Is Google Starting to Back Away From Google Wallet Card?

  • JJ Hornblass
  • February 9, 2016
  • 1

google_wallet_imgGoogle has split its Wallet service into Android Pay and a Venmo-like peer-to-peer payments service.

Now Google appears to have started to phase out the Google Wallet Card, which is a debit card issued by The Bancorp.

To be sure, consumers can still order a Google Wallet Card here — I did so today, in fact. Additionally, Google (and The Bancorp) still supports the card.

But the official Google Wallet FAQ has recently removed a reference to ordering new cards. When exactly Google might eventually phase out the Google Wallet Card entirely from its product menu is unclear, however.

The Bancorp still provides Google customers with a “virtual account number” for Android Pay.

There has been perhaps no venture in digital payments that has pivoted as much as Google since its launch of Google Wallet in May 2011. Killing off the debit card would be Google’s fifth payments pivot, by our count — that’s got to be some sort of record.

There is some surprise should Google spike the debit card. The debit card, when introduced, was a practical solution to a KYC nightmare. Here’s how one former Google employee explained it to us:

Debit cards are global. With this one change (adding a debit card), Google has a money movement service that can achieve global scale very quickly. The former [Google Wallet] product would have taken a decade to scale globally, because of the regulatory overhang of managing funds vs now they simply use the network to register a credit and debit – Google doesn’t need to store the funds.

Perhaps not so simple, after all, it seems.

Another factor behind the introduction of the card was that the mobile carriers made Google Wallet transactions difficult — they were busy building their own mobile payments solution, Isis, later SoftCard, later bought by… Google. Users couldn’t easily use Google Wallet on their phones to pay. Today, with Android Pay, there is simply less reason for the card. The promise of Google Wallet, in other words, is, perhaps, finally being realized.

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at hornblass@gmail.com or 212-564-8972.

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