Google Wallet is back! They have moved away from a focus on NFC to an e-wallet that will work with all mobile phones and have drastically reduced the friction with merchants, banks, mobile carriers and customers.
Downloading the Google Wallet app to my iPhone was quick and easy. After downloading the wallet, it asks you to “sign in with your Google Account” or “create an account”. The tag line is “One Google Account for everything Google”…you don’t see sign-in with Facebook here!
After signing in, and giving my Zip Code (as you must live in the U.S.), and agreeing to the T&C and allowing messages to be pushed to me, I was instructed to create a Wallet PIN.
After confirming my PIN, it takes me to My Wallet home screen. It screams out “P2P” wallet, as the Send Money banner is very prominent. If I am a customer that has just downloaded this wallet for “in-store” purchases, you are going to be confused and think you can only send money to other people (since wallets and using them to shop in-store is extremely rare in the U.S. probably not an issue now). If you have gone to the Google web site and read about the wallet, and Google Card, there is nothing within the wallet that leads you to the getting the card.
The Send & Receive money function requires Google to verify your identity. Before I do the verification steps, I wanted to understand program Fees. Fees are as follows:
- Free to send money directly from your bank account or using the balance in your Google Wallet
- Fee of 2.9% per transaction (min. of $0.30) to send money using a credit or debit card (Free promo until March 19th)
- Receiving money and transferring to your bank account is always free
An interesting note is when you go the Google Wallet web site, and click on Send Money it takes you automatically to add a credit card and not the verify your identity step. Additionally, you have the option to order your Google Card and when you click to order, it takes you to verify your identity page.
The verification process is name, address, birthdate and last 4-digits of Social Security number. As soon as the verification process is approved, the Send Money options immediately change to reflect an option to add a funding source, by linking a bank account and/or debit or credit card. Additionally, the wallet home page is changed to reflect a Wallet Balance dollar amount and a new banner appears advertising that you can get the Google Wallet Card. It seems the verification step is the critical step that activates the options of the card and bank account. They don’t want to go too far down the path before they do the standard verification steps.
Now lets take a look at the Offers and Loyalty program feature. Under the Loyalty program tab you have the option of adding your own program or selecting from a pre-populated list of 15 programs such as Walgreens to Marriott. If you have a loyalty program card that is not listed, the wallet asks you to scan the barcode on the card using the built in scanner. If no barcode exists, you can enter the account number manually. For the list of programs, you can enter your account number, or if not an existing member, join the program.
It’s a very easy and straight forward process to setup your cards. When using the barcode, it automatically recognizes the program name (i.e., CVS extra care) and adds the card to the wallet along with the barcode and account number. You have the option to pick card color as an option. When using a pre-existing program such as Marriott Rewards, you enter your Marriott number, it verifies the account and brings back your number of points and program level such as Gold. When you click on the Marriott card, it takes you to another page that provides a banner page for Marriott, messages, view your hotel bill, and other links to Marriott and related promotions such as their co-branded credit card. The additional page with links, messages and promotions are only available to those companies that are pre-listed within the loyalty program.
The Offers tab is a little confusing. When you see the Offers and Loyalty programs banner on the home page and you click “View offers and loyalty programs”, it doesn’t do anything – just takes you to an info screen that tells you to use the menu button to view your saved items. When you go to Offers, there is a My Offers and Explore tab. The Explore tab has three offers (based on my zip) under local offers and you can save the offer, which then appears in My Offers. From the comments and reviews I see online, people are confused and not seeing the Explore tab as many people are asking how to get offers added to the wallet. I do find it very interesting that Google has not integrated their Google Offers app into the Google Wallet. When you add offers to My Offers within the Google Offers app, they automatically appear in the My Offers in my Google Wallet. These two apps should be integrated. Also, Google says that merchants will start to place Google Offers on their web sites and other locations.
Offers Note: In my area there were very few offers available, and no offers that appealed to me. Google does say that they will continue to tailor offers in the Explore section based on my Google Offers usage (the separate app) and my Google account activity and changes in my location. Also, allowing the Wallet owner to mark offers as “used” doesn’t provide merchants with much protection from multiple use of the offer. It would be interesting if Google could create a unique “barcode” or “offer” code that tracks not only that the offer came from Google, but also specifically track the user – maybe new product coming from Google?
