Guide to Google Pay

Mobile payment systems are a technology built for the consumer of the future — or, at the very least, for people who value the security and benefits of digital wallet systems. Google Pay, for instance, offers users distinct advantages over carrying around physical cards. Curious about the ins and outs of Google Pay? Below, we’ll explore how to use this payment system, the safeguards in place to protect your data and how it compares to other digital wallets.

What is Google Pay?

Before Google Pay was born, its services and functions were spread out over the Android Pay system and the Google Wallet app. Google merged these former products together in one uniform system – Google Pay. The Google Pay system allows mobile users to complete and track purchases using their phones and other mobile devices. You can also use Google Pay to send money to friends (within the U.S. and India) and digitally store boarding passes for flights or event tickets.

This payment system was engineered to hasten the checkout process, whether you’re using it to pay for goods or services in a physical store or online. Although it’s still less popular than its competition, Apple Pay, Google Pay boasts a variety of features, making it a convenient option at checkout whether you’re splitting a check at a restaurant or paying in-store for goods or services.

How secure is Google Pay?

Google Pay is very safe to use. It’s much more secure when compared to using your regular physical cards, which are vulnerable to skimming and other scams that can occur if your financial data is stolen. Google Pay leverages high-end encryptions to store your payment information, which is securely stored on Google’s servers. In addition to encryption, the app generates a virtual account number, a type of temporary alias, when you add a card. When you make payments, that alias is shared instead of your true account numbers.

To find your virtual account number, use the steps below:

  1. Open Google Pay.
  2. Tap “Payment.”
  3. Choose an available card.
  4. Scroll to the bottom to find the last four digits of your virtual account number. If you don’t see one, that means you still need to set up a payment card for in-store payments.

Before you add a card to Google Pay, you’ll want to set up a screen lock on your device. If you turn off your screen lock, the app automatically removes your virtual account number from your device. For most payments, you’ll be required to unlock your phone to complete them. With that said, there are a few small payments that you don’t need to unlock your phone to complete the transaction, typically for purchases $30 or under.

How to use Google Pay

Before you can start using Google Pay, you’ll need to set up the payment system on your phone. Luckily, this process only takes a few minutes. Download the Google Pay app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store if you have an iOS device (available for U.S. iOS users only currently). After it’s finished downloading, launch the app. You’ll be prompted to use your camera so you can scan your debit or credit card information. After your card or cards are scanned, they’ll be uploaded and ready to use.

Once you’ve completed those steps, you can use the Google Pay system in physical stores that accept mobile payments. You might need to turn on your phone’s NFC before being able to complete payments. NFC stands for “near field communication,” and most phones have this setting turned on automatically. 

Ask the merchant or teller to know for sure if they accept Google Pay. Then, simply tap and pay using the specified payment terminal sensor. To buy items in apps and websites, search for the Google Pay symbol. You can also use Google Pay to buy any Google products online.

Select transit agencies, websites and retailers accept Google Pay already, and the list is growing. Here are just a few:

  • Airbnb.
  • DoorDash.
  • Starbucks.
  • Instacart.
  • Trader Joe’s.
  • Walgreens.
  • Whole Foods Market.
  • American Eagle Outfitters.
  • Acme.
  • Fandango.
  • Kayak.
  • Las Vegas Monorail.

How Google Pay compares to other mobile wallets

Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are the three most dominant mobile wallets currently available to consumers. But other popular mobile payment systems include MasterCard PayPass, PayPal and Visa Checkout. The Google Pay system is very similar to other mobile payment systems and offers the same basic functions. All three systems allow payments without the need for photo IDs because the verification process happens on the actual device.

Apply Pay requires users to authenticate purchases with either a PIN, Touch ID or Face ID. Samsung Pay users are required to use either a PIN, fingerprint or iris scan to verify purchases. And with Google Pay, the device needs to be unlocked in order to verify a purchase. Because of this, Google Pay users should use a secure method to lock their device like a number, PIN, pattern, password or fingerprint scan.

All three mobile payment services offer ways to disable payments apps and remove all financial data from the phone if your device is lost or stolen. In addition, the payment apps all also create a unique token for purchases, verified by the card network, so the merchant never has access to your financial information. This eliminates the possibility of credit card skimming and other data-stealing methods.

Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay are all useful mobile payment systems, and the one that’s right for you depends on what device you use in your day-to-day life. Apple users have Apple Pay as the default digital wallet but can use Google Pay if they are in the U.S., while non-Samsung Android users can only use Google Pay (for example, those who have a Google phone). Samsung users have the option to use Samsung Pay or Google Pay.

In a nutshell

Mobile payment systems continue to grow in popularity. Industry forecasts suggest Apple Apple pay will be the leader in digital wallets in 2020 with 227 million users around the globe. Samsung Pay and Google Pay are also expected to see a growth of around 100 million users each in 2020. Whatever mobile payment you end up using, it’s a smart financial tool to adopt.

Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson is a San Diego-based writer specializing in the topics of personal finance, technology, and culture. You can find her writing on sites such as HP Tech Takes, The Simple Dollar, and San Diego Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys finding new cats to follow on Instagram.