Google’s Mobile Payments Venture Heats Up With MasterCard, Citigroup

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) plans on enlisting a few heavy hitters in its attempt to turn mobile phones into wallets, according to the Wall Street Journal. MasterCard and Citigroup are on board with Google as it builds out a system using the near-field communications (NFC) technology that it has been talking about for several months as the key to mobile payments.

There are a couple of interesting things about Google’s approach, according to the report. One is that it’s not planning on taking a cut of each transaction, something that has been part of a tricky negotiating process between the payments industry and other mobile players as this market shakes out. The other is that Google would offer the credit-card companies a chance to target their advertising even more closely than at present and will also be able to get even more insight into consumer-purchasing behavior by helping to design the technology that offers users local deals or coupons.

Mobile payments are one of those classic tech industry ideas that sound like a sure thing but have taken a long time to get traction. Credit-card companies have tried to embed chips in their own cards but there’s a lack of excitement among both consumers and retailers, who would have to upgrade their systems to accommodate contact-less cards.

To that end, Google and its partners are also working with a company called VeriFone to help make sure retailers are able to get access to the proper reader technology. No time table was attached to the project in the report, but it’s going to take Google and its Android partners several more months at least to build enough Android phones with NFC technology to the point where this makes sense: currently only the Nexus S features such a chip.