The days of digging out one of numerous plastic loyalty cards may well and truly be a thing of the past, if the new version of the Google Wallet app takes off as anticipated.

The American multinational powerhouse has this afternoon (Tues) announced that it has introduced a new version of the Google Wallet app, which it is rolling out this week to all Android phones (version 2.3 and higher). The updated app is designed to help users easily send money on the go, store all loyalty cards, save money through offers, and view all Google Wallet activity in one place.

Director of product management for Google Wallet, Peter Hazlehurst, said with the Google Wallet app, users can easily and securely send money on-the-go to any friend in the US with an email address (over 18s only).

“With the new Google Wallet app, you can leave all your plastic loyalty cards at home and carry them on your phone,” Hazlehurst said.

“To add your cards, simply scan the barcode or input the card number into the app. The next time you’re at the store, you can earn points for your loyalty programme by scanning the app at checkout.

“You can also easily join new programmes like Alaska Airlines, Belly, and Red Mango within the Google Wallet app. For these merchants, you can view your loyalty status, rewards point balance and in the coming days, Google Now will notify you when you have a saved loyalty programme nearby.”

More Merchants & More Offers to Come

Hazlehurst said users will soon be able to choose from even more programmes including Avis Car Rental, BJ’s Restaurants, Cosi, Hard Rock International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, Raley’s, and The Body Shop.

In addition to loyalty cards, users can also carry and use offers with the Google Wallet app. Regardless of whether the offer was found in the Google Maps app, Google Search, Google+ or Google Offers, they will be visible and redeemable in the Wallet app at checkout.

Later this week users will also be able to save offers on select merchant and couponing sites such as Valpak. Google Wallet users need only show the offer on the app at checkout to redeem it.

Hazlehurst said it is also free to send money directly from a user’s bank account or Google Wallet Balance, and ‘low fees’ apply when using a linked credit or debit card. Once a user sends money with the Google Wallet app, they will also get early access to sending money in Gmail from their desktop while Google continues to roll out the feature broadly to Gmail users.

A ‘Transformative Force’

Hazlehurst stressed that Google Wallet transactions are monitored 24/7 for fraud and if a phone is lost, the owner can remotely disable the Google Wallet app online anytime.

While Google is working to get Google Wallet in more places, as of now the app is only available in the US.

US business Urban Airship, which earlier this year launched its own ‘wallet studio’, allowing business users to create, launch and manage digital wallet campaigns and programmes seamlessly for both Apple Passbook and Google Wallet, said today’s news will be a ‘transformative force’ in driving global adoption of digital wallets among brands and consumers.

The company’s chief executive officer, Scott Kveton, said the app could have a massive impact on marketers, businesses and the way people shop and store loyalty cards.

“As a Google Wallet partner, we’ve worked closely with brands to enable new capabilities it will support, including demonstrating its first loyalty programme integration with Alaska Airlines,” Kveton begins.

“Today brands across the world can revitalise their loyalty programmes by gaining a dynamic presence on the one thing consumers never leave home without – their smartphones and through time and location-based alerts offered by wallet platforms (as well as push notifications) make the 34% of plastic-based reward points that go unredeemed and expire, a thing of the past.

“The broad distribution, advanced discoverability and streamlined sign-up processes offered by Google Wallet will deliver a tremendous boost to loyalty programme enrolment, and cross-platform digital wallet management solutions like Urban Airship Wallet Studio make it easier than ever to create tangible experiences that reward your very best customers.”

Kveton said in the near future, people will only need to remember one thing –  their mobile device (and perhaps their house keys), leaving other forms of identification, payment and rewards cards at home.

“In this new world of mobile-empowered consumers, the stakes just got much higher for brands taking a wait-and-see approach to mobile loyalty,” he said.

Consumers can also scan physical cards to add them to Google Wallet and use Google’s ‘search for merchant’ feature to easily discover available cards and programmes from their favourite brands.

Hong Kong Co’s Loyalty Scheme Venture

Mobile wallet-focused  2012 startup PassKit, which was founded in Hong Kong, only yesterday announced its new Apple Passbook innovation – CHOPpass.

Acting as the digital format of a loyalty stamp card, users scan or click a link to add their personalised CHOPpass to Passbook or PassWallet. Once the customer has collected enough stamps, the CHOPpass automatically delivers the reward.

But with today’s news from Google, can anyone really compete?

Did you see PI’s news story on Tradedoubler’s digital wallet venture? Mobile Wallet Venture is ‘Industry First’ for Performance Marketing Network