Google Wallet Continues its Expansion to Manhattan Merchants

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By Georgia Suter

Digital financing is on the brink of a revolution, thanks to mobile commerce. With powerful new payment methods like Google Wallet building steam, more and more vendors are re-examining their payment processes in an effort to fluidly speed transactions at a time when e-commerce and online shopping pose competition for in-store sales.

On Monday, Google launched an initiative to expand its Google Wallet mobile payment system. The system provides consumers with speedy and seamless ways to pay at retail stores, turning their smart phones into a credit card point-of-sale system and replacing the need for a physical wallet altogether.

The most recent push was launched alongside discounts and "practice terminals" at Google's newest partner retailers, which include Manhattan-based American Eagle Outfitters, The Container Store and Toys "R" Us, among others.

Toneise Holmes, manager of the flagship American Eagle Outfitters store in Times Square, was quick to note that the mobile payment option focuses on convenience and seems to make purchases smoother overall.

"People are checking in with their phones to pay and it seems to be going really well. People seem really comfortable with it. It's awesome," Holmes said.

"Overall, it's smoother," she said, but as in any crowded store, Holmes added that with some of the newness and unfamiliarity of the system, "if you have a long line it becomes an issue."

The mobile wallet works by storing consumer's credit card numbers on their phones so merchants can identify and accept the number as a payment method. At the moment of purchase, the user is required to punch in a four-digit PIN and tap the phone against the provided terminal. Using near field communication (NFC), the simple tap triggers the transfer of funds from either a Citibank MasterCard or a virtual Google card, which can be pre-paid by the consumer and stored in the phone.

"Eventually, your loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, even your keys will be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet. And every offer and loyalty point will be redeemed automatically with a single tap via NFC," reads the "vision" section of the Google Wallet website.

So far, the digital payment method only works with one phone and one carrier-the Nexus S 4G on Sprint, along with select credit card companies. Expansion plans, however, are imminent.

Osama Bedier, vice president of payments at Google, recently said: "When we announced Google Wallet, we pledged a commitment to an open commerce ecosystem. We appreciate Citi and MasterCard for being our launch partners. And today, Visa, Discover and American Express have made available their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet."

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