We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.
Have you ever gotten to the front of the grocery checkout line with a full cart only to realize you left your wallet at home?
This is exactly when mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay come in handy. Even if you didn’t forget your wallet, Google Pay can make it easier to split the bill at a restaurant or take extra precautions to avoid germs on payment keypads during the pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know about Google Pay:
What Is Google Pay?
Google Pay is a mobile wallet similar to Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, and is most accessible for Android users since, in 2018, Google introduced Google Pay as a revamp of both its legacy Google Wallet payment system and Android Pay.
A recent Mastercard survey found that 79% of users globally are now using contactless payments — including tap cards and mobile wallets (like Google Pay or Apple Pay).
You can use Google Pay to pay for items when checking out online, making purchases in stores that accommodate contactless payments, to pay for in-app purchases on your phone, or to send and receive payments with others.
To use Google Pay (or any contactless payment method) in-store, make sure the retailer has a contactless-enabled point-of-sale system. Look for a sideways WiFi icon, or the Google Pay logo near the card reader. As long as the merchant has a contactless-enabled register, you’ll generally be able to transact using Google Pay, Apple Pay, other mobile wallets, or contactless credit cards.
One big caveat of Google Pay is that in-store contactless payments are only available on Android devices. If you have an iPhone, you can use the app for online or peer-to-peer payments, but you won’t be able to tap-to-pay at checkout using Google Pay. However, you can still make contactless payments where accepted using other mobile wallets or a contactless credit card.
How Does Google Pay Work?
Many Android devices come with the Google Pay app pre-downloaded. If you don’t have it, or have a non-Android device, you can download the Google Pay app. You’ll be prompted to enter account information for a debit or credit card, which will be the method you use to pay for items with Google Pay. You can add multiple cards, and easily take a picture of the card information to add them to your account.
You’ll also need to verify your card details, which you can do in a few different ways:
- A verification code sent by email or text
- Calling your bank or issuer to get your code
- Allowing a small, temporary charge to be made on your account and verifying the charge in your app
- Signing into your card account and verifying your payment method
After you verify your cards, they’ll be loaded to your Google Pay account and you can begin using Google Pay to make purchases. The system also offers insights on your spending patterns and gives you suggestions of where you can save money.
You can also link a bank account to Google Pay to use with the app’s peer-to-peer payment feature. You won’t be able to use those bank account details to purchase items in the app or tap-to-pay at retailers.
Is Google Pay Safe?
Mobile wallets like Google Pay offer security measures including multifactor authentication and tokenization to ensure your payments are secure.
When you make a payment using your mobile wallet, you’ll have to confirm using a secure PIN or biometrics associated with your device, like facial or fingerprint recognition (your iPhone’s FaceID, for example).
And when you upload a card as a payment method in the Google Pay app, Google protects that card against fraud by using virtual account numbers, or tokenization. That way, merchants won’t receive your real card number when you check out online or in-store. Instead, they’ll receive stand-in information from Google, while your payment details are saved on a secure server using strong encryption.
Google Pay also helps identify phishing and fraud risks whenever you send or receive money on the app by verifying that any payments are sent or received only from your contacts. If you’re trying to send or receive payment from someone not in your contacts, Google Pay will require extra confirmation and verification before letting the transaction through.
How Much Does It Cost to Use Google Pay?
Google Pay is a free mobile app. You won’t pay any additional fees for using Google Pay to make purchases.
If you have money in your Google Pay account that you’d like to transfer out, you may incur transfer fees. Transfers are free to linked bank accounts, but you’ll pay 1.5% or $0.31 (whichever is higher) to transfer money to a debit card.
What is Google Pay Send?
Google Pay Send is the peer-to-peer payment feature of Google Pay that allows you to send money and get paid by others, similar to Venmo or Zelle. You can also split expenses for a group, and Google Pay will keep track of who owes what.
Google limits the amount of money you can send with this feature. You won’t be able to send more than $10,000 in a single transaction or within seven days.
To use Google Pay Send, you’ll need to connect a debit card or bank account to your Google Pay app — you cannot send or receive money using a linked credit card.
Can You Earn Rewards with Google Pay?
You can earn cashback rewards when you activate offers from different businesses and then use Google Pay to make purchases online and in stores. This works similarly to cashback sites like Rakuten or discounts you receive through your credit card issuer, like Amex Offers. You can see popular offers when you open your app:
Once you activate the rewards in your app, they’ll automatically apply when you use Google Pay and your linked payment method to make the purchase.
You’ll also still receive any rewards you would typically earn with your credit card when you spend in eligible categories using Google Pay or any other mobile wallet. These rewards are based on merchant category codes, which don’t change when you tap-to-pay instead of swiping.