Google Wallet takes physical form. Are more points in our future?

Google Wallet currently takes two forms: it is an Android mobile app that allows Android phone owners to pay with their phone at some retail locations; and it is an online service, somewhat like PayPal, that makes it easy to pay online at websites that support Google Checkout.

Soon, Google Wallet will take a new form.  It will be a physical card that can be used as a credit card anywhereAndroidpolice broke the news on Thursday based on an insider tip.

Why do we care?

Fewer cards in our wallet
Google Wallet lets you link multiple credit cards and debit cards to your account as funding sources.  If nothing else, this new card could make juggling dozens of rewards credit cards much easier.  The idea is that you can keep all of your credit cards at home and bring along just the Google Wallet card for all your purchases.  If you want to change which credit card will be charged, just open the Google Wallet app on your phone, or browse to the Google Wallet web site to change the default card.

MasterCard accepted everywhere
It seems likely that the Google Wallet card will appear to the world to be a MasterCard (because Google Wallet already uses MasterCard as its payment network).  If so, it will be readily accepted everywhere (except Costco).  So, this could be a great way to increase spend on American Express cards.  I know people have been frustrated with services like ChargeSmart that do not accept American Express.  This could be a way around that problem.  Further, if you want to use your American Express card to pay taxes, you would normally incur higher fees with Amex than with Visa or MasterCard.  Again, this may be a great alternative.

A debit card?  We can only hope
Wouldn’t it be cool if this card worked as a true debit card (with PIN based transactions)?  Then, we could use this card to pay Federal taxes for a small flat fee (less than $4) while running up spend on our points earning credit cards!  Or, we could use this card at Walmart to load up our Bluebird card!  The possibilities are endless.  Unfortunately, my guess is that this will not be usable as a true debit card.  We’ll see once this card is officially introduced.

A way around cash advance fees?
Some banks charge cash advance fees when you use their credit card to buy certain “cash equivalents” like gift cards when purchased online (I’m looking at you, Citi).  By adding this layer of indirection, maybe we won’t be charged those fees?  On the other hand, Google has Citibank as its issuing bank so maybe we won’t be so lucky.

A way to deal with lots of gift cards?
I haven’t used Google Wallet enough to say, but it might be possible to use it as a unifying “front end” for your visa/mc/amex gift cards.  This could make gift cards much, much easier to deal with.

Sign Up Now

If you’re interested in getting this new Google Wallet card as soon as possible, you can sign up here for the waiting list.

Hat tip to many readers who emailed me about Google Wallet!

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. How about I simply select the proper card from my wallet instead of opening an annoying app and awkwardly fumbling through the interface in the few places it will be supported?

    Until it’s smart enough to select the best card for the situation, and even then I highly doubt it will be that intelligent especially if you’re trying to meet spend, this is something that will be as hyped as the snoozebird.

  2. I wonder if there will be an iPhone app as well. It would be cool if you can chose which categories each card in your google wallet would work at. Say CSP for restaurants, Amex gold for gas stations, blue cash at grocery stores, etc..

    • Grant: there may be an iphone app coming. When you signup for the waiting list, it asks you what kind of device you have. Regarding using it for different categories of spend, I’m not sure that would work. It depends whether your credit cards get charged by Google or by the merchant you buy from

  3. Love this! Thanks again for the intel. Even though this doesn’t seem like a major improvement from just pulling your CCs from your wallet, it does feel like the future… I can’t wait for Google Wallet retina scan. That will be bomb.

  4. Thanks for simplifying this. And the good part is that you can use their ‘card’ but you have loaded through your Amex for example. I registered to get on the list but I do have an iphone 4s so we shall see what works.
    .
    @Alex: Yes! one day when you can earn miles with the blink of an eye lol—that would be grande!

  5. Related to this point:

    “Wouldn’t it be cool if this card worked as a true debit card (with PIN based transactions)? Then, we could use this card to pay Federal taxes for a small flat fee (less than $4) while running up spend on our points earning credit cards! ”

    IF/when you are ever able to do this consider it a gift. The Dubin Act reduced Interchange (Revenue) to the bank from ~2% on debit down to ~20cents fixed. The days of one (real airline) point per dollar on debit spending are coming to an end – quickly. The world in the US will evolve to only credit products receiving points – that’s all tne bank p&l can sustain.

  6. Wow great work FM, I can’t wait for MMS to discover this and still your potential income and ruin the deal before it gets started! 🙂 I hear soon he will tout that he has 8000+ readers on his Santa Claus list!

  7. With Google Wallet it appears that there is no way to give a credit card a nickname. All you see are the last 4 digits. Perhaps that will change down the road. But right now it seems like it would be a real pain – trying to remember which numbers represent which cards, and then switching accounts each time you use the google card!

    • Karla: That would be annoying if you can’t nickname your cards!

      M Jan Gradowitz: Not necessarily. The waiting list form asks what device you use and iPhone is one of the options

      Preacher7: Time will tell.

  8. yes but any payments through NFC or remote devices etc do not list the MCC code (merchant category code)- so you will not get category bonuses. I think it will be a long time before this is up to speed for us bonus hounds. For now, only 1x on everything.

  9. To those concerned about merchant category codes, they do get passed through to the card issuer, it’s just up to the issuer as to whether they choose to honor it (see FAQ at http://support.google.com/wallet/bin/answer.py?hl=en&topic=1349429&answer=2688794 ).

    Based on my own experience, I can confirm that both the Hilton HHonors Visa (Citibank) and United MileagePlus Visa (Chase) do show the correct MCC (at least for Peet’s Coffee and Whole Foods – two of the all-to-few merchants that work with the current NFC form of Google Wallet). I would not, however, expect this to work for programs that use the card number itself (e.g., Mileage Plus dining).

    Having confirmed that this works (i.e., passes through the merchant category code) with the two cards that I use the most, I’m really looking forward to the physical manifestation of the Google Wallet becoming available… at least until the card issuers decide to start looking at the merchant name and handle Google Wallet transactions differently 🙂

  10. @Karla: It is possible (at least with the latest version of the Wallet app – 1.5-R81-v4) to customize the card, either when it is first added to the Wallet or by clicking on the card image in the wallet and selecting “Customize” from the menu options on the detail page. Unfortunately, this only appears to be possible on the actual device (not through the website) and the nickname only appears on the device.

  11. @mefinsf – Thanks for the info! I can only see the website at this point because I have an iphone. I did sign up for the waiting list, so we’ll see what materializes I guess!

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