Google Wallet gets boost from Visa

Consumer Reports News: September 20, 2011 09:08 AM

Google Wallet, the app that became available Monday for Sprint Nexus S owners who want to use their smart phone to pay for purchases at the cash register, also got a boost from the Visa credit card brand, which announced an agreement that will allow GW to work with Visa’s payWave system used by hundreds of thousands of retail locations worldwide.

Until now, GW had only been promoted as initially working with the Citibank MasterCard credit card and Google Prepaid card on MasterCard’s PayPass system, though a Google had planned to expand to more card issuers and merchants.

If you’re inclined to use Google Wallet, we recommend that you use a credit card as the underlying payment instrument and avoid the prepaid card, because credit cards give you much more and better legally mandated consumer rights and protections. (At this tine, the Google prepaid card contract is unavailable, so it is unclear what protections it provides to limit a consumer’s liability.)

Both payWave and PayPass devices that are linked to a cash register read the near-field communications (NFC) chips embedded in the Nexus S phone and in certain credit cards; shoppers make payment by waving either their enabled card or phone at the reader.

The number of retailers that accept Google Wallet is limited thus far, but include select locations of Radio Shack, CVS, Duane Reade, Jack In The Box, and Toys R Us. So far, consumers are also limited to the Sprint Nexus S smart phone, but more NFC-enabled phones are expected later this year.

Visa is also working on its own digital wallet, so today’s announcement came as something of a surprise that upstaged MasterCard’s sole “ownership” of GW.

Google, MasterCard, and Visa still have work to do. Neither consumers nor merchants are clamoring to use their smart phone as a payment device when plastic credit cards are just as fast and easy. But the promoters of digital wallets say turning the phone into a payment device will allow both to do much more, such as track your merchant loyalty rewards balances and use the phone’s GPS to figure out that you’re near a participating retailer who might send you an instant coupon to get you to walk in the door.

Update: Google Wallet has also added American Express and Discover as credit card partners.

Jeff Blyskal

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