Earlier this year, Google blew up the existing Google Pay and started over with a new codebase that had more restrictions and fewer features. Now the company has finally started adding features on top of this abolished service, starting with the return of a debit card. According to a new report from 9to5Google (Google does not appear to have a blog post about this yet), US Android users from this week can request a “Google Pay Balance Card”
In addition to the NFC push-and-pay functionality, Google Pay also has a P2P payment that allows you to exchange money with other people. The pool to send and receive this money is your Google Pay balance, and in the past the most important way to use this balance was to transfer it from Google Pay and to a bank account (although it is also a payment method in the Play Store and Google hardware store) . This worked fine and if it was deposited directly into a bank account, there were no fees. It was just a few extra taps and it took several days to transfer. The new Google Pay card is a virtual Visa debit card that you can set up as an NFC card, so using the money a friend sent you is as easy (and presumably fast) as setting up your Google Pay balance as your NFC card and press your phone against a payment terminal in the store.
Under Google’s turbulent NFC payment history – spanning 2011’s Google Wallet, 2015’s Android Pay, 2018’s Google Pay and 2021’s major update – almost everything has been done before. This Google Pay Balance Card feels a lot like the Google Wallet Card (2013-2016), which also allows you to use your P2P balance in stores. However, it was a physical piece of plastic and it did not work over NFC. The Google Pay balance card is NFC only and despite the name it is not a physical card.
At least it’s not a physical card yet. Part of the new Google Pay initiative includes plans for a Google Bank account, which is expected to launch sometime this year. Accounts, called “Google Plex” (not to be confused with Googleplex or this Plex), will be full-blown “digital bank accounts” created in partnership with a variety of banks and credit unions. If people are actually going to use these as their primary accounts, it’s hard to imagine that some kind of physical Google map does not provide a possible comeback.
If you’re interested in a Google Pay balance card, it’s likely that there will soon be some way to request via the app.