Google Wallet’s Plastic Credit Card: A Master of Disguise

Mobile wallets allow consumers to streamline their lives by reducing the clutter in their purses and back pockets, but the technology doesn’t head off every shopping snag. As Google pushes towards the future with mobile payments, plenty of small brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling to keep up, and that means headaches for consumers.

Google Wallet – the app for Android and other mobile devices that allows users to store all of their credit card information in one place – got a overhaul in September 2012 and now works with select smartphones. However, Google Wallet users can only use their phones to pay for that cappuccino if their favorite coffee shop has PayPass, the NFC pad (near-field communications) issued by MasterCard that allows businesses to receive and process mobile payments. So if your favorite watering hole doesn’t have PayPass and you left your wallet at home, it looks like Google Wallet won’t come through in the clutch tonight.

But what if there were a shape-shifting physical card that could magically impersonate any of your other credit cards?

On November 1, 2012, Android Police received an anonymous tip about the release of the Google Wallet card, and the tip looks legitimate. Not to get your hopes up, but TechCrunch also reported that Google Wallet’s help page indicated that a Google Wallet card that works with the app would soon be available to its users.

Google removed the information shortly after the morning of October 30, but if the rumors are true, consumers will soon be able to make payments with their Google Wallet cards at any business where major credit cards are accepted. Users would be able to set the card to default to their preferred method of payment, but they can also flip the card’s identity at any time using the Google Wallet app. In a flash, your Visa could become your MasterCard.

Google has not yet made a statement concerning the leaked screenshots that exposed the Google Wallet card, and we could be waiting for weeks or months for confirmation and details. Unfortunately, this means that consumers who are getting impatient with Google Wallet’s still-limited usefulness will just have to wait.

For all iOS users out there, you won’t be able to participate in Google Wallet yet. As of right now, the Google Wallet and its card will only be available to those using Android, the OS you’ll find on the tremendously popular Samsung Galaxy phone, for example. But we think the Google Wallet card is a pretty neat stopgap measure for the still-not-universal ability to pay for things with your phone, and in our opinion it’s just the sort of thing that could make a person switch their allegiances. iPhone users, you’re already dissatisfied with the new Apple Maps app. Google’s rumored physical card gives you yet another reason to think about switching to Android.

Android users, you’ve probably already messed around with Google Wallet a bit – and probably at Starbucks, a company that fully embraces mobile payment technology. (Starbucks seems to believe that cash is on the way out.) But cheer up, guys. While we wait for NFC and other mobile payment systems to really catch on, it looks like we’ll have a cool new toy to play with. One that’s going to seriously turn some heads.