Google to offer bank accounts but Aussies may have to wait

Finance Journalist · 23 November 2020
We use Google for just about everything these days – from ‘Googling it’ when we need an answer to pulling up Google Maps to help us get from A to B. Soon, we might be using the tech giant for our everyday banking too.

The world’s most popular search engine has announced that it will start offering its own bank account, dubbed ‘Plex’, in the US from next year.

Google will be partnering with 11 banks and credit unions in the US, including Citi and Stanford Federal Credit Union, to offer the ‘mobile-first’ bank account. There’s no word yet on when (or if) the bank accounts will be offered in Australia at this time.

“People do almost everything on their phones today, but for many, the way they save, pay and engage with their bank has remained unchanged,” said Caesar Sengupta, the General Manager of Payments at Google.

“That’s why we’re working with trusted financial institutions to create Plex, a new mobile-first bank account integrated into Google Pay.”

Google has made it clear that this doesn’t mean it’s becoming a bank. Instead, the tech giant said it is teaming up with financial institutions and working within the existing banking ecosystem.

What will a Google bank account offer?

Here’s what we know about Plex Accounts so far:

  • Customers open a bank account within Google Pay: Customers will be able to activate their Plex Account directly within the Google Pay app. That being said, the customer’s money will remain with the banking partner.
  • Plex Accounts can be used for everyday banking and saving: Plex Accounts include checking accounts (known as transaction accounts in Australia) and savings accounts, Google says.
  • There will be no monthly fees: There will also be no overdraft charges or minimum balance requirements. This may be appealing for some Australians consumers if Plex ever does become available here. At the moment, about a third of transaction accounts in Canstar’s database charge monthly account keeping fees and over half charge unauthorised overdraft fees.
  • It will be a digital banking experience: This may put it in direct competition with neobanks (banks that operate purely online or through a mobile app). Like many neobank products, Plex Accounts will also utilise artificial intelligence (AI) to help customers manage their money and set savings goals. Citi, one of the banks who has partnered with Google, says its Citi Plex Account will offer AI-powered insights to create “an intuitive approach to goal planning”.
  • Customers will still be able to use some ‘physical’ features: Citi said Plex Account holders will have access to its US network of ATMs. Customers will also be able to get a physical debit card on request.
  • Google Pay features will still be available: Customers will be able to open their accounts within the Google Pay app and tap into its features. Google has just relaunched its Google Pay app, with the updates rolling out in the US at the moment.

The new version of the app will have three tab tabs: ‘Pay’, ‘Explore’ and ‘Insights’. The ‘Pay’ tab will let customers make contactless payments, as well as peer-to-peer (P2P) payments. The ‘Explore’ tab will round up offers available from stores, such as cashback offers.  The ‘Insights’ tab will give customers insights into their spending and the ability to search your bank accounts. Users will also be able to link to Google Photos to search receipts and Gmail to search bills and subscriptions. For example, a user could type in keywords like “Mexican restaurants” or “last month” to pull up specific transactions. These features will also be available to those who connect their existing bank accounts or cards to Google Pay.

Plex partners have said they will share additional features closer to the launch date. In the meantime, US customers can join the waitlist for a Plex Account on the Google Pay app.

Are Google bank accounts coming to Australia?

Plex Accounts will be offered in the US from 2021. Unfortunately, there is no word on when (or if) the bank accounts will be offered in Australia.

It’s not the first time a leading tech firm has made a foray into banking. Last year, Apple launched its own credit cards in partnership with Goldman Sachs in the US. Apple is also yet to announce plans for releasing the card in Australia.

Cover image source: Clay Bank (Unsplash).

This article was reviewed by our Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky and Finance Editor Sean Callery before it was published, as part of our fact-checking process.

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