For years PayPal has cornered the market on sending money to friends, family members, and businesses. Last week during the chaos of Google I/O announcements, Google took a first step toward giving PayPal a run for its money by making it possible to send money via Gmail. The feature is set to roll out to all users over the coming weeks, but if you know someone who currently has it, that person can send you money (a penny works) and after you've claimed the funds the new feature will be enabled on your account as well.
The service, which makes use of your Google Wallet account, lets you quickly send money to anyone with a U.S.-based e-mail address.
Secure your account
Since Google Wallet requires you to attach a bank account and other payment methods to your Google account, you're going to want to take the appropriate steps to keep your information secure. The last thing you want is someone accessing your e-mail account, but when that same account also holds your bank account information, you want to be doubly sure it's protected.
In order to protect your account, be sure to enable two-step authentication. After enabling this extra layer of security, you'll be required to enter your password as well as a six-digit code before you can access your account. The code can be sent to your smartphone via a text message, or you can view it using the Google Authenticator app. For complete instructions on setting up Google's two-step authentication, be sure to read CNET contributor Matt Elliot's tutorial.
Set up your Google Wallet
Once you've secured your account, you'll need to add payment information to your Google Wallet account. If you add a credit or debit card you'll be able to send money, and if you add a bank account you'll be able to transfer any received money from your Google Wallet account into your bank account. To add a form of payment visit Google.com/Wallet and log in to your Google account.
The first thing you'll see is the transaction history for your Wallet account. If you've purchased anything with Google Wallet, be it Android apps (both free and paid are listed) or devices from the Play Store or items from a third-party vendor that uses Wallet, you'll see it listed here. Add a bank account or credit card by clicking on the Payment Methods option on the right-hand side, and then click on "Add Credit or Debit Card" at the top of the page. Follow the prompts to verify your account and have the card added to your account.
Send and receive money
Now that you have a payment method added, you're ready to send and receive money, assuming your account has access. (Again, if not, if you know someone who has access, that person can send you an amount as small as a penny and your account will gain the feature.) To claim funds, you'll need to verify that you are you. You'll be asked a few questions such as your current address and the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Once you've claimed the funds, the money can take 24 hours to be made available in your Wallet account. From there you can either spend it through Wallet, or have it deposited in your connected bank account.
To send money once you have access to the feature, log in to your Gmail account and compose a new e-mail. Along the bottom you'll see a plus symbol that reveals various services -- one of which is the option to send money, indicated by a dollar sign. Clicking on the symbol will start the process of attaching money to your e-mail. Enter the amount of money you'd like to send, and which account you'd like to fund the transaction from. Enter the recipient's e-mail address, and a subject and body as you see fit, and hit send. The e-mail will then be sent to the recipient, with money attached, and they'll have to go through the same claim process outlined above.
This is a convenient way of sending money, and with no fees for using your Google Wallet balance or when transferring from a linked bank account. Also, right now there's no fee for using a debit or credit card while the service is initially rolled out, though after the introductory period, the fee will go up to 30 cents per transaction.