By Paresh Dave and Anna Irrera
OAKLAND/LONDON: Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday relaunched its U.S. payments app, introducing paid promotions to the service and opening a waitlist for bank accounts being launched next year with Citigroup Inc and 10 other institutions.
The new Google Pay app, like its predecessor which will be discontinued eventually, enables contactless payments in stores and money transfers. But now users can transact with groups of people, search transactions, view analytics and explore cashback offers from merchants including Burger King and Target Corp .
Google will receive a distribution fee for those promotions, opening a small new line of revenue for the advertising giant. Transactions will not affect the ads that users see on other Google services, it said.
The new functionality brings U.S. Google Pay up to par with its counterpart in India, where mobile payments are the norm, while escalating the global battle among tech companies, merchants and banks over consumers and their financial data.
“Our goal is to be the all-in-one app that gives users more value and control out of their money,” said Caesar Sengupta, who oversees Google’s payment initiatives. Pay has more than 150 million monthly users spanning 30 countries.
Alibaba Group, Apple Inc, Samsung Electronics Co and PayPal Holdings Inc also offer mobile wallets aiming to be hubs for shopping and banking, with the companies battling over security and other features.
For instance, Google said its web search technology makes its app more useful for budgeting and sifting through transactions to spot granular categories such as “Mexican restaurants” or “T-shirts.”
The new U.S. app works at over 100,000 restaurants, 30,000 gas stations and 400 cities’ parking meters, Google said.
Google first discussed adding banking accounts a year ago, but did not solicit customers for the service, dubbed Plex, until Wednesday. Partners such as Citi starting next year will activate checkings and savings accounts with no monthly fees, overdraft charges or minimum balance rules. The Citi Plex users will get free access to its network of 60,000 ATMs nationwide, the megabank said on Wednesday. The offering is Citi’s first bundled savings and checking account.
“This collaboration gives us a platform to drive significant scale in our Retail Bank,” said Citi’s incoming Chief Executive Jane Fraser.
The newest Plex partners include Green Dot Corp, Seattle Bank and The Harbor Bank of Maryland.
Sengupta said one goal was “to gamify saving and make it a lot more fun.”