Google beefs up Wallet security, opens to any credit or debit card

Google(s GOOG) added a much-needed feature to its mobile payment product Google Wallet on Wednesday: users can now use it to charge something to any credit or debit card they own. In addition, Google has beefed up payment security by storing card information on remote servers and has added a new remote disabling feature in case the device with Google Wallet is lost.

Any credit or debit card issued by Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover in the U.S. can now be registered with Google Wallet. When it launched, you could only connect Google Wallet with a Citibank MasterCard, or buy a prepaid Google card.

Google explained how the process will work in a company blog post:

When you shop in-store, you can use Google Wallet in conjunction with your selected credit or debit card for purchases (more info here). Shortly after making a payment, you’ll see a transaction record on the phone with the merchant name and dollar amount. You can now view a history of all your in-store and online purchases from the online wallet.

Google has also changed how it stores credit cards — the Wallet info is now in the cloud, as opposed to on the phone. So when you register, say, your American Express card number with Google Wallet, you’re actually paying with a virtual prepaid card from MasterCard, which is stored in the secure area of the phone. That virtual prepaid card is actually funded by your American Express card — or whatever card you choose to use, and you’ll see the charges show up there.

And just in case the phone is lost, users can visit their online Google Wallet account and disable it, and Google will stop authorizing any charges made after that.

Google Wallet payments are accepted at 200,000 locations, but the list of devices equipped to handle these payments still very short: Galaxy Nexus, LG Viper, LG Optimus, HTC Evo 4G, Samsung Galaxy S III, and most recently, the Nexus 7 tablet. However, being on the Galaxy S III is looking like a good strategy for introducing Wallet to a large audience: Samsung has sold 10 million of the Android smartphones in just under two months.