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Pay with your phone online or in stores — no cards needed.
Just like Apple Pay for iPhone users, Google Pay is the digital wallet for Android users. Google Pay enables you to make purchases in-store, online and within apps without using your physical debit or credit card.
Alison Banney is the banking and investments editor at Finder. She has written about finance for over six years, with her work featured on sites including Yahoo Finance, Money Magazine and Dynamic Business. She has previously worked at Westpac, and has written for several other major banks including BCU, Greater Bank and Gateway Credit Union. Alison has a Bachelor of Communications from Newcastle University, with a double major in Journalism and Public Relations. She has ASIC RG146 compliance certificates for Financial Advice, Securities and Managed Investments and Superannuation. Outside of Finder, you’ll likely find her somewhere near the ocean.
What is Google Pay?
Google Pay is an app-based digital wallet that acts like your physical wallet, housing all your debit and credit cards as well as loyalty cards, tickets and coupons. You can use it to make contactless purchases in stores and online just like you would with your physical debit or credit card, except the app enables you to make these purchases using just your smartphone or Android device.
What happened to Android Pay and Google Wallet?
Android Pay and Google Wallet have been rebranded as Google Pay. Google launched Android Pay in 2015 but rebranded to Google Pay in early 2018 to avoid confusion. Now, all of Google’s digital payment features are under the one name: Google Pay.
How does Google Pay work?
Within the Google Pay app, you’ll see a tab titled “Cards.” This is where all your cards are stored, including your debit and credit card. In the same way that you can use your physical card to make contactless tap-and-go purchases in stores, you can use Google Pay to tap your smartphone on a the card reader without entering a PIN.
Using near field communication (NFC), the phone connects with the card reader when they’re held close together, allowing the payment to be processed.
Think of it like an invisible mini-bridge between your phone and the reader that allows the data to travel between each device. The chip within your device communicates to the chip within the card reader, sending messages back and forth via the mini, invisible bridge.
Where can you use Google Pay?
Google Pay is accepted at millions of places worldwide. You can use Google Pay at any stores that already enable tap-and-go payments.
You can also use Google Pay to make purchases in apps or online without entering your card information.
If you’re not sure if a particular merchant accepts Google Pay, just look for the Google Pay symbol or the contactless payment symbol.
Which devices support Google Pay?
Google Pay is supported by all Android devices that have the operating system 4.4 (KitKat) and above. You can also use Google Pay on a compatible Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch.
Google Pay is only available on Android devices and is not available on iPhones, Mac computers or Apple Watches.
How to set up Google Pay on your smartphone
Setting up Google Pay only takes a few easy steps, and you can start making contactless payments right away.
Download the app. Go to your Google Play Store and download the Google Pay app.
Add your debit or credit card. And start making payments.
How do I use Google Pay once it’s installed?
Once you’ve set up Google Pay on your smartphone, it’s easy to make contactless payments in stores without your card or cash. All you need to do is unlock your phone, hold it over the card reader and wait until you see a tick appear on the screen to let you know the payment was approved.
You don’t need to open the Google Pay app, and the whole process takes less than five seconds to complete.
If you’re making a purchase within an app or on a website, simply select the Google Pay option at the checkout. The app will use your default card details to pay for the transaction, without the need to enter in your details again.
Is Google Pay safe?
Yes, Google Pay is incredibly safe. In fact, Google operates one of the most advanced security systems in the world. When you use Google Pay to pay for things in-store, like your morning coffee, the app doesn’t share your debit and credit card number with the merchant. Instead it shares a unique encrypted transaction number along with a number specific to your device to validate the payment.
And if you lose the phone itself, you can simply lock it remotely from a web browser by logging into your Google account. Or, you can use your mobile banking app to lock your debit or credit card temporarily. So, Google Pay is actually safer than using your traditional debit or credit card in some ways.
How do I use Google Pay on my Android watch?
If Google Pay is supported on your smartwatch, the app will already be on the watch. Open the app on your watch and select the “Get started” option. You’ll then need to use your phone to add a debit or credit card to your watch. When done successfully, your card will appear within the Google Pay app on your watch. Note that you’ll need to set up a PIN for your watch in order for Google Pay to work.
You can now use the watch to make contactless payments in stores. Hover your wrist over the payment terminal, the same way that you’d use your phone or card to tap and go. However, unlike using Google Pay on your smartphone, when using your watch to pay, you do need to open the Google Pay app. You’ll feel a vibration from the watch when the transaction has worked.
Pros and cons of using Google Pay
It’s more secure than using your card or cash.
You can travel light without carrying a physical wallet.
You can use it to make purchases in-store, within apps and online.
You can use it on a large number of Android devices.
You need an eligible device — it doesn’t work on iPhones.
Not all banks offer Google Pay yet.
Compare accounts compatible with Google Pay
What are Apple Pay and Samsung Pay?
Apple Pay is the digital wallet offered by tech giant Apple, which is for iPhone users and other Apple devices including Apple Watch. Samsung Pay is exclusively for Samsung devices, although Google Pay will also work on a large majority of Samsung devices.
If you’ve got an iPhone or Samsung device, you can check out our Apple Pay or Samsung Pay guides to learn more about these digital wallet options.
Google Pay is best for Android users looking to cut down on wallet weight without sacrificing security. You’ll have the ability to make in-store, online and app purchases straight from your phone.
But it’s not available across all banks.
If you prefer another digital wallet that’s compatible with your device, you’ll want to keep looking. As always, compare your options when looking for digital wallets.
Frequently asked questions
No, Google Pay doesn’t charge customers fees.
Yes, you can send money to friends and family in the app — even if they don’t have the app.
Yes, you can save your gift card in your Google Pay wallet and use it in stores.
Compare other services that send money within the US
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