In a step backwards in its mission to convince the masses to ditch their credit and debit cards and pay for goods and services exclusively with a smartphone, Google has started offering prepaid debit cards linked to Google Wallet accounts.
So if you prefer to pay the old fashioned way you now have that option, and can acquire your very own MasterCard linked to your account that will allow you to withdraw funds from your Google Wallet account.
It seems to go against the idea of Google Wallet in the first place, where your smartphone deals with all purchases. The issues associated with this idea are clear -- what if a store doesn't accept Google Wallet, and what if I want to get my hands on cash via ATM -- and the debit card addresses them.
About The Debit Card
The prepaid debit card is available for Google Wallet account holders located in the US for now, and will work anywhere MasterCard is accepted just as any debit card would. Withdraw money from your account at any ATM, of course accounting for the fees associated with these withdrawals, typically bank-specific. The card is free to obtain, and there are no monthly or annual fees for having the card, nor a fee to activate it.
A neat feature: whenever the card is swiped or money is deducted from the account at any time, you'll get instant notification on your smartphone. This way, you can immediately address any fraudulent charges, or see if your significant other might have gotten their hands on your card! You can keep track of every cent in your Google Wallet account instantly and easily.
How It Works
It's just like PayPal's debit card. You spend what's in your Google Wallet. You can add money by either transferring money from the associated bank account, credit card, or receiving payment from another person. If you lose the card or it is stolen, you can head right to the Wallet App and tap "Card." This gives you the option to cancel the card as well as order a new one.
You can choose either credit or debit during checkout. The PIN associated with the card is the same as your Google Wallet PIN. Want to see how much money is in your Wallet account? Simply check the associated app, or head to wallet.google.com.
Don't have enough in your Wallet account to cover the purchase? Just tell the cashier before checking out the total amount to charge to the card, splitting the payment up between two payment methods.
So as great as the idea is, it seems to be lacking an important feature the PayPal MasterCard has: backup funding. What's in your Wallet account is all that's available to you, so you need to monitor your balance closely. With PayPal's card, your linked bank account is used for backup funding, up to $200.
Regardless, it's nice to see Google offer this option for those attached to their plastic.