The original Google Wallet launched in 2011 as a Nexus phone exclusive, allowing contactless credit card payments at specific locations. But a lack of NFC-enabled phones, not enough retail partnerships, and little consumer interest ensured the initiative never really took off despite Google’s best efforts.
Android Pay took Wallet’s place in 2015 as a payment system with much more business support and infrastructure, while Wallet scaled down into a peer-to-peer payment system. Then both services consolidated into the Google Pay brand, a single app for both tap-to-pay and sending money to friends, and Google Wallet ceased to be.
Four years later, Google decided to rebrand its payment service one more time by pulling the Google Wallet name out of hibernation. It will soon launch a new Google Wallet app, replacing the Google Pay app in all but a handful of nations.
Confused? We don’t blame you! But we’re here to explain how the new Google Wallet system will work, how it will be similar and different to the old Google Pay, which countries will support it, and everything else you need to know about it.
Google Wallet, summarized
Before Google Wallet, Google Pay could store more than your credit cards and bank accounts; it could also save boarding passes, event confirmations, transit balances, and other tools that weren’t strictly “payments.”
By rebranding to Google Wallet, Google is signaling that the app isn’t just for buying things. Instead, it’s truly meant to be a digital wallet that saves any credit and debit cards, passes, proof of vaccination, gift cards, and coupons you’d typically keep in a physical wallet.
If you have something stored in Google Wallet, other Google apps on Android phones will have access to this information. So, for example, if you receive an email on Gmail with a delayed flight time, it’ll notify you and change the stored boarding pass information. Or, Wallet will sync with Google Maps, so if you choose a route that includes public transit and the transit system accepts Google Pay, it will show a banner with your current Wallet balance.
This is where it gets a bit convoluted: Physical store locations will still support “Google Pay” as before. But you’ll use the Google Wallet app to select your digital cards and make those Google Pay transactions. So if you see that a store accepts Google Pay, that means you’ll need the Google Wallet app now, not Pay.
What can you store in Google Wallet?
Whatever cards you were able to store in Google Pay in the past, you’ll now be able to store in Google Wallet, from credit cards to transit passes. Also, during Google I/O, the company announced new digital ID cards that will eventually work with Google Wallet in the future.
First and foremost, you can store credit and debit cards in Google Wallet. Most banks and cards are supported, but to make sure yours are, Google has a list of supported contactless payments sorted by country.
You can add your loyalty cards or membership cards, assuming the program’s company has submitted its API to Google Pay. You’ll then be able to tap your phone or watch to apply discounts or balances, as well as pay directly for items.
Plus, you’ll keep your boarding passes and event tickets in Google Wallet, so entering a plane or stadium is as simple as pulling them up and tapping your phone.
Google Wallet will technically cache transit cards As well, though at the moment, it only seems to support Clipper Card in California.
In terms of new features, you’ll be able to store COVID-19 vaccine passports; Google says that “if you take a screenshot of your boarding pass or Covid vaccine card from an Android device, we’ll give you the option to add it directly to your Google Wallet.”
Google’s biggest challenge will be to enable digital driver’s licenses or college IDs, which requires legal permission from governments and states to make them valid forms of ID. We’ve also heard rumors that not all Android phones can support licenses due to technical limitations, though this isn’t confirmed.
In the future, Google Wallet will even host hotel room keys, office passesand digital car keys — though the latter will require your car to work with the feature.
Which countries will get Google Wallet?
In the 38 countries listed below, your Google Pay app will automatically convert into Google Wallet once it’s available. It’ll offer all of the same services before, along with some new ones.
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
In addition, both Singapore and the United States will receive the Google Wallet app. But they’ll retain access to the Google Pay app, which will serve as a peer-to-peer payment platform. Those living in these countries will have to download Google Wallet separately.
The only exception to these lists is India, which had its own unique Google Pay app and won’t transition to Google Wallet.
Google Wallet vs. Google Wallet Google Pay
Comparing Google Wallet vs. Google Pay only matters for users in Singapore and the United States, where GPay will remain its own separate app. But in essence, Google Pay will become what Wallet used to be: a peer-to-peer payment service.
Google Pay will allow you to connect with your contacts so you can send or receive money. You can withdraw money directly from your bank account or send your balance back to the bank. It also has special offers from merchants, as well as your searchable Google Pay transaction history in case you need to check old payments.
By contrast, Wallet will focus on tap-to-pay or tap-to-enter services will partnered vendors and organizations. You can use digital cards in your Wallet to pay at Google Pay locations, but it doesn’t focus on P2P payments.
Google also claims Wallet has better interconnectivity with other Google apps like Gmail, Calendar, and Maps — something the Google Pay app never offered.