Google has announced that Gmail now can be used to send money, as well as request it. The new product does not require Gmail users to download any new software, and it works on any Android-powered smartphone or any computer that is connected to the web. Only the sender has to be on Gmail.
Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) says that Gmail recently passed the level of a billion monthly active users, so the new service has an extraordinary reach. For the time being, the service is only available in the United States.
According to Gmail management:
Recipients are able to receive or request money right from the email itself—without having to install another payment app. They can even arrange for money they receive to go directly into their bank account. Either way, it’s completely free for both of you.
The money is sent from the bank account of one user to another.
Banks usually charge fees for money transfers, so the new service threatens a lucrative bank service. Bank of America charges $3 for a wire from one of its customers to an external account. TD Bank charges the same fee, as does Wells Fargo.
Gmail management gave an example of the ease of the service:
You can already reliably and safely share photos and files on the go with Gmail. Starting today, you can share money, too. Whether you’re splitting a dinner bill or planning a group trip, you now have a fee-free way to work out the details and settle up without ever leaving the Gmail app on Android, just like you can already do on the web. Plus, you can exchange money with anyone—not just people with Gmail addresses.
While it is too early to forecast how widely the service will be used, a potential customer base of a billion is an obvious advantage.