Google Wallet app users can now add their gift card balances from a growing pool of merchants to their Google Wallet accounts, making it possible to make purchases without having to physically have their gift cards with them.
The new feature and several other helpful app updates were announced by Glenn Thrope, the product manager for Google Wallet, in a July 16 post on the Google Commerce Blog. The feature updates are included in both the Android and iOS versions of the Wallet app.
"Never worry about forgetting your gift cards at home again," wrote Thrope. "You can also request money from friends, which means you can settle the dinner bill while you're still at the table. Lastly, sending money with your debit card is now free, making it even easier to pay your friends or the babysitter using Wallet."
The gift card feature lets users enter their gift card information into their Google Wallets so that they keep track of them as they shop, he wrote. "Add your cards to Wallet just by snapping a picture of them or typing in the card info. Then, when you want to use the gift card at the store, just show your phone to the cashier at checkout."
Gift cards from selected merchants will allow users to check their gift card balances in real time, while also sending out reminders to use a gift card when they are near the merchant's stores, according to the post. So far, gift cards for AMC Theatres, Best Buy, Sephora, Whole Foods and others include these features.
Recipients of electronic gift cards from selected merchants so far can also add their gift card information to their Google Wallets directly by clicking "Save to Google" on their e-gift receipt.
The new ability to request money from friends through Google Wallet will make it easier to get reimbursed after activities with friends, wrote Thrope. "For all those times when your friends forget to pay you back for dinner, you can simply request money using the Google Wallet app (for U.S. users, 18 years and older). They will receive a notification and can instantly pay you back. If they need a reminder, you can send them a friendly nudge from within the app. You can also send your friends a message right within Gmail, and request money just like you would attach a picture."
Also added to Google Wallet in the latest update is the ability to send money for free using a debit card, wrote Thrope. "No more searching around for a checkbook or waiting for your funds to arrive. With Google Wallet, your money is at your fingertips."
Another key change in the new Wallet versions is that users who have their Android or iOS devices set up to use Spanish language settings will now also automatically have their Wallet app display its text in Spanish.
Google often makes service improvements for its Wallet apps. In June, the company added a Google Wallet Instant Buy API that makes it easier for mobile iOS users to pay for online purchases using their Google Wallet account without having to key in all their account details each time. Early retail adopters of the iOS API for Instant Buy include Wish, B&H, Eat24, Fancy, Newegg and Sionic Mobile.
Google Wallet gained some new order tracking features in March 2014, allowing users to receive status reports and purchase information right on their devices after they make purchases. Customers are also now able to see receipts sent to their Gmail accounts when they are inside the Google Wallet app. And they can view shipping updates, including whether their package is out for delivery, delayed or delivered.
In November 2013, Google gave Google Wallet customers in the United States another convenient way to make purchases using the funds in their Wallet accounts by offering a new Google Wallet Card, a debit card with no annual or monthly fees. The Google-branded debit card lets Wallet customers take money out through ATMs, make purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted and receive quick notifications on their mobile devices to track their expenditures, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
In September 2013, Google released a new version of its Google Wallet app for Android phones that included improvements for sending money to others, getting special savings on online purchases and tracking purchases.
In May 2013, Google announced that it integrated its Wallet payment services with Gmail, allowing users to safely and securely send money to a recipient in an email. The service, which allows up to $10,000 to be sent in a single transaction, works even if the recipient does not have a Gmail address.