Google is attempting to boost take-up of its struggling wallet service by enabling subscribers to use any credit or debit card with the service. Currently only holders of MasterCard-backed Citi credit cards or the company’s own pre-paid card can make payments via Google Wallet.
The company is enabling this change by offering to store users’ card details in the cloud rather than on a handset’s secure element. A user can add any card number into a new, cloud-based version of Google's wallet app and then are set up to make payments.
This new version of the wallet app is now available and supports all credit and debit cards from Amex, MasterCard, Visa and Discover. While actual card details are remotely stored on a server, a virtual card number is still placed on the secure element on the handset and is used to authorise payments (although it is ultimately backed by the user’s details in the cloud). Users can make payments in a retail location via NFC, online or in the Google Play store.
Previously Google’s strategy was to negotiate agreements with individual banks for their cards to be included in the company’s wallet but this approach was proving too slow, the company admitted.
The change marks a shift away from a “walled-garden” approach whereby the wallet owner controls which credit and debits are placed in the wallet. The shift now is towards an open-access model where the user has the ability to use their existing cards in Google Wallet.
The virtual card on the handset’s secure element is MasterCard-branded and issued by The Bancorp Bank. It is this card that will technically enable payments from the Google Wallet at MasterCard’s PayPass terminals around the US.
Alongside the new app, the company also launched a new security feature that enables uses to remotely disable the mobile wallet when a handset is lost or stolen. If a user does mislay the handset then they go online to the devices section in the online wallet and disable it so that Google will not authorise any transactions. If the company can make contact with the handset it will remotely wipe all card and transaction data.