credit cards

The credit card of the future is almost here, but it isn't a card - it's your phone. On May 26, Google performed a demo of its new payment application, Google Wallet, launching the first of what is sure to be many such payment applications for the iPhone and other smartphones. Google Wallet is scheduled to roll out this summer and is expected to be followed closely by similar apps from Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and others.

"In the past few thousand years," announces the Google Wallet website, "the way we pay has changed just three times - from coins, to paper money, to plastic cards. Now we're on the brink of the next big shift." In addition to fast, easy payments with the tap of a phone, Google Wallet also offers the opportunity to receive and automatically redeem special offers and deals akin to the best credit card rewards deals.

Despite excitement about such a revolutionary credit card payment initiative, The New York Times "Bits" blog pointed out many of the difficulties with this new technology, such as limited access to the applications (which can only run on certain phones), restrictions on which credit cards can be used, and the slowness of merchants to update their systems to determine who can receive smartphone payments.

Google Wallet is subject to all of these limitations: For now, at least, the app is available only for the Nexus S Android phone and can only be used for payment transactions charged to Citi MasterCard or a prepaid Google card. However, it can be used at any merchant that accepts payments on the PayPass system.

Despite the restrictions, Google Wallet marks a huge step forward for credit card payment accessibility, and is doubtless a step toward the future of payments, promotions and security.