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Google Wallet Enables Mobile Payments

Citi, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint are working with Google to launch a mobile commerce platform.

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Underscoring its interest in the booming mobile market, Google on Thursday announced an open mobile commerce platform in partnership with Citi, MasterCard, First Data, and Sprint.

Google is providing secure access to near-field communication (NFC) hardware to allow phone users to make purchases through MasterCard's PayPass contactless payment network, supported by over 120,000 merchants nationally. The capability initially will be available on the Samsung Nexus S 4G phone on Sprint's network and "potentially over time, [on] other mobile devices and platforms as well," Google said.

Google itself is offering two new products for its nascent mobile payment ecosystem: Google Wallet and Google Offers. Google Wallet is an Android application that will store multiple credit cards securely, including a Google GCard, a prepaid card that the user can fund through other credit cards. Google Offers is a service that provides subscribers with emailed discounts and related offers that can be redeemed using the recipient's phone or by presenting a code at a participating merchant.

"We are extending an open invitation to merchants and ecosystem partners ... to join us in creating tomorrow's best shopping experience," said Google VP of commerce and payments Stephanie Tilenius at an event webcast from New York City.

Tilenius heralded the arrival of a new open platform that will make it simple for partners to create a great consumer experience through push-button payments and instant offers.

"Your phone will be your wallet," said Tilenius. "Just tap, pay, and save."

Paul Galant, CEO of Citi's Global Enterprise Payments business unit, characterized Google's announcement as "an important milestone in digital and mobile banking."

Google initially will be testing Google Wallet in New York and San Francisco, and in other metropolitan areas in a few months. Nexus S 4G owners who activate their Google Wallets can expect to conduct mobile transactions at Coca-Cola vending machines and in PayPass-enabled taxis, as well as at retailers like CVS, Sports Authority, and Sunoco. At launch, 20 merchants are participating.

Simultaneously, Google will be testing Google Offers in New York, Portland, and San Francisco this summer. A handful of merchants will be supporting Google SingleTap, a Google Offers feature that allows offers to be redeemed from mobile phones with the touch of a button. These include: American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdale's, Champs Sports, The Container Store, Duane Reade, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Foot Locker, Guess, Jamba Juice, Macy's, Noah's Bagels, Peet's Coffee & Tea, RadioShack, Subway, Toys"R"Us, and Walgreens.

At other merchants, offer codes will need to be scanned or entered manually.

Tilenius said Google sees its platform as an opportunity to redefine the retail experience with mobile technology. "As a merchant, you can acquire new customers and offer discounts and rewards in ways that have never been possible before," she said.

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