Google Wallet


Google Wallet is a Mobile-Digital Wallet system by Google which is now Android Pay TBD

Google Page for Google Wallet

Google Wallet (v3.0) does not use a device-based Secure Element. Google Wallet uses a technology called Host-based card emulation.

A Little History#

Google Wallet has been around since 2011 and has seen at least 3 major revisions. Each version had a very different technical approach to mobile payments mostly because of the politically difficult landscape that surrounds it.

In the beginning, Google Wallet v1.0 started its journey by using the device-based Secure Element for card emulation. This approach did not work out well for Google as most of the MNO decided to support their own brand of wallet called Softcard (previously Isis) and blocked access to the Secure Element for any other wallet providers. Google Wallet (v3.0) does not use a device-based Secure Element choosing to use a technology called Host-based card emulation.

Registering A Credit Card#

Google Wallet allows you to register any Credit Card for use with Google Wallet. You manually enter the information for the card which is verified.

The real PAN is stored on Google's servers and not on the Mobile Device.

Google Wallet can also have a balance where you add funds to Google Wallet from a Bank Account that is setup in your Google Wallet account. This allow Google Wallet to behave like a pre-paid debit card.

Making a POS Payment#

To Make a POS Payment with Google Wallet:
  • Wake up your device. No need to open the app.
  • Hold the back of your device against the contactless payment terminal.
  • If you're asked for a PIN on the terminal or your device, use your Wallet PIN.
  • The terminal might flash or beep to show your payment was made.

When in HCE mode, when an NFC enabled Android phone is tapped against a contactless terminal, the NFC controller inside the phone redirects communication from the terminal to the host operating system.

Google Wallet picks up the request from the host operating system and responds to the communication with a Payment Token and uses industry standard contactless protocols to complete the transaction.

The transaction proceeds and reaches the Google cloud servers where the Payment Token is replaced with the PAN and authorized with the real Issuer. Since the PAN is securely stored in Google’s cloud servers, the cloud represents the Secure Element.

Cash withdrawals, such as cashback transactions, are not available with tap and pay.

You'll need a data connection once a day to tap and pay, and every time you need to enter your PIN or want to change/add payment sources.

If you have a Wallet Balance, you can use it to pay for your purchase:

  • Go to the main My Wallet screen.
  • Touch Change tap and pay settings.
  • Make sure the "Use Wallet Balance first when available" box is checked.
When your Wallet Balance is not enough to cover the total amount of your purchase, the difference will be covered using your default payment method.

Online Payments#

Using this Google Wallet, you can pay on eCommerce websites and mobile apps where you see the Buy with Google sign. Here, Google Wallet acts more like a digital wallet than like a mobile wallet. Google offers different APIs for sale of digital goods and sale of physical goods. The difference is that, for sale of digital goods, a seller need not have a separate relationship with a payment processor. Google will take care of the payment processing as a whole. On the other hand, for sale of physical goods, a seller would need to have a payment processor and a merchant account with an Payment Card Acquirer.


In general, this approach is considered less secure compared to the embedded Secure Element approach. But there are some areas (like Lost & Stolen use-case) where it is more secure.

This doe NOT mean that Android operating system does not support device-based Secure Element it supports both device-based Secure Element and HCE using a routing table at the NFC controller level.

Google Wallet Requires#

Google Wallet requires the following to operate:
  • Android 4.4 (Kitkat)
  • You'll need a data connection once a day to tap and pay, and every time you need to enter your PIN or want to change/add payment sources.
  • NFC
  • A Method of payment be registered in Google Wallet and verified.

Loyalty Processing#

Google Wallet has also developed a proprietary protocol on top of existing Contactless protocols to support making payments, redeeming coupons/offers and receiving loyalty all with just one tap. But for this to work, the Merchants will have to upgrade their terminal to explicitly support Google’s own protocol.

Google Wallet and the Virtual MasterCard[3]#

Your Google Wallet app transaction is made using a Payment Token which is a virtual prepaid MasterCard card by The Bancorp Bank, Google Wallet's partnering bank. This account information is passed to the merchant at the time of a transaction. Google Wallet then charges your selected funding source for the full amount of the original purchase.

You may see the last four digits of your Payment Token on the receipt of your purchase. If the cashier asks for the last four digits used in the transaction, you should give the last four of your Virtual Prepaid MasterCard card that's powering your Google Wallet transactions.

You can find the last four digits of your virtual prepaid MasterCard card in the transaction details of your Transaction History and on the card details page of your credit and debit cards.

Google Wallet vs Apple Pay#

More Information#

There might be more information for this subject on one of the following: