By Andrew R. Johnson
Discover Financial Services (DFS) is making it easier for its credit-card customers to use Google Inc.'s (GOOG) new pay-by-phone service.
The Riverwoods, Ill., lender said Thursday it is adding a feature to its online account website that will let customers click a button to have their credit cards automatically loaded into the Google Wallet software application.
The app, which turns certain Android smartphones into payment devices, allows users to make purchases at participating retailers by tapping their phones against special payment terminals instead of swiping a plastic card.
"Our cardholders regularly use their Discover card to make purchases and payments online, in store and now more frequently through their mobile devices," Sanjay Gosalia, director of mobile for Discover, said in a statement.
Discover is the sixth-largest credit-card issuer based on spending and operates a payments network that competes against Visa Inc. (V), MasterCard Inc. (MA) and American Express Co. (AXP) to process transactions.
All four companies are testing a variety of new services aimed at turning consumers mobile devices into credit-card replacements in hopes of growing their transaction volume.
Research firm Gartner Inc. in May said it estimated the value of mobile-payment transactions would reach $617 billion world-wide by 2016, up from $105.9 billion in 2011.
Discover's move follows Google's announcement earlier this month that it had updated its mobile-wallet app to allow consumers to add any credit and debit card to the software to fund purchases. That tweak allows customers to go to a website to register their cards for the service. Google's initial plan was to work with individual banks, which then would help enroll their customers in the service; however, the company realized this method could take too long.
Google had announced only one bank partner, Citigroup Inc. (C), since launching Google Wallet last year. As such, consumers had been limited to adding certain MasterCard-branded cards issued by Citi.
To use Google Wallet, a consumer must have an Android smartphone that contains a technology called near field communication, or NFC, which allows for the transfer of information from the phone to a payment terminal.
Google said earlier this month the service is compatible with six smartphones, which can be used at more than 200,000 U.S. locations.
The Internet giant's recent shift in strategy wasn't welcomed by everyone in the payments industry, though.
A day after Google announced the new process for loading cards to its digital wallet, American Express said it didn't have an official deal to be part of the service and is reviewing the application to determine if it meets its standards.
The credit-card company has the ability to turn off the use of its cards in Google Wallet at any time, a spokesman for American Express previously said, though it hasn't done so at this time.
"We're in discussions with them," Ed Gilligan, vice chairman of American Express, said during an investor presentation last week. "There are some concerns there, a little bit on information but a lot about clarity and transparency to our cardmembers."
American Express, like its competitors, is promoting its own digital wallet called Serve, a service similar to eBay Inc.'s (EBAY) PayPal that lets customers fund accounts with existing credit, debit and checking accounts, including those from other card issuers.
Write to Andrew R. Johnson at email@example.com
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