Near-field communication (NFC) technology enables a consumer to wave their smartphone at a point-of-sale terminal to make a purchase via the use of a “digital wallet.” One of the fast-growing instances of the digital wallet is the appropriately named Google Wallet, but it pays to know a little bit about how it works before you dive in to the cashless (and cardless) retail revolution.
Google Wallet – A setup primer
To begin, go to the Google Wallet website to set up an account. Then, download the Google Wallet app to your compatible smartphone. Link your credit and debit cards to the account, and designate a preferred card. Then you can use Google Wallet to pay at stores where hardware that can accept digital wallet payments is present.
Google Wallet – A virtual MasterCard
Google Wallet works by assigning the consumer a virtual MasterCard account number. The account number is used to draw funds from your credit or debit card of choice, be it Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. When used offline, the virtual MasterCard number is the one used by the merchant except in rare cases involving Citi MasterCards, then the preferred card is charged later. Online purchases charge the preferred card directly.
The benefits of using a virtual account number are obvious. Chief among them is preventing thieves from capturing your actual account information. As the info on linked cards is stored online rather than within the smartphone, if the phone is lost or stolen, it’s easy to deactivate Google Wallet and wipe the app remotely.
Will you ever leave home without your Google Wallet?
With any service that aspires to take the place of traditional cash-in-hand payments, there will be the question of whether you can leave home without it. Google Wallet makes it simple to leave without having to make sure that you’re carrying all of your credit cards, and that’s a big part of the current trend toward a cashless society. But you’ll still need your wallet for things like you driver’s license, or at least until transportation authorities find a way to digitize that. And not all merchants are on board with services like Google Wallet, although it’s only a matter of time.