This past weekend I had the opportunity to take Google Checkout for a test drive. If you’re not familiar with Google Checkout, it’s an online payment system that lets you track your purchases from a wide variety of merchants all in one place. Google Checkout is tied to your Gmail account — you do have one, don’t you? In order to use the service, you just shop as you normally would, and then choose Google Checkout when it comes time to pay. Since you pre-load your payment info into the Google interface when you set up your account, all you have to do is login and confirm your payment.
One nice feature of the service is that they allow you to keep your e-mail address confidential — i.e., rather than giving your address to the merchant, Google will forward messages from the merchant, and you can shut off unwanted e-mails. Another nice feature is that they’re currently offering $10 off $30 at a number of merchants (including Timberland.com, where I bought some new hiking boots using a 50% off coupon which was stackable with the Google discount), and $20 off $50 at some merchants (including Buy.com; thanks Cap) just for trying Google Checkout.
Google Checkout might also be worth checking out (no pun intended) if you receive payments online… Their fees are $0.20/transaction + 2%, which is considerably better than PayPal’s $0.30 + 2.9% fee, especially for larger transactions. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you have to send an invoice in order to get money — you can’t just give someone an e-mail address and expect to get your cash.
Another big difference between Google Checkout and PayPal is that Google Checkout only serves as a conduit for payments, such that money goes straight into your bank account rather than landing in a standalone account (as is the case with PayPal). Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on your perspective. It’s not all that surprising, though… Google is know for their lightweight, uber-efficient interfaces.
Overall, I liked the user experience, and I also like the fact that I can log back in over at Google and see all of my purchaes in one place.