What is Google Wallet?

Using Google Wallet Without NFC

As we've mentioned, many retailers still do not have point-of-sale systems that support NFC-driven digital wallet technology, and most cell phone companies do not offer phones that are set up to allow Google Wallet to work with NFC. Widespread implementation of NFC hit another snag when Apple chose not to include it in the iPhone 5. The technology is only currently available on select Android phones and tablets. So what is a would-be early adopter to do?

For anyone who is intrigued by Google Wallet but doesn't have the equipment, the good news is that Google has devised a few other ways for people to use it until NFC sees wider adoption.

The company rolled out a Google Wallet API that allows online merchants to include a Buy with Google button, which enables customers to make purchases with just a few clicks via their mobile devices and the app. Google has also developed a Google Wallet Instant Buy API that allows integration of Google Wallet into merchants' own Android apps. Both allow for making quick purchases of goods and services without having to enter all of your payment and shipping information many times over on multiple sites and apps.

Google also has a new feature rolling out over 2013 that allows users to send money via Gmail. To virtually "attach" money when you are sending an e-mail, you hover over the file attachment icon (a paperclip) and a few other symbols appear. Among the line of icons is a dollar sign that allows you to send money to someone via your Google Wallet account. The sender can transfer money from his or her Google Wallet balance or bank account for free, or from a credit card for a 2.9-percent transaction fee with a minimum charge of $0.30.

If you don't have Gmail, you can send money from the Google Wallet app on your phone or tablet, or through Google Wallet online. The receiver does not have to have Gmail. Any e-mail address will do. But in order to collect the money, they must sign up for a Google Wallet account. As of summer 2013, only US residents can receive money via Google Wallet.

At one point there was talk of Google offering a physical Google Wallet card for use in place of the app, but that plan has apparently been scrapped [source: Wester].

Some competing digital wallet services will use NFC, but some will use other methods such as a physical card, a personal identification number (PIN) in conjunction with a mobile number, voice recognition or QR code scanning technology. In fact, Google Wallet utilizes QR codes for merchant loyalty programs and special offers.

In a lot of ways, digital wallets -- including Google's ambitious offering -- are not quite ready for prime time. But m-commerce (mobile commerce) is coming, and soon. And when it does, you may be using Google Wallet, or one of its competitors, for everything from your morning doughnuts to your late night takeout.

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