As part of Google's ongoing plot to take over the world and replace your real-world wallet with mystical smartphone payment magic, it has added a feature to Google Wallet that will actually play nicely with your old tattered billfold: the Google Wallet card.
It's one of those typical old-school plastic rectangles that are revered by the banking industry. It's a MasterCard powered debit card. But this card is wholly dependent on your Google Wallet account balance, making it quite similar to those prepaid Visa and MasterCard 'gift cards' that you're undoubtedly familiar with. Google Wallet accounts are their own individual pool of money, so in order to use the corresponding card, you'll first need to add money to your Google account by transferring funds from a bank account or a credit card.
Free options abound with the Google Wallet card. The card is free to order, free to activate, free to fund with a bank account, and there are no monthly or annual fees. Fees really only make an appearance when you load up your Google Wallet balance with a credit card or when withdrawing cash from an ATM, so do be aware of those triggers.
Grab the Google Wallet app to get started.
Ordering a Google Wallet card
To be eligible for a Google Wallet card, you'll need a Google account, you'll need to accept the Google Wallet terms, and you'll need to verify your identity. Google says the verification is required due to financial regulations and laws.
Inside the Wallet Android app, tap on the Wallet icon at the very top left, then tap Send money from the menu. Google Wallet will then ask you to verify your identity, if you haven't done so before.
After a successful identity verification, you'll be presented with the Google Wallet card offer inside the Wallet Android app. Tap on Get your card on the offer box, verify your mailing address, and then tap Send it to me to initiate the Google Wallet card delivery process.
Google estimates 10-12 days for the card to arrive, but I received mine in about a week. Once your card arrives, you'll need to activate it by entering the last 4 digits of the card number in the Android app or on the Google Wallet website.
Using the Google Wallet card
To take my Google Wallet card for a spin, I first attempted to make a purchase with a zero balance in my Google Wallet account. As expected, the transaction was denied.
Fortunately, it's very quick and easy to add funds to your wallet account using the Android app. Immediately after my first transaction was denied, I launched the Wallet app, tapped on Add money from the Wallet Balance screen, and then added $50 using a credit card that was already saved in my Google Wallet account. I then handed my Google Wallet card back to the cashier to try again and presto, this time the charge was approved.
As noted previously, adding funds to your Wallet account via a credit card can incur fees, but Google waives those fees during promotional periods and often for the first time that you are adding funds to your Wallet account.
Google Wallet has card use notifications turned on by default, so you should receive a notice for purchase activity on all your devices that have the Google Wallet app installed and active.
3 reasons to use your Google Wallet card
I'm sure you're wondering what good a credit card that lets you pay for things with your Google account is. Isn't it just more work to fill up your Google account with money first? The ability to have a fund-limited debit card that you can fill up with your smartphone does have some good uses.
Security tool: Because your Google Wallet card is dependent on a fund-limited account, you can use it as a security buffer. If you're making a purchase from a website or a merchant that you don't completely trust, use your Google Wallet card. Signing up for a service or a subscription that might auto-bill you repeatedly without your prior authorization? Google Wallet card time! The most that can ever be charged to the card is the balance available in the Wallet account.
Emergency card: Leave the Google Wallet card in your car, at your office or at another location for use as an emergency source of money. I've accidentally left my wallet at home more times than I can remember, but with a Google Wallet card in the car, I could have quickly added money to my account using the Android app and then had a Mastercard that I could use just about anywhere, no real wallet required.
Debit card for the kids: The Google Wallet card can be a great option for kids who might overspend if they had a card that worked on credit, rather than one that works off a limited account balance. If the youngster needs to purchase a higher priced item, a quick phone call to Mom or Dad could initiate the process to add more money to the Google Wallet account, providing a quick funding solution for just about any occasion.