Now let’s review the Google Wallet Balance and adding your bank account to fund the wallet. Since this is a free option, I will be adding my bank account and not a credit or debit card wherein I will incur a 2.9% fee. They do inform you that bank transactions usually take 3 days but can take up to 10 days.
Entering the bank account information was very easy. They clearly identified the information required and where/how to find the information. The next step was the account verification step. You can verify immediately by entering your bank account Member/User ID and Password, which links your bank account, or the Challenge Deposit, which takes 2 to 3 days to verify. As I did not want to link my account and I was curious about the Challenge Deposit method, I selected Challenge Deposit.
In the Challenge Deposit process, Google will make a deposit of an amount up to a $1 to your bank account. You check your bank account, look for the deposit amount, and they enter the amount in the wallet to complete the account verification step. This took two days in my case.
Adding funds by credit card (Visa/MasterCard) is an option, but you cannot use your American Express to add funds. You can use your American Express to send money, but not to add funds to your wallet.
I ordered the Google Card, which arrived in approximately 3 weeks, and I was surprised to see the card was a MasterCard Prepaid card. The MasterCard logo and hologram is on the back of the card. Card activation was achieved via the Wallet. Next step was to add funds to my Wallet, and I go online to my bank account and look for the Google Challenge Deposit I outlined above. I find a $0.80 cents deposit transaction and go to my Wallet to enter the deposit amount. Google Wallet verifies the amount is correct and I am now able to add funds to my Wallet. I elect to add $20, and the transaction adds the $20 immediately. Even though I was expecting to wait 2 to 3 days for the funds to appear, it occurs immediately. Google communicates that adding funds from your banking account could take up to 5 days, but they note that only a small percentage take more than 2 days.
Add Funds Note: The process is very easy and straightforward. It does seem that Google must be doing some fraud/security steps during the add funds process. In my case they added the funds immediately, no waiting, which means they were willing to take the risk that I had the $20 in my bank account, since it takes at least 1 day via ACH to receive funds. If Google is willing to take the risk, could they create a “near real time” ACH type of payment? Something that the Federal Reserve is studying, and banks say will take years to implement, if ever, as they say they do not understand the business case to support it.
First use of the Google Card was at Home Depot on one of my 3 trips per project visits! The clerk had never seen a Google Card and didn’t think it would work. I swiped the card and it asked from my PIN number and transaction was approved. Before I left the store I received a mobile message with my transaction information and my current Wallet Balance. It worked just as easily as my bank’s debit card and actually was a much better experience in that my bank does not automatically send me via app message/text message my transaction information and my current bank account balance!
Google Card Note: The Google Card works just as easily as my bank debit card at the POS and it has the ability to add greater functionality in the future such as automatically utilizing Offers and Loyalty programs at the point-of-sale. The one big negative with the Google Card, is that it will decline any transaction that is “greater” than my current Wallet Balance. They do not automatically pull funds from my bank account or registered credit/debit card, they decline the transaction. They do not offer the feature to “top off” my Wallet Balance automatically by allowing me to set floor limits, wherein my Wallet Balance reaches a specified balance, they add funds automatically (like my Starbucks wallet). Google’s approach is to have me control my authorization of funds to transfer to my Wallet balance.
Now let me respond specifically to my list of questions and ratings from the original blog article. The rating is from a general public perspective, on each of the category questions listed here, on a scale of 1, 2 or 3.
• 1 (Confusing, Needs Work)
• 2 (Okay, Average)
• 3 (Easy, Better Than Most)
The rating is based on the individual wallet, and not compared against other wallets, since I have not worked with all of the wallets as of today. I will do an overall rating at the end of my e-wallet journey.
1 How is the wallet marketed/advertised to the general public? What media channels? How do I know the wallet exists? What is the message to me?
