Google has just completely redesigned its Google Pay app in a bid to make managing your money easier than ever by giving you a bird’s eye view of your financials and spending habits. But it also wants to do this by becoming a banking middleman and turning your transaction history into a kind of Hangouts feed with connections as well as brands.
Google Pay, which originally launched back in 2015, already tracked information such as who you’ve sent money to and when. But the new Google Pay app creates a transaction feed between friends and businesses that looks a little like private text threads rather than a jumbled feed. From the home screen in the app, Google Pay users will now see their most frequent transaction interactions for both people as well as places like restaurants and retailers. Clicking on any of these icons will take you directly to a private, Google Hangouts-like feed of your transaction history—kind of like on Venmo, but with the ability to easily text, too.
The redesigned app will make bill-splitting a breeze, which is neat. Now you can use the app to create a kind of chatroom for people with whom you’d like to split a bill, and each person on the thread will be prompted to pay their share. This feed will feature a widget for who’s paid and who hasn’t as well as how much is owed until the bill is paid in full. As with your connections, the app will create private feeds of your past transactions with businesses while also surfacing rewards and offers in those threads.
Google Pay will also allow you to activate coupons and awards that will be automatically applied when you pay in-store or online, meaning you’ll no longer need to remember to input a discount code at checkout.
Lastly, Insights will give users a snapshot of the way they spent money by category with connected bank accounts and credit cards, as well as remind you when your individual bills are due—but you’ll need to allow the app access to your data to get the most out of this feature. You can also search for past receipts in the app; for example, when given permission, the Google Pay app can search your photographed receipts, linked bank accounts, and app transactions to pull up that information.
Basically, you’ll get out of the app what you’re willing to share, and some folks are going to be far warier about some of these features than others. The company stressed repeatedly during a presentation about the app overhaul that feeds about your spending are only visible to you. Google also said it will never sell your data to third parties or share your information with other parts of the company. But it will use the information you share to help keep you plugged into the Google ecosystem and create personalized offers.
Next year, Google will further blur the lines between data broker and bank when it launches Plex, a mobile-first bank account connected to Google Pay and offered through partnerships with banks and credit unions. Plex will offer checking and savings accounts without fees, overdraft charges, or balance minimums, the company said.
Just remember: Any time a service is free, you’re probably the product.