Google Wallet launches with Visa, sort of

Some unusual phrasing in the official launch of Google Wallet (CP: Google Wallet expected to launch 9/19 for Sprint Nexus S users) suggests much behind-the-scenes swinging of elbows is taking place, as credit giants MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover work to remain front and center in the new world of mobile payments.

Image2A headline on the Google blog announced that Wallet had launched on Sprint “working with Visa, American Express and Discover,” though the post goes on to explain that Sprint Nexus S 4G owners can today begin tapping their phones to pay with their Citi MasterCard or a Google Prepaid Card, “which can be funded with any of your existing plastic credit cards.”

Presumably the existing plastic refers to Visa, Amex and Discover, though the post adds that the trio “have made available [to Google] their NFC specifications that could enable their cards to be added to future versions of Google Wallet.”

Visa followed Google’s news yesterday with its own release, announcing a licensing deal with Google regarding its NFC-based payWave payment technology that’s “currently accepted at hundreds of thousands of retail locations worldwide.”

Adding that the agreement “extends Google Wallet to Visa account holders worldwide,” the announcement — missing an operative “someday” — seemed to suggest that Wallet with Visa had also launched, though a closer reading reveals it to still be a work in progress.

Other than a bit of face, the delay is surely no great loss for Visa (or the others), given the minimal credit card “damage” achievable by Nexus S users alone. Plus, like everyone with an eye on the mobile payments pie, Visa has dipped in more than one finger for a taste, and with its June acquisition of Cape Town-based Fundamo and a new agreement with the Monitise banking app, it’s additionally aiming at developing markets.

“We envision solving very specific challenges like paying bills, buying train tickets or sending money to family or friends that today can take hours with cash,” Bill Gajda, Visa’s global head of Mobile Product, says in a video posted to the Visa blog. The Visa solution will work across numerous platforms and handsets, and presumably with countless carrier partners from Russia to São Paulo.

“When I think about mobile money,” Gajda offers in conclusion, “I think for the first time, the technology’s ready, the countries are ready and we have the opportunity to move the world from cash to electronic money.”

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