Mobile wallets are designed to make it easy to pay from a linked credit or debit card, but the process of using loyalty and gift cards can be a bit trickier. CashStar is working to take some of the pain out of this process for users of its gift card platform.

The mobile commerce vendor's efforts got a boost last week when Google added support for gift cards to its mobile wallet. To add a typical card, Google asks users to scan it with a smartphone's camera or type the account details into the Google Wallet app.

CashStar's process removes all of these steps. It lets consumers link a digital gift card to Google Wallet by clicking a "Save Gift to Google" button on the merchant's app. The gift card number, PIN and balance are saved to the user's Google Wallet account.

"CashStar has gone from a mobile-first to a mobile-everything view," says CashStar CEO Ben Kaplan. "Everything we do has mobile in mind, and CashStar needs to support all of these viable mobile wallet options."

Merchants will have control over the consumer data related to those cards in addition to receiving reports on consumer behavior and access to location data, Kaplan says.

"There are not a lot of companies like CashStar, so they are in a unique position to do a lot with digital gift cards in mobile wallets, and it certainly doesn't end with the Google Wallet," says Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.

CashStar may have to convince merchants of the branded digital currency concept, Riley says. Large retailers might be in the same wallet with a smaller retail shop that could steal customers when gift cards are redeemed, plus there would be costs to manage the digital products, he adds.

When redeeming a gift card through Google Wallet, the user accesses a bar code in the wallet app and presents that to the clerk at the point of sale. The clerk can scan the bar code or, if this can't be done, the clerk can type a 16-digit account number to accept the card.

"The more modern the POS, the better off for CashStar and the consumer," Kaplan adds. "But it is also good for the merchant to have modern equipment."

Enhancements in the redemption experience are coming through modern terminals, making the scanning of a gift card very fast and easy, Kaplan says. "The obligation for CashStar on behalf of our merchants and consumers is to embrace as many redemption options as possible."

The CashStar architecture allows it deliver digital gift cards to any mobile wallet or similar product. Consumers can also receive digital cards by email and print them out.

With this approach, CashStar can grow with the top mobile wallets or integrate into a scaled-back version such the new Visa Checkout online payment system, Kaplan says. Visa says it abandoned the "wallet" concept when designing Checkout, which replaces its alternative payment system.

"Visa is an incredible consumer brand, but it is a company that goes to market through other companies," Kaplan says. "That may change the way they think about having a wallet vs. a next-generation payment product like Visa Checkout, but another player's perspective might view that as another form of wallet."

Portland, Me.-based CashStar says its supports prepaid and digital gifting programs for more than 300 companies including Best Buy, Dunkin' Donuts, Petco, Starbucks and Home Depot.

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