Plastic ain’t gonna die soon, Google wallet debit card

There are many people out there, at this very moment, who are ordering Google Wallet debit card launched today. It maybe bad news for card-less regime crusaders, as lot of these people getting the card were early adopters of mobile payments. People who started believing we will not carry plastics and coins in the future. A question is being asked in some forums that whether Google in its response to the launch of Isis program across US, shot electronic payments innovation in its head. Is that true?

So how does this prepaid card linked to the google wallet fit in the bigger scheme of things in payments. Some call it a defeat of the electronic payments but google is not going to see its efforts in payments going waste. Due to the slow uptake of NFC, and carriers blocking it, google wallet had taken a beating and to circumvent that google launched a non-NFC wallet app as well recently (some believe to fill the iOS devices void). But that was not enough. Google went for a newer route for NFC payments, Host card emulation. Now, if this prepaid debit card goes big in numbers, it might just trigger an increased usage of wallet balance. And if people starting topping their google wallet up for doing more transactions, someday they might also start doing more NFC taps. So its possible that things are not going to be so bad for mobile payments. Also google has not been able to grow big in payments such that they can shake the industry with one move. The banks still hold the keys and payment networks, fin-tech companies like paypal are much stronger in this zone.

Let me share some details about the prepaid card:

  • To load it, users can pull funds from a bank account, another debit card or credit card, or from friends who can either email money via Gmail or send it via the Wallet app.

  • Users can utilize their Wallet Balance to shop and pay in stores by swiping their card at any of the MasterCard® locations.

  • Their Wallet Balance can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash. Some ATM providers may charge a fee for cash withdrawals.

  • Users get instant notifications on their smartphone to help them  keep tabs on all of their transactions.

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  • Apart from spending it with Google Card, User’s can utilize their Wallet Balance to buy on Google Play, send money to friends, YouTube and other products. It can also be used to transfer money to the user’s bank account or tap & pay in stores.

The Google Debit Card can be ordered for free via a Google Wallet account page or the Android Google Wallet app. It is currently operational only in the U.S.

Additional food for thought

I observe Google very closely, so I can’t help and see a trend (maybe reading too much into it). Time and again google realises that software (only) ain’t going to put a dent. And so they invade the hardware world, like they did by going from just android to actual nexus devices and Motorola. From desktop OS to actual Chromebooks and now from virtual wallet to a debit card. Google step by step is becoming more like Apple and believing in the integrated play of hardware and software. As a company Google has always believed in serving the masses and to increase the reach. They wanted Google wallet in everybody’s hand. One thing that was stopping it was the non-compatability and other issues due to which you can’t rely on Google wallet for each and every transaction. One short term solution is to have a debit card like this. So you can still put a lot of funds in Google wallet and have many ways (atleast the card) to pay for things all the time.

I also think that the 3 US carriers behind ISIS are responsible to some extent for this prepaid card. Think about it this way – if more carriers had allowed Google Wallet on their phones, this shiny new debit card might never have seen the light of day.

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Amit

Amit is a cashless payments enthusiast and advises companies in this space. He runs a successful Payments/ICT consulting firm (www.knowledgefaber.com) that serves Fortune 1000 clients and growing firms globally. He is an early investor and regular author for Lets Talk Payments. He is helping LTP become the biggest and most useful payment resource in the US, Asia and Europe.

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