A new version of Google Pay is now rolling out in the United States with support for both iOS and Android. The updated app includes a completely new design and a lot of new features. The massive overhaul takes Google Pay from a standard tap-to-pay system to a robust cash processing app.
Three new tabs for all your organizational needs
For starters, the app is now split into three tabs. Each section covers a different aspect of payments, of which cards are linked to finding discounts. The change helps organize the different aspects of the Google Pay app, so hopefully you̵
The Pay tab handles all your financial transactions
The leftmost tab is ‘Pay’, which allows you to see your transaction history and find a way to send money to friends and family via peer-to-peer. The redesign aims to show you more of the information you care about. It’s a lot like Venmo and other similar services.
You will first see a list of contacts. Tapping on any of them will open a conversation-like view showing all previous payments you made between you and the contact. You also have the option to set up group payments, which allows you to create a group where participants can send and receive money from each other. This is perfect for splitting a bill in a restaurant, for example, or those who have shared living spaces.
Below that is a similar layout, but for companies. Whether you tap to pay or paid in a browser, here’s a list of past transactions. Loyalty and rewards cards will appear in your conversation if Google Pay is available to link them. And if you choose, retailers can optionally show you offers and discounts in the same view.
The tab also displays a special list of nearby places that accept Google Pay, including restaurants where you can order and pay for your food. It can also help you pay directly from your phone at supported parking lots and gas stations. This means you can pay for your gas without having to interact with the usually slow screen at the pump.
The Explore tab is where you will find discounts and deals
In the middle tab ‘Explore’ you can browse through offers and discounts. It is brand new and shows you general offers by default. But if you choose, you can sign up and allow Google to analyze your transaction history so you can see more personalized offers.
In addition to deals and discounts, you will also see cashback offers. Any money you get back will go straight to your Google Pay account. You must link a bank account to get it out of the service.
Google has made things simple and easy. Simply tap “activate” to accept the offer and choose which credit card to use. Once you do this, everything else will be seamless. You do not need to enter a promotional code or wait to receive an offer by email. It just works.
Finally, this tab has a QR code and barcode scanner at the top. It allows you to scan a product in a store and find the best deal for it through a Google Shopping search. You can also scan someone else’s barcode to send them money without ever having to exchange phone numbers or email addresses.
The Insights tab tells you where you are wasting money
On the rightmost tab, ‘Insights’, you can link your bank or credit card. This tab is similar to apps like Mint and gives you a hyper-concise overview of your finances. If you allow it, Insights can crawl your Gmail inbox and Google Photos to search for receipts and integrate them into the Google Pay app.
Of course, Google flexes its machine learning muscles here. With all the information it collects, you can use natural language to conduct your searches. For example, you can search for ‘Mexican restaurants’ or ‘shirts’ and get results you wouldn’t find with your typical banking app. You can also search for multiple terms at the same time if you are having a hard time finding what you are looking for.
Insights works with most standard checking and savings accounts, as well as debit and credit cards.
Google Plex is your new bank
Google will also partner with a handful of banks in 2021 to fully integrate online checking and savings accounts into Google Pay. The new service is called Google ‘Plex’.
Similar to how Apple’s Apple Card uses Goldman Sachs as a bank and the Wallet app on your iPhone as the front end, Google’s new checking and savings accounts will use a partner bank and use the Google Pay app to manage your account.
The company partners with 11 banks and credit unions and you can choose which one to use. Due to a leak (via 9to5Google), it appears that a few partners will be Citi, Stanford Federal Credit Union, SEFCU, BMO and BBVA. Google says you won’t have a monthly fee, overdrafts, or minimum balance.
A new “Goals” feature allows customers to set up repetitive tasks such as moving money from one account to another, and provides basic money management tools.
A few privacy concerns
Of course, all these new features raise a number of privacy concerns. Google says (through The Verge) that it will not share or sell your information, including your transaction history, to third parties for advertising purposes. But all of your data is encrypted and stored on the company’s server so you can search for your history if necessary.
In the new ‘Explore’ tab, you need to share your data with Google if you want personalized offers. And while this feature is opt-in, it works like a “three month trial”. After the trial period is over, you will be asked if you want to keep sharing your data or if you want to opt out completely.
All new features are opt-in, so if you liked the way the app worked before, or you’d rather not have Google tracking more than you should, you could theoretically disable the bits you don’t like.
While the company has dug its toes into the game of digital wallet and finance in recent years, this is the first indication that Google is ready to compete. The updated version of Google Pay now makes it a serious competitor to services such as Apple Pay, PayPal and Samsung Pay.
Source: Google via The Verge