Sorry, You Can’t Buy Nexus Devices With Your $350 Google Play Store Credit

You can’t buy this.

Michael’s plan seemed like a really great idea at the time he hatched it. He wanted to make sure that he would have the money for a Nexus 4 set aside, so he purchased $350 worth of credit for the Google Play store. The phone’s available for sale there, so this made perfect sense. Until the phone actually launched. When he could finally get through to place his order, he learned that Play Store credit specifically couldn’t be used on Nexus devices. Oh, no.

He posted this rant on (where else?) Google Plus.

Through and through I am a gadget freak. I love playing with the latest mobile technologies and occasionally writing or modifying software to fit my needs. I also love Google and Nexus products. When I saw the Nexus 4 was going on sale I was just about broke so I wanted to make sure I had the money set aside to buy one.

So what did I do? I bought $350 in Play Store credit. The device is for sale on the Play Store, and there is nothing on the device page which specifies that that store credit cannot be used in the purchase of a device.

My first horrible disappointment was trying to buy the Nexus 4 16GB model. Like many other potential customers I tried to purchase but could never get past the shopping cart due to server errors. I actually spent somewhere around 15 – 20 minutes trying to get to the point I could purchase only to have the device removed from my cart and the status switched to “Coming Soon”.

My second disappointment was decided to try and purchase a Nexus 7 32GB HSPA+ tablet for my wife. When it became available again this morning I decided to use my Play Store balance to buy it. Here is what I received on checkout:

Google Play Balance $350.06 – Unsupported Payment Method (entire line was greyed out)

After talking to the Play Store support team they told me that I would need to contact customer service for the gift cards at 1-855-466-4438. Before calling I looked at the terms of service I was able to find. They are as follows:

Devices on Google Play Terms of Sale: “To place an order, you must have a Google Wallet account.” Every purchase I’ve made through the Play store has used Google Wallet for checkout, so how is the average consumer supposed to know the difference between a Play Store balance and Google Wallet?

Google Play Gift Card Terms of Service: “Google Play Gift Cards must be redeemed toward the purchase of eligible products on http://play.google.com.” Has anyone been able to find a listing of which products are eligible? I spent half an hour looking this morning, and I have yet to find this information on their site.

When I called the customer service line for the gift cards they told me that this was a known issue that has been reported starting about five days ago and the terms of service state that you cannot buy a device using the Play Store balance. Really now? Per my research on the site there is nothing that specifically excludes devices. And the worst part of this call? They have no ability to refund me for the balance!

I’m not actually looking for a refund. What I want is to use that money to buy some devices. I want a Nexus 4 16GB for myself and a Nexus 7 32GB HSPA+ tablet for my wife. Eventually I would like to replace my Nexus 7 16GB with an HSPA+ version, but I just don’t have the cash for it right now. I don’t care about getting a refund; I care about getting these devices.

So where I am sitting currently is with $350 in the Play Store and no ability to purchase a device. Per the customer support agent this is being “looked into” and “escalated” so I will supposedly hear back from them next week before Thanksgiving. I’m just wondering how many others out there are in the same position, and whether making this problem a little more visible on Android sites would help that “escalation” process.

Hey, Google, your customer wants to give you some money in exchange for a hot new product. Yeah, you already have that money, sitting in the account, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a happy new Nexus 4owner walking around, rather than a sad prospective Nexus 4 owner complaining on your social networking site? Thought so.

Update: One reader wrote in to point out that customers can’t use iTunes/App Store credit to buy iDevices. No, that’s true, they can’t, but that’s not a fair comparison: you can’t buy devices through iTunes, but the Nexuses (Nexi?) are for sale in the Google Play Store.