Who Needs NFC? Google Wallet Adds Plastic Payment Card (Nov. 21, 2013)
Google Wallet is giving users a way to pay the old fashioned way, unveiling a plastic payment card that can be used instead of a smartphone to make in-store purchases. The MasterCard-branded card also can be used to withdraw money at ATMs, and is directly linked to a user’s Google Wallet balance, which can be loaded via electronic transfer from a bank account, credit or debit card, or money transfer from another Google Wallet or Gmail user. There are no fees associated with the card other than those charged for cash withdrawals by ATM owners, according to a Google blog post. Google Wallet users in the U.S. who already have verified their identites can request the card from within the Google Wallet app or online. The card is then mailed to the user within 10 to 12 days. The Bancorp will serve as card issuer.
The companion card could be seen as a move by Google Wallet to reduce reliance on NFC technology, the spread of which has remained sluggish. The absence of widespread NFC acceptance—coupled with the lack of backing from telecoms AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon—has hampered the take-up of Google Wallet, according to many industry observers. Google attempted to solve the latter issue earlier this month, when the company unveiled a feature in the new version of Android that cuts out the telecoms as middlemen for NFC applications, including payments. Now, the Google Wallet Card removes another hurdle to making in-store purchases by eliminating the need for a merchant to be NFC-ready to accept a Google Wallet payment.
This isn’t Google Wallet’s first foray into prepaid. From its launch in late 2011, the wallet included a virtual prepaid card to accommodate users who didn’t have a Citibank MasterCard—at the time, the only card linkable to Google Wallet. With subsequent expansion opening up the wallet to any debit or credit card, Google scrapped the original prepaid card in October 2012.