Google Wallet Launches Minus American Express, Sort Of
August 3, 2012

Google Wallet Launches Minus American Express, Sort Of

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

There was a time when Visa's advertising campaign was all about the merchants and locations where American Express wasn't accepted. Now, with Google Wallet, American Express is choosing not to be an official credit card provider - though customers can still use their AmEx for now.

Earlier this week the Google Commerce blog posted that consumers can "Use any credit or debit card with Google Wallet," and listed American Express among other credit and debit card providers such as Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

It was soon after the internet reacted to Google's news that American Express came out and said it never officially signed off on the deal. The credit card company is taking a wait-and-see approach. "We want to make sure Google's mobile wallet product meets the standards we set for our Cardmembers in terms of transparency and clarity about transaction detail," AmEx social media VP Bradley Minor told TechCrunch's Chris Valazco.

In the meantime, American Express cardholders can still load their AmEx card information into Google Wallet and put charges through. At any point, however, American Express can "forcibly shut down AmEx card support through Google Wallet," the TechCrunch article says. The likely reason American Express will block its users from making charges via Google Wallet are that ongoing talks between the credit card company and Google dissolve. Though if American Express sees any issues with usability and security, that could signal an end to the unofficial use of American Express cards on Google Wallet as well.

Google responded to TechCrunch about the apparent misstatement on its blog. "For many years, we've accepted American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover for online and mobile transactions. The latest version of Google Wallet extends these same benefits to people who choose to use the Google Wallet app to make purchases in-store. We are in active discussions with American Express and look forward to working together as partners as the world embraces digital payments," the statement reads.

MasterCard PayPass, a contactless payment system, handles in-store transactions. American Express could be reluctant to become an official part of a payment system that involves MasterCard, its competitor. Google partnered with PayPass because it's already accepted at more than 200,000 retail locations in the US. Without that installed base, Google would have a tough time getting consumers to sign on, when there's nowhere to use Google Wallet.

Google has enough challenges building its user base. Google Wallet relies on handsets with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Currently that's currently limited to about six handsets carried by Sprint and Virgin Mobile including the Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper, LG Optimus, HTC Evo 4G, Samsung Galaxy S III and the Nexus 7. A potential user base will continue to grow as already released handsets continue to sell, and new handsets with NFC technology are released. Then it's up to Google to market its Mobile Wallet and get more users to sign up and start charging merchandise using the contactless payment system.

It is unclear whether American Express wants to see Google Wallet develop before becoming an official partner, or if it wants to see Google make some tweaks to the system. Those tweaks could involve a more neutral partner to handle the payments.