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Google releases Wallet Card mobile payment device

The long-rumoured Google Wallet Card is now a reality. The search giant today launched its first physical payment card, with early support from MasterCard.

The piece of plastic serves as a prepaid debit card that allows access to the user's Wallet Balance at ATMs, banks, and anywhere MasterCard is accepted.

For now available only in the US, Google Wallet users who have passed the identity verification process will be prompted on the desktop site or via the mobile application to order a Wallet Card. Customers can expect a 10- to 12-day wait; once the card arrives, they can activate it online and begin swiping.

Google Card carries only as much money as is saved in the user's Wallet balance, so instead of actually replacing your billfold full of plastic, it serves as a pre-paid card.

Just hand the card to the cashier as you would any credit or debit card. If prompted at the point of sale, select "debit," then enter your Wallet PIN; if necessary, use the postal code associated with your Wallet's home address.

Google caps the card's spending limit at $5,000 (£3,109) per 24 hours, not counting cash withdrawals at ATMs or banks.

The search giant's NFC-based mobile payments ecosystem launched in 2011, promising the convenience of a smartphone-based system that allows users to leave their bulky wallet at home. This fall, updated versions of the Android and iOSGoogle Wallet app added loyalty cards to its lineup, making it easier to earn free tickets at the cinema or a no-charge pasty at the bakery.

The pioneering virtual payment system just got a boost in competition from the carrier-created Isis Mobile Wallet, which rolled out to AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile customers nationwide last week.

But its new Wallet Card will also go up against the all-in-one Coin card. Available now for pre-order, the slim device looks and acts like any of the cards in your wallet, but aims to condense that pile of plastic into just one device.

In fact, the iOS- and Android-compatible service was such a crowdfunding hit — Coin met its $50,000 (£31,089) campaign goal last week in less than 40 minutes — the company was inspired to announce additional features and make more Coins available for presale.

Users will not only be able to carry up to eight cards at a time on the digital card, but they can also receive alerts if the card is being fraudulently swiped, and lock the Coin onto one saved card, so it can't be changed by a merchant. Also, Coin can now work without being tied to a cell phone.

The $100 (£62.17) device is available now for preorder; early adopters can sign up to get their first Coin for $50 (£31.87).