updated 06:10 pm EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Update adds real-time gift card balance updates, ability to request money in Gmail
Google Wallet issued an update today that gives users the ability to add gift cards and request (or send) money through the Wallet app. The addition grants another perk to using Wallet as it allows customers to carry even fewer cards with assorted balances or perks. Requesting money from friends and family, or sending them money using a debit card is now free of charge, unlike the previous version which charged the same 2.9 percent (minimum 30 cents) fee as when using a credit card.
The Google Wallet app on Android and iOS is an attempt by the company to make the lives of consumers a little bit easier by giving them a central location to make payments. Previously, Google allowed users to track store loyalty cards in the system, such as those from Walgreens and Alaska Airlines. It also allowed tap to pay with some devices, accessing funds that were added to the wallet balance.
Gift cards are now added to Google Wallet simply by taking a picture of the card or typing the information into the system. Using the gift card is as easy as showing the cashier at the counter a smartphone, rather than having to dig in a wallet or purse for the gift card.
Some of the gift cards that can be added to Google Wallet allow for balance checking in real-time. Currently, business such as Best buy, AMC movie theaters and Whole Foods offer this feature. Some of the business also allow for electronic gift cards to be saved directly to Google Wallet. Wallet can notify gift card holders that they are near stores where an active gift card can be used.
Banks like Chase and Wells Fargo offer a payment system similar to the new Google Wallet feature. Users need only to select the email address of the person they wish to send money too, and send away through an app or at the bank's website.
Since the payment request feature is from Google, the company integrated the requests into Gmail, as it did with sending money last year. Asking a friend for money is as easy as attaching an invoice file to an email message. Receiving the funds from a payment request in Gmail doesn't currently cost anything, according to Google's support page.
Google Wallet also added support for Spanish with the update.