Google reportedly in talks to buy mobile-payments company Softcard

The Internet giant could be hoping to take another stab at going head-to-head with Apple, Amazon, PayPal, Square and a slew of other tech giants looking to grab a slice of the payments pie.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Google may be making another push in mobile payments. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

Google may be stocking its war chest to compete with Apple in mobile payments.

The Internet giant is reportedly in talks to acquire Softcard, a company that helps people to pay for things using their mobile devices, according to reports by TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal. The deal for the payments company -- a joint venture between carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile -- is said to be for less than $100 million.

Both Google and Softcard declined to comment on the possible sale. "We don't have a comment, background, deep background, off-the-record steer, nod, wink or any other verbal or nonverbal response to these sorts of rumors," a Google spokesperson said.

The buyout would mean a more aggressive push from Google to compete in mobile payments. The technology has been a favorite of Silicon Valley companies hoping to expand beyond their roots selling devices or services and into the lucrative financial industry.

PayPal, one of the most successful payments companies, was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. Since then, companies large and small, ranging from Amazon to Facebook to the startup Square have all tried to become a go-to service for payments, particularly on the Web.

Even Apple fielded its effort, called Apple Pay, in October. Less than 72 hours after its debut, 1 million credit cards had been used on the service.

Tech giants like Apple and Google have good reason to invest in payments. By 2019, consumers will buy $142 billion worth of goods using mobile-payments services, up from $52 billion in 2014, according to Forrester Research.

From plastic cards to digital bits
Google was one of the first companies to offer mobile payments, with a service called Wallet, but the offering failed to gain traction with consumers.

Wireless companies responded with their own service called Isis, a reference to the Egyptian goddess. But when militants began using the same moniker as shorthand for the militia the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" last year, the company rebranded itself as Softcard.

The service has still struggled to catch on. The company is said to have laid off more than 60 people last week, while consolidating its organizational structure. Softcard said it's taking steps to reduce costs and strengthen its business.