When I turned eight, my grandmother presented me with an oxblood-red leather wallet. Inside, was a fresh, crisp $1 bill that my grandmother included “to start me off,” an arsenal of my Dad’s long-expired charge cards and a hand-drawn “driver’s license” allowing me free pass to ride my 3-speed on any street in my neighborhood.

Over subsequent decades, that leather wallet evolved into a collection of electronic bank accounts, online payment systems and an agglomeration of random passwords. While I no longer have the wallet, I do still have that $1 bill… and I am going to tell you how I am going to give it to you.

As a self-professed technology and online transaction junkie, I recently tested a new feature in Gmail that lets the sender “attach” money to an email and send it to any recipient:

  • The “attach money” feature works in the Gmail compose window as a new button.
  • Address an email to a recipient like normal and then, just like attaching a photo or document file, click on the “[$]” button to enter the amount to be sent.
  • Sending the email sends the money.
  • Recipients have to have Google Wallet accounts. But if they don’t, they are lead through a few simple steps to set themselves up to access and/or move the balance to their bank accounts.
  • The recipient doesn’t need a gmail.com address, however, to claim money. Any email address will work.

It could be a game changer. The money transfer uses the same payment exchange system as Google Wallet, Google’s electronic payment system, and it’s free for both the sender and recipient if the originating source of funds comes from a bank account or Google Wallet balance. If the sender chooses to use a credit or debit card as a money source, instead, they would be charged a minimum 30¢ fee or 2.9 percent of the transaction (whichever is greater) to offset interchange. (Receiving money is always free – which is the direct opposite of the PayPal model.)

Not that I need new ways to spend and send money, but this new product could evolve to become a staple in my financial arsenal. Here’s why:

  • I love the ubiquitous ease of email… versus needing to log into a website or open a special app to transfer money.
  • My recipient can deposit the money into a bank account or use it to pay for purchases anywhere that accepts Google Wallet.
  • It works. It’s cheap. It’s fast – and kind of fun.

The “attach money” function in Gmail will make competitors, such as PayPal, sit up and take notice. PayPal has 100 million user accounts, and there are over 400 million Gmail accounts… a potentially dominating user base.

The Gmail “send money as attachment” feature works in all modern mainstream browsers when you log into Google. It won’t work in native mail applications, such as Outlook, Apple’s desktop Mail or Apple’s iOS Mail app on iPhone. Curiously, it also does not work in the current Gmail iPhone app. It is, however, well-supported on newer Android phones – and offers those Android users who have point-of-sale tap-and-pay NFC technology built into their device a complete transaction suite of financial tools at their fingertips.

So, back to that dollar.

Right now Google is rolling out the ability to send money from Gmail to users at an e-x-c-r-u-c-i-a-t-i-n-g-l-y slow pace. You sign up and wait a few weeks, or you can access it immediately if someone sends money to your email account. Don’t have access? Want it soon? Let me know, and I’ll send you (and the first 50 people who ask before September 20, 2013) a dollar to “start you off.”

This latest Gmail feature brings us closer to a day when Google could literally “own” all aspects of an individual’s personal purchase behavior. From online and retail transactions to electronic payments and transfers, the physical wallet’s days may very well be numbered.

Sorry, Grandma.