Is Google looking beyond NFC? Reportedly prepping plastic Wallet cards

UPDATED: Google (s goog) may be preparing to offer plastic Google Wallet cards, which will work with its existing online and mobile payment tool.

Google Wallet cardAndroid Police has a leaked version of Google Wallet sent by a tipster that shows information about an upcoming Google Wallet card, which connects to a Google Wallet account and can be used at traditional credit card point of sale terminals. The cards are pitched as a way to pay with Google Wallet at a location that doesn’t take NFC tap-and-go payments.

Now, we can’t verify the authenticity of the app or the screen shots from Android Police. I reached out to Google and a spokesperson declined to comment. And you could argue that an analog card isn’t in keeping with Google’s digital character. But the report makes some sense to me.

While Google has said it’s committed to NFC, it is also working to expand the uses for Google Wallet. It merged Wallet with Google Checkout, its online payment system a year ago and is now using it for payments online. And in August, it shifted Google Wallet to a cloud-based model, so it could directly support any credit or debit card. And today, Google announced Wallet is available for transactions on mobile websites. The company last week also said it was preparing a new version of Google Wallet and curiously asked users if they used an iPhone, which does not support NFC.

UPDATE: NFC Times also reported last month that Google was working on a co-branded payment card with Discover Financial Services though Google has not confirmed any details about the card. (original story follows)

Google Wallet cardGoogle has struggled with Google Wallet, getting an estimated 50,000-100,000 downloads of its app earlier this year. The problems stem from the fact it hasn’t gotten support from Verizon (s vz), T-Mobile and AT&T (s t), which are backing Isis, a rival mobile payment joint venture. Also, its dependence on NFC for in-store payment limits its reach to about 200,000  stores that have upgraded their hardware to handle contactless NFC payments.

If Google introduces a card — which would connect to a Google Wallet pre-paid balance or pre-loaded debit and credit cards — it can get around all of those limitations and hit millions of locations. And it also lends more credence to the idea that cards are not dead by a long shot, no matter how many next generation mobile payment tools we throw at it.

PayPal has made its pre-paid card a big part of its in-store payment initiative, which it will use as part of a big partnership with Discover next year. PayPal has pitched itself as more of a digital wallet, something Visa (s v) with, American Express (s axp) with its Serve product, and others are doing as well. Google Wallet could become more of a broader payment tool that uses NFC when available but lives in a lot of different forms, as an online tool for e-commerce transactions but also potentially uses QR codes, barcodes or other methods at certain physical stores. Google will still get its money from serving up offers and discounts.

The Andoid Police reports says that users can swipe their Wallet card and their default payment card on file will be charged unless users select a different source through the Google Wallet app. Users would get instant notifications of their transaction through the app. And they can still apply offers on card transactions. The Wallet is also getting additional features like the ability to withdraw funds from a wallet balance, send personal payments and also handle transit cards, according to Android Police.

There’s no information on when this would become available. And again, we have to wait to see if this report proves true. But it makes sense to me. Payments don’t take any one particular form. There’s no reason why Google Wallet couldn’t manifest in a card.

Images courtesy of Android Police