A new version of Google Pay is rolling out now in the United States with support for both iOS and Android. The updated app includes a completely new design and a ton of new features. The massive overhaul takes Google Pay from a basic tap-to-pay system to a robust money handling app.
Three New Tabs for All Your Organizational Needs
To start things off, the app is now split into three tabs. Each section handles a different aspect of payments, from which cards are connected to finding discounts. The change helps organize the different aspects of the Google Pay app, so hopefully you’ll have an easier time finding the stuff you need and can ignore the features you don’t use.
The Pay Tab Handles All Your Financial Transactions
The leftmost tab is “Pay,” which allows you to see your transaction history and includes a way to send money to friends and family via peer-to-peer. The redesign focuses on showing you more of the information you care about. It’s a lot like Venmo and other similar services.
You’ll first be presented with a list of contacts. Tapping on any of them will open up a conversation-like view that displays all of the past payments you’ve made between you and the contact. You’ll also have the option to set up group payments, which will allow you to create a group where participants can send and receive money from one another. This is perfect for splitting a bill at a restaurant or for those who have shared living spaces, for example.
Underneath is a similar layout, but for businesses. Whether you’ve used tap-to-pay or paid within a browser, you’ll see a list of past transactions here. Loyalty and rewards cards will show up in your conversation if Google Pay is available to associate them. And if you choose to, retailers will optionally be able to show you offers and discounts within the same view.
The tab also displays a dedicated list of nearby places that accept Google Pay, including restaurants that let you both order and pay for your food. It can also help you pay at supported parking areas and gas stations directly from your phone. This means you can pay for your gas without having to interact with the usually slow screen at the pump.
The Explore Tab Finds You Discounts and Deals
The middle tab, “Explore,” lets you browse deals and discounts. It’s brand new and by default will show you generic offers. But, if you choose to, you can opt-in and allow Google to analyze your transaction history, this will enable you to see more personalized offers.
In addition to deals and discounts, you’ll see cashback offers as well. Any money you get back will go directly into your Google Pay account. You’ll need to link a bank account to move it out of the service.
Google made things simple and easy, all you need to do is tap “activate” to accept the offer and choose which credit card you want to use. Once you do this, everything else is seamless. No need to enter a promo code, or wait for an offer to be emailed to you. It just works.
Lastly, this tab has a QR code and barcode scanner at the top. This allows you to scan a product at a store and find the best deal for it via a Google Shopping search. You’ll also be able to scan someone else’s barcode to send them money without ever needing to exchange phone numbers or email addresses.
The Insights Tab Tells You Where You’re Wasting Money
The rightmost tab, “Insights,” allows you to link your bank or credit card. This tab is similar to apps such as Mint and provides you a hyper-brief look at your finances. If you allow it to, Insights can crawl your Gmail inbox and Google Photos to look for receipts and integrate it within the Google Pay app.
Of course, Google is flexing its machine learning muscles here. With all the information that it gathers, you’ll be able to use natural language to do your searches. For example, you can search “Mexican restaurants” or “shirts” and get results that you wouldn’t find with your typical banking app. You’ll also be able to search for multiple terms at once if you’re having a tough time finding what you’re looking for.
Insights works with most standard checking and savings accounts, and debit and credit cards.
Google Plex Is Your New Bank
Google will also be partnering with a handful of banks in 2021 to fully integrate online checking and savings accounts into Google Pay. The new service is being called Google “Plex.”
Similar to how Apple’s Apple Card uses Goldman Sachs as a bank and the Wallet app on your iPhone as a front end, Google’s new checking and savings accounts will be using a partner bank and will use the Google Pay app to manage your account.
The company has partnered with 11 banks and credit unions and you’ll be able to choose which one you’d like to use. Through a leak (via 9to5Google), it looks like a few partners will include Citi, Stanford Federal Credit Union, SEFCU, BMO, and BBVA. Google says that you’ll have no monthly fees, overdraft charges, or minimum balances.
A new “Goals” feature will allow customers to set up repeating tasks such as moving money from one account to another and offer basic money management tools.
A Few Privacy Concerns
Of course, all these new features raise a few privacy concerns. Google says (via The Verge) that it won’t share or sell any of your data, including your transaction history, to third-parties for ad purposes. But, all of your data will be encrypted and stored on the company’s server so that you can search for your history if you need to.
The new “Explore” tab will need you to share your data with Google if you’d like personalized offers. And while this feature is opt-in, it acts as a “three month trial.” After the trial is up, you’ll be asked if you want to keep sharing your data or opt-out entirely.
All the new features are opt-in, so if you liked the way the app worked before, or you’d rather not have Google tracking any more than it should, you could theoretically disable the bits you don’t like.
Though the company has been dipping its toes in the digital wallet and financing game in the last few 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.