Could Google’s NFC payment service be the white night for gift card customers?

Burried in this article (Bloomberg Business Week, Google’s Search for a Digital Wallet) about a payment service Google is experimenting with in Portland is an interesting tidbit that might bode well for gift card customers.

The idea behind this is that cell phones could contain a near-field-communication (NFC) chip (and some Android phones already do) that could talk to merchants cash registers and would act like credit card.  However, these chips could also store other information, such as loyalty card, coupons, and yes, gift cards.

What would make this really interesting however is if gift cards were automatically used (or at least presented) when you went to pay at a merchant.  This system, enabled in such a way, would solve three problems gift card holders currently face

  1. Losing the card
  2. Remembering to carry the card when visiting the merchant
  3. Remembering to use the card when actually carrying it

Gift cards are frustrating in all three of these ways and I have many times been carrying a card and forgotten to use it when at the issuing merchant.

Whether this is a big win for consumers depends on whether it is implemented correctly, and it doesn’t seem out of the question that gift card issuers could resist this system functioning in this way.