Put Your Money Where Your Mobile Is

I don’t frighten easily. I’m not some tough guy, but I am also not afraid to take risks. I walk in dark alleys at night. I ride a bicycle in traffic every day. I eat ethnic food off menus I can’t read. None of these scenarios make me uneasy.

Cold sweat drips down my spine at the mere thought of losing my wallet.

That’s when the race to cancel credit cards before the inevitable fraudulent charges begins. The next step of immediately changing the billing on everything before the canceled card numbers become service interruptions and late fees. Then there is the hassle of pulling out cash at the bank while I wait for replacement cards in the mail. These are some of the thoughts that keep me up at night.

Then Google Wallet enters the ring.

Google Wallet is a combination of hardware and software which allows a user to make “contactless payments.” By sending transaction data wirelessly to payment terminals, users can now leave their credit cards safely at home. Google Wallet digitally stores all of the user’s credit / debit card information in the cloud, so purchases can be performed by simply tapping their wallet-enabled phone or tablet against supported credit card machines. Data is sent securely to the payment processor using an extremely short-range radio technology called Near Field Communication (NFC).

Unlike traditional credit cards, Google Wallet is protected by multiple levels of security. A PIN code must be entered on the device before a purchase can take place. In the event the user loses the device or suspects their security code has been compromised, a Web interface allows one to disable the use of Google Wallet on the lost device entirely.

While support is currently limited to higher-end devices from Samsung, HTC, and LG, and merchants with NFC capable checkouts, the market is changing rapidly. Google is installing terminals at major retailers and more compatible phones are released monthly. With recent rumors suggesting the soon-to-be-announced iPhone 5 will include NFC capabilities, proliferation seems right around the corner.

As payment technology moves forward, perhaps one day my only fear will be standing in line at the DMV to renew or replace my driver’s license.