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Image: Google

Google announced a significant expansion of its Google Pay service on Wednesday, adding peer-to-peer payments to its contactless payment system as well as a partnership with banks to incorporate banking and checking services next year.

Why it matters: Contactless payments can be a gateway to other financial services, as Apple has shown by expanding from Apple Pay to Apple Card.

Details: Google unveiled a bunch of new features for Pay, including:

  • Splitting a bill and other peer-to-peer transactions.
  • The ability to track spending and do other personal finance tasks, including searching for transactions by keywords such as "pizza" or "last month."
  • A new kind of mobile-first bank account, called Plex, in partnership with banks, coming in 2021.

Between the lines: Bankrate industry analyst Ted Rossman called the move "an ambitious play for a wide spectrum of consumers' financial needs."

  • "Because the Google Pay app is available for Android and iOS phones, this is going to heat up the competition between Google and Apple," Rossman said in a statement.

Yes, but: Some critics warned that the move could further entrench Big Tech's market power and influence.

  • "It is a nightmarish example of the ways monopolies like Google can bully their way into new industries and it will open the door to all kinds of abuse," said Graham Steele, Senior Fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project.

Go deeper

Banks cash in as Wall Street blows out Main Street

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America’s big banks capped off a winning year, led by soaring Wall Street-facing business lines.

Why it matters: Banks cashed in on the white-hot IPO market, record debt issuance, and sky-high trading volume — all of which played out as economic peril softened the consumer side of their businesses.

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.