What it is: Google Wallet is a virtual wallet service that's trying to replace your actual wallet--especially if you have an NFC-enabled Android device. Phones with NFC chips embedded can pay for purchases at any retailer that uses MasterCard's PayPass system, provided you have your credit or debit cards connected to the app. Those without NFC-enabled devices can request a physical card that replicates this functionality, though that sort of defeats the purpose of leaving the wallet at home.
Google Wallet also lets you request money from and send money to anyone with a Gmail address, which is perfect for managing things like rent payments and restaurant tabs. If you use Google Offers, the company's daily deal service, you can redeem your purchased offers with your phone as well. And, of course, you also can load in gift and rewards cards into the app to redeem those.
What it's best suited for: If you've got an NFC-enabled device in your pocket, Google Wallet is the mobile payment method for you; it's also fine if you're comfortable entrusting Google with your credit, debit, or banking information.
How you use it: The easiest way to manage your Google Wallet account is with the company's iOS and Android apps, but you can also use a web interface to manage payments. With the apps, you can scan or manually enter your reward, gift, debit and credit cards, where they are encrypted and stored until you're ready to use them. When you first set up Wallet, you'll be asked to enter a PIN to keep your information secure, and you'll also need to enter that PIN when you make purchases.
The main app screen has buttons to send and request money to anyone who has an email address, and you can view all of your transactions to easily manage your money on the go.
When you're ready to redeem gift cards, use your loyalty cards, or make purchases with your credit and debit cards, tap on them in the appropriate section, and show the barcode to the cashier to redeem. If you have NFC, just tap your phone on the PayPass receiver to trigger payment, and enter your PIN to confirm.
Where it's Accepted: NFC-enabled devices can use Google Wallet anywhere that accepts MasterCard's PayPass payment system. If you choose to have Google send you the physical Google Wallet card, you can use it anywhere with a card reader as long as you remember to fill up your Wallet balance with enough funds. You can use gift cards and loyalty programs from several major national as well as some local retailers.
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