Oops! American Express Never Agreed To Be Part Of Google’s Big Wallet Upgrade (Update: Google Responds)

Google announced a substantial update to its Wallet mobile payment service the other day, but it turns out the company may have been overstating things a bit.

According a post on Google’s Commerce blog, the service now plays well with all major credit card types, but a representative from American Express pointed out that the statement wasn’t entirely accurate. Users are free to load American Express cards into the Google Wallet app and use them for in-store purchases, but American Express never officially signed off on that deal.

“We want to make sure Google’s mobile wallet product meets the standards we set for our Cardmembers in terms of transparency and clarity about transaction detail,” AmEx social media VP Bradley Minor told me. “Right now, American Express does not have an agreement with Google for our cards to be used in the Google mobile wallet.”

Very curious stuff. Minor went on to say the two companies had engaged in discussions about working together, but they hadn’t yet locked up an official relationship. What’s more, American Express has the ability to forcibly shut down AmEx card support through Google Wallet should things end less than amicably. That’s right, if you’ve linked your AmEx card to your Wallet account, you should probably get your NFC-enabled kicks in now.

The big issue here seems to be how Google’s updated Wallet service handles those multiple credit card types. As it stands, in-store Wallet transactions are actually handled by a virtual MasterCard PayPass account locked up in the device’s secure storage area, and those transactions are subsequently passed along to whatever credit card account the user had actually selected. Not all of the pertinent purchase information (like the specific merchants the purchase was made it) is carried over along with purchase amount though, and American Express doesn’t like that.

As for why American Express was name-checked in the big announcement post, all’s quiet on the Google front. I’ve reached out for comment, and will update once I hear back.

UPDATE: Google has finally gotten back to me with an official statement on the issue, though it’s not the most satisfying thing you’ll ever read:

“For many years, we’ve accepted American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover for online and mobile transactions. The latest version of Google Wallet extends these same benefits to people who choose to use the Google Wallet app to make purchases in-store. We are in active discussions with American Express and look forward to working together as partners as the world embraces digital payments.”