The advertising seems to be limited to online, and someone has to be looking to add the wallet. You can see it listed as an option on your Google account. I have not noticed this advertised in any other media channels, so you have to be looking for this wallet. The message to consumers is that the wallet is for shopping, saving and paying. Doing ecommerce faster/quicker seems to be the main message. Rating: 2
2 Why do I need this mobile wallet? (Isn’t this the first question that needs to be answered in a manner that is simple and straightforward for the general public?) What issue does it address? How is my life better by using the wallet?
This is a key question to be answered by all the wallets. As I think about this from a general consumer (from the perspective of my wife – Lisa). Why would I want to download this wallet? What can I do that I can’t already do with my credit/debit cards in my physical wallet? Lisa said that if she could save all her Loyalty cards to the wallet, this would be convenient and she wouldn’t have to carry all the cards in her purse. From my point-of-view, they have not answered this question for me – more on this later. Rating: 1
3 Is it a payment-only wallet? Does it have loyalty/rewards? Other benefits?
This is intended to be an all-in-one wallet, with P2P, POS, and loyalty and offers all in one wallet. It does not have its own loyalty/rewards program, but provides access to other programs. It comes with a MasterCard card, which does provide in-store functionality. Rating: 3
4 How do I get the wallet? Download from iTunes app store? Scan a QR code? Go to a web site?
You download from the app store. Rating: 2
5 Now that I have downloaded the app to my mobile phone, how difficult is it for me to register/set up? Are there a few simple steps or do you need to be a nuclear engineer to figure it out? Does it ask from my bank account information? My debit/credit card number?
Set up as described above was very easy and straightforward. Rating: 3
6 Where can I use the mobile wallet? How many stores (real brick-and-mortar stores) not online stores – use it at Point-of-sale (POS) locations. Transit?
The mobile Wallet cannot be used at any in-store locations. The Wallet can be used for online/internet shopping where the Google Wallet icon is available at checkout. The Wallet can be use anywhere MasterCard is accepted via the Google Wallet Card, which is a MasterCard Prepaid account. The Wallet Card does provide the user with the ability to use the Wallet wherever MasterCard is accepted. On the other hand, it only accesses the balance in your Wallet and does not automatically “top-off” balances. A transaction will be declined if your current Wallet Balance is not great enough to cover it. Rating: 1
7 What is the POS set up –stand alone tablet? Integrated cash register? Typical card reader POS? Contact-less/NFC?
Wallet can only be used via the Google Wallet Card, which is a MasterCard debit card. Merchants do not have to do anything special to accept the payment. Rating: 3 (From a merchant perspective)
8 Is the POS experience easy? Hard? Confusing? Does it actually work?
Easy…same steps as using a standard Visa/MC debit card. It works. So on one hand the e-wallet really “does not work” at the POS, since it is using a standard Visa/MC debit card and it is restricted by current Wallet Balance to cover the transaction. Rating: 1 (From a customer perspective)
9 What information do I get sent to me after the sale? Do I get my receipt emailed to me? A text message? Is the transaction listed on my wallet? Did I earn points?
I received a mobile message immediately after the transaction with details of my transaction. Rating: 3
10 Are there fees? Do I need to reload my wallet (manually or automatically)? Is the transaction a prepaid card? Or my debit/credit card? Does it use the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network?
No fees if linking your Wallet to your bank account. I need to manually reload my wallet; there is no automatically topping off if balance falls below a specified threshold. You can link to your credit/debit card, and fees apply as I outlined above. Rating: 2
Overall I like the Google Wallet. It is easy to set up and use as a P2P application and having the Google Card allows it to be used everywhere MasterCard is accepted. But will I use it? Not as a payment tool. I am not someone that sees the value in P2P and I can easily use any one of my exiting credit/debit cards in my “physical” wallet. Will I use it to store my loyalty/reward cards? Maybe. I already have used CardStar for a number of years for that purpose, so do I take the time to set up the Google version? Not sure. How about the Offers? Again, in my area there are no enticing offers and the Google Offers app is not integrated with the Google Wallet – two separate apps. The bottom line, Google Wallet has not answered for me (maybe for other people they have) the basic question of “Why do I need/want to download this app to my mobile phone?”
Next up will be Starbucks.