Test Driving Google Wallet

Despite my concerns about the privacy of purchasing data that goes into Google Wallet, I’m stoked to try out NFC payments.

I guess the promise of a less bulky wallet is too attractive, and plus, I love shiny objects.

So, when I received my $10 prepaid card offer from Google today, I jumped at the chance to take Wallet for a spin.

After nervously scanning and agreeing to the terms, the initialization process went quickly, and my prepaid card showed up right away under Payment cards, as expected. Now, to find one of those MasterCard PayPass locations. Happily, there’s an app for that.

There were a surprising number of PayPass locations nearby. The Nexus S on Sprint is the only NFC-capable phone I know of on the market right now, making for a pretty small addressable customer base for these terminals. Maybe MasterCard was prepopulating them in advance of the Wallet rollout.

Anyway, a quick glance showed that Rite Aid, 7-Eleven and McDonald’s stores all seem to have those POS systems, so I had some options.

With that $10 burning a hole in my proverbial pocket, I headed out to McDonald’s, hoping to parlay my $10 from Google into some Monopoly prizes. You know how I love game layers. Plus, the odds are 1 in 4, and I’ve already won a breakfast sandwich.

Anyway, to use Wallet, all you need to do is pass the back of the phone over the terminal. There’s an audible confirmation noise, and that’s it. No fuss, no mess.

The woman working the counter was as impressed as I was at how cool the whole thing was. She said that was the first time she remembered anyone paying that way.


Overall, it’s a super cool and convenient way to pay for stuff, but there are some limitations.

For one, only one phone is supported. Also, these terminals aren’t in many stores. And only the Citi MasterCard and the American Eagle Outfitters gift card are supported for payments. There may be other options, but I can’t really tell by looking at the app.

Wallet also supports loyalty cards, which is something I really want, but only for AEO and Office Max.

So, as with many Google services, Wallet feels like it’s in beta. However, looking at the list of stuff that’s constrained right now, I expect many of these to go away in the next year, especially if Apple adds NFC to the iPhone.

At Google IO this year, Matt (@topperge) and I chatted about how we’d love to get a Nexus S if only to play with the NFC stuff. I’m not disappointed.

The future looks very cool. Now, if only I could trust Google with my purchasing history.

Oh, if you’re wondering, I didn’t win anything at Monopoly, at least not yet.

Find the comments.




  1. A lot of the McDonalds around here have the NFC terminals and supermarkets are getting into the act too. You don’t need a phone for them, a credit card with a chip works just as well. And pretty much all the credit cards issued here have the chip.

  2. Sweet, I’ve not seen an NFC-capable card yet. Google Wallet did launch talking about some kind of add-on that can NFC-enable phones, so I guess it’s probably similar.

    I wonder what the point of an NFC-capable credit is though. You’re not really replacing the wallet, just saving a few steps. 

  3. They don’t actually look any different. As you say, they just remove the ‘swipe’ step (and for small purchases, the signature / PIN entry). Security passes have been this way for years, so it is surprising that payment cards have taken so long.


    I suppose the innovation with NFC is that cards don’t need to be ‘swipable’ any more, so don’t need to be card shaped. Which means that they can be incorporated into a phone. Personally I don’t see the phone as a big driver of NFC payment though…unless the banks start issuing the phone.

  4. I have seen those, now that you mention it. A few Christmases ago, Visa ran a bunch of ads where a guy pays w an NFC card. Didn’t click then.

    Security concerns have slowed the adoption and rollout of NFC. If you lose the card, you’re really screwed. At least on the phone, you have to enter a PIN to use Google Wallet.I suppose I can get on board w the smaller (or different-shaped) NFC card as an innovation. I have to disagree on phones and NFC, unsurprisingly. It’s going to take Apple to get that done, but once there’s an NFC iPhone . . .

  5. CL EMV is actually not NFC. CL EMV is based on ISO14443 which is a part of the NFC standard. The POS terminals do not need to be NFC, but need to support 14443.

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