With a range of convenient cash-less payment options, shoppers tend to increasingly rely on debit and credit cards as their chosen transaction instruments. With online fund transfers and e-checks ruling the roost, the ever-innovative Google takes the lead in pushing technology to newer heights. Tap-and-pay technology has finally arrived and is here to stay.

Enter the Google Wallet, a new-age payment vehicle that turns your smartphone into an easy one-click payment interface. Using an advanced telecommunication system termed Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that facilitates short-range secure transmissions, Google Wallet allows a user-enabled smartphone to transmit secure credit card information to a receiver within a distance of 2 inches.

Google announced that the initial roll-out phase, sometime mid-September will apply only to PrePass-enabled Citi and MasterCards. Currently released to a select group of Android smartphones, Google Wallet equips Android users with the technology to pay for purchases minus cash or card. Merchants offering this service will also need appropriate hardware on the POS terminals. Shoppers with the Samsung Nexus S 4G, the only officially compatible release at the time of launch, can now walk into participating stores and use their phones to electronically transfer funds by merely touching their phones against a plastic sensor with a PayPass label at the billing counter.

Although quite limited at launch, Google is likely to extend the service package to non-Android phones and wireless carriers as well as other credit card companies. With time, the Wallet will also throw in a bundle payment suite with loyalty programs and promotions with in-store discounts for long-term customers.

While some critics expressed uncertainty about sending electronic payment transmissions over a potentially hazardous public interface, Google Wallet sets security concerns to rest with a to-layer protection via user-set PINs, making it as secure as online fund transfers. With the Wallet, Google hopes to make its offerings more consumer-focused by making the ever-handy smartphone into a virtual billfold.

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