replace all the cards in their wallet with the Google Wallet card. It’s not exactly the “mobile wallet” that many consumers had in mind, but it’s better than nothing.