American Express Interested In Google Wallet, but Not Committed

Google may have stretched the truth a bit, when it suggested Aug. 1 that it had inked a deal with American Express. The company says that while it's in talks with Google and interested in Wallet, nothing is yet official.

Google€™s relationship with American Express is a bit more nuanced than the search company suggested in an Aug. 1 blog post. While Google shared that its Wallet app now €œsupports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover,€ American Express says it€™s never actually signed on the dotted line.

All Things D first reported that Google hadn€™t actually received additional approval from American Express for the next evolution of its mobile payment app.

American Express told eWEEK in a statement:

"We want to make sure Google's mobile wallet product meets the standards we set for our Cardmembers in terms of the transparency and clarity about transaction detail. And right now, American Express does not have an agreement with Google for our cards to be used in the Google mobile wallet.While we are interested in the technology and remain in discussions with them about opportunities to work together, we did not provide approval to be included."

Google first launched Wallet with the ability to make payments using a Citi MasterCard or Google Prepaid card, which can be funded through a number of other credit cards, including American Express. Among Google€™s Aug. 1 announcements was that Wallet holders could now directly €œuse any card€ when they shopped in stores or online.

It€™s tempting to think that American Express€™ priorities are also with other partners. Last summer, the credit card company announced that it was tying its Serve digital-payment platform to devices from both Sprint and Verizon€”the only top-tier carrier to block Google€™s Wallet apps from its smartphones.

In a statement at the time, Sprint described Serve as an easy-to-use platform that ties together online, offline and mobile-payment options into a single account.

€œSprint customers who register and qualify for a Serve account will be able to use their Serve card for making purchases at American Express participating merchants, paying their Sprint mobile bill, and in the future, for redeeming offers on goods and services,€ Sprint said in its July 2011 statement.

The fact that little has been said about the service since speaks to the modest pace at which the mobile payment market has been moving.

Momentum, however, seems nigh. An increasing number of smartphones are being shipped with near-field communication (NFC) technology; according to Forrester, 100 million will ship by year€™s end. Arguably the most important of these is the fast-selling Samsung Galaxy S III, which is working to further the use of NFC with the introduction of NFC-based TecTile stickers. Sold five to a pack for $15, users can program (and reprogram) the stickers to make their phones perform a variety of tasks when they're tapped to a TecTile.

The next-generation iPhone is also expected to include NFC, which could also give the market a needed boost.

Still more help may arrive as Isis€”the joint mobile commerce venture between Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile that was first introduced in Nov. 2010€”finally gets off the ground. In May, Isis announced that a number of national companies, as well as merchants in pilot cities Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, had joined on in support of the program, signaling, Isis said in a statement, that €œthe mobile commerce experience has arrived.€

In a July 31 press release, the company announced that several gas stations have agreed to make their pumps €œIsis-Ready.€

How to get an Isis-Ready phone? This summer, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon will begin selling them, says the Isis site. Alternately, users can sign up for Isis and €œget a new phone in the process.€ Owners of the iPhone 4 or 4S, however, €œcan purchase an accessory from your participating wireless service provider that makes your phone Isis-Ready.€

Once a phone is Isis-Ready, an Isis Wallet app can then be downloaded.

On second thought, the market€™s best hope for growth, with or without the backing of Amex, may rest with Google.