Make secure payments with Google Pay


Since our last review, Google has combined its in-store, online, and person-to-person payment apps into a single offering called Google Pay. This app handles all your transactions instead of forcing you to use Google Pay Send for paying people and Android Pay for NFC. The app works on iOS as well as Android and the web, so it has broader appeal than Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Google Pay offers multi-location NFC payment and smart watch support, just like services from Apple and Samsung. Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash and Zelle do not. The only question you need to ask is: “Do I mind connecting another part of my life to Google?” If the answer is no, you will be well served by this easy-to-use, complete payment app. It's our Editors' Choice for mobile payment apps.

Google's payment app strategy has been a moving target in recent years. Firstly, there was Google Wallet, which also allowed you to pay for stores using NFC technology, à la Apple Pay. This feature was then removed and moved to Android Pay. (Google is moving toward downplaying the Android brand in favor of its own corporate moniker.) Along the way, we also saw Pay with Google and an experimental payment app called Hands Free. Fortunately, all this confusion is now in the past.

How to set up Google Pay

When you open Google Pay for the first time, the Android Pay app disappears. If none of these apply to you, you can still download the app from the Play Store or Apple App Store.

When setting up Google Pay, you can choose to make it the only NFC payment app on your Android phone. So if you use PayPal, Venmo, or Samsung Pay, these apps will no longer work at points of sale. As you might expect, Apple doesn't allow third-party apps to access NFC payments, so on this platform your only option is Apple Pay.

If you have already entered a card in Android Pay, it continues without further action in Google Pay. But if you've already entered payment information for Google Payments, the Play Store, or other Google services, it doesn't carry over to Google Pay. Like most payment apps, Google Pay lets you use your phone's camera to take a photo of your card to make it easier to enter your payment source information. A surprise in this round of testing: you can use PayPal as a funding source for your Google Pay account!

Pay with Google

Unlike Apple Pay, Google Pay only works if your phone is unlocked, but you can also set it to require biometric verification, like you can with Apple Pay, PayPal, and Samsung Pay. With Google Pay, you unlock your phone and take it to the point of sale, and your payment takes place without any additional action (unless it's a large purchase that requires a signature) With Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, you You don't need to unlock your phone, but for payment to go through, you must use a biometric login or PIN to complete the transaction.


My experience with Google Pay at a local grocery store was smooth as silk. As the help says, “just unlock your phone and hold it to the terminal until you see a check mark. You don’t even need to open the app.” It was easier than paying with Apple Pay on a recent iPhone, which requires holding the phone close to your face and double-clicking the side button — something that requires more dexterity than the simple Google Pay process.

Google Pay Add-ons

The app's Home tab shows a feed of offers, recent payments, and (if you're on an Android device) local stores that let you pay with it contactlessly. The iOS app is a little more efficient, with just three tabs on the interface, ditching the Send tab in favor of showing profile circles for contacts you've previously sent at the top of the home screen.

The Payment tab is where you can not only add payment cards, but other payment methods as well, including PayPal and Visa Checkout.

Another option is to link your account to Visa Checkout, a PayPal clone that allows you to pay on websites. You can also use Google Pay to pay on certain apps, like Airbnb and Fandango. But I found that the list is missing some large apps that require payment, such as Amazon and eBay.