Google Pay may add crypto cards to attract its 'Next Billion Users'

Google Pay Dec 21 Lifestyle
Google Pay Dec 21 Lifestyle (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • After abandoning its Plex banking plans with Google Pay, Google is hiring new executives and pushing a new strategy to compete with Apple Pay.
  • Google Pay will become a "comprehensive digital wallet" that focuses more on non-payment uses like vaccine passports.
  • Google has partnered with crypto companies for incorporating currencies into its digital services, but doesn't accept crypto payments yet.

Google Pay processed just 4% of contactless payments in the United States as of 2020, according to analyst Tom Noyes. And while Google had plans to offer Plex banking accounts directly through Google Pay, it abandoned those plans late last year.

Bill Ready, Google's president of commerce, told Bloomberg that "we have no intention of being a bank" and any efforts to the contrary were done "unwittingly." Instead, it has grander plans for becoming the "connective tissue for the entire consumer finance industry," which suggests it will partner with more banks over time.

Ready also told Bloomberg that Google Pay's future plans could include cryptocurrencies. "Crypto is something we pay a lot of attention to," he told the site. "As user demand and merchant demand evolves, we'll evolve with it."

For now, users can store their Bitcoin or other currencies on digital cards but cannot use crypto to pay for in-person transactions. Evidently, if enough companies start accepting crypto to justify Google building the infrastructure to process crypto payments, Google will start accepting it.

For now, Ready says, the company wants to pivot Google Pay to a "comprehensive digital wallet" for storing info like vaccine passports and tickets. The fact that Google renamed Google Wallet to Google Pay in 2018 makes this shift in priorities somewhat ironic.

As part of these new plans, Google Pay will receive a leadership shake-up. The company hired former PayPal executive Arnold Goldberg as Google Pay's new VP and general manager for its payments division. He will head a new initiative called "Next Billion Users" (NBU); you have to at least admire the ambitious branding for Google's New Year's resolution.

Google has also promoted engineer Peeyush Ranjan, who helped make Google Pay especially popular in India, as general manager for its more global efforts.

For now, Google Pay contactless payments will remain the same as ever, supported on a wide range of smartwatches. But its new leaders may make some flashy Google Pay announcements in the near future.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.

1 Comment
  • One thing I'd like to see Google bring to it's newest attempt at Google Pay would be to re-introduce the physical Wallet/Pay card. Give it its own NFC chip so I can tap it (just like the phone/watch), an EMV chip so I can also insert it, and for the time being at least, a magnetic strip so I can also swipe it. And partner with Visa and/or Mastercard to have it set up to function and be accepted as a normal debit card (drawing from my Pay account rather than my bank account) at kiosks that do not accept Google Pay natively. This could allow me to use Google Pay a lot more frequently. And while I don't mind tapping my phone when I'm at on of the few places that accept Pay payments, sometimes maybe having a credit card to use instead would be more optimal. For example, I'd be far less stressed about a >$2 credit card surviving a day at the beach than I would my $1,000 phone.... A little later tonight, I'll be going out for dinner. When we're done eating, the waitress takes our card from the table and goes to the bar in the other room to close our tab. I'd much rather hand her a card than my unlocked phone. And if we're out in a group, I'm sure she'd prefer to be handed a half dozen cards rather than a half dozen phones that she'd have to try to keep a hold of and make sure none timed out and locked up before she could make the payments. Or if you send your kid into the store to get supplies or whatever... "Here's my card, go get some milk & eggs!". They wouldn't have to worry about trying to keep the phone unlocked and/or know your code to unlock it. Regardless, having a backup never hurts. That's why even though you have plastic you still generally carry some cash.... You wouldn't have to worry about the card running out of battery power halfway through your night out... Or falling victim to a boot loop... or an app update crashing the system etc...