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What is Google Pay? Here’s what you need to know

Steven Winkelman
google pay

Google has made online payments a whole lot easier. In February 2018, the company announced it’s combining all of its different payment methods into one unified brand, called Google Pay. The Android Pay app is now being rebranded to Google Pay, and the Google Wallet app is now called Google Pay Send. Eventually, the Google Pay app will also have peer-to-peer transactions, allowing users to send and receive money.

Here is everything you need to know about Google Pay, including the places and banks that support it.

Google Pay may soon use QR codes for peer-to-peer payments

Google Pay is already a great way to send money to your friends, but it looks like Google is considering adding a new feature that may add sending payments a little easier for some. According to a new report from XDA Developers, Google is set to add QR codes as a way to initiate a peer-to-peer payment. The option will reportedly show up in the “Send” tab of the app. As the report notes, it’s unlikely that the feature will be easier than simply picking a contact from your contact list, but if you need to send money to someone you just met, it could come in handy.

Google is rebranding Tez to Google Pay

Google launched Tez as a payment service in India around a year ago — but now it looks like the company is giving Tez yet another big push. Part of that includes the rebranding of Tez to Google Pay, bringing it in line with Google’s other payment services. Beyond that, however, Google reportedly wants to turn Tez into a fully featured app that can be used for everything payment-related in India.

When Tez launched, it was largely aimed at bank-based payments but Google soon added bill and utility payments to the service. Now, according to a report from Economic Times, Google will add features for retail payments, both online and offline, and micro-loans, putting the service in competition with the likes of ZestMoney. For that, Google partnered with a number of local banks, including HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Federal Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank, which will give customers “pre-approved” loans through the app in a matter of a few seconds.

Google also plans on expanding Tez (now Google Pay) to other regions. Basically, that will mean adding features from Tez to Google Pay in other parts of Asia, which will require new partnerships and localizations.

Google Pay Send is now part of Google Pay

Google Pay and Google Pay Send users in the U.S. no longer need two apps for all of their contactless payments. Google Pay now allows you to make peer to peer payments directly from the app.  If you’re outside the United States you’ll need to continue using Google Pay and Google Pay Send separately for the time being.

Google Pay now stores boarding passes and tickets

First announced at the 2018 Google I/O conference, Google Pay now allows you to store mobile boarding passes and event tickets within the app.

Currently only a handful of companies, including Southwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Eventbrite, Ticketmaster, and FortessGB, are participating in the rollout, however you should see many more firms add the feature in the coming months.

To store passes or tickets in Google Pay you can either select the “Send ticket to my phone” option from participating websites or elect the same option via email from companies that support Google Pay Tickets. If you want to access your tickets, just tap on the Passes tab.

PayPal expands Google support

Users have been able to use PayPal to pay on Google Pay for some time now, but PayPal is continuing to make things easier for Google-bound users in the U.S.

On May 24, 2018, PayPal announced that registering your PayPal account with any one of Google’s services would seamlessly allow users to access that same account on Google’s other services, without needing to set up the account’s details on those other services.

what is google pay paypal

This means that if you set up your Google Pay account to pay via PayPal, your PayPal account will automatically become enabled on Gmail, the Google Play Store, YouTube, or anywhere that Google offers a payment service, without you needing to log in again.

Widespread adoption

While there are plenty of digital payment methods out there for you to pick from, it makes sense that you’d want to back the right horse. The sheer number of users is as good an indicator as any, and Google Pay has that covered after hitting 100 million downloads on the Google Play Store. At the time of writing, Samsung Pay has 50 million-plus downloads, while LG Pay has yet to even make its debut on the Play Store, putting Google’s payment system rather far ahead of the competition.

Of course, it’s slightly unfair to say that it was Google’s branding that did all the heavy lifting, since Google Pay inhabits the same Play Store space as Android Pay, and the download counter would count anyone who downloaded it as Android Pay. Still, Google Pay is clearly one of the most popular digital payment services around.

Support in the United States

All four major banks in the U.S. support Google Pay — that’s Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America. Many smaller banks and credit unions now support Google Pay as well; if you’re unsure, check out the Google Pay support page to check if your bank is listed.

In addition to using your phone to make purchases, many major U.S. banks like Chase and Bank of America are installing cardless ATMs. For people with accounts at these banks, its easy to use your NFC enabled Android phone to make withdrawals. Some banks are even going a step further and completely integrating Google Pay into their own apps.

In short, most banks that already support Apple Pay will back Google’s service since both use similar NFC technology for payments.

Other U.S. institutions, integrations

The latest new feature to come to Google Pay is support for the Las Vegas Monorail. According to Google, the new feature will allow users to buy tickets online through the Monorail site, then save them to Google Pay. Then, to get on the train, simply wave the phone near the fare gate. You’ll also be able to see your recent trips and get directions to the nearest Monorail station. Google says the feature will be rolling out to more public transportation services soon, but for now it’s limited to the Las Vegas Monorail.

MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Discover support Google Pay. Sites that support Visa Checkout and Masterpass can handle Google Pay as well, thanks to a strategic partnership. You can use your fingerprint to confirm payments, and Visa Checkout and Masterpass customers can link their accounts to Google Pay as well.

Mobile banking app integration

Google Pay has also integrated with several banking apps around the world to make using the system almost seamless. Now, many customers will be able to add cards to Google Pay from their mobile banking apps at the tap of a button. Currently the number of banks that have in-app integration is limited and includes Bank of America, Discover, Bank of New Zealand, mBank, and USAA.

In-App and mobile web purchases

Although you’ll probably use Google Pay primarily in shops, it’s also useful for in-app purchases. When you’re about to purchase something in an app that supports the service, you’ll see a prompt appear for Google Pay. At the moment, Google has listed more than a dozen apps that support in-app purchases with Google Pay including Lyft, OpenTable, Hotel Tonight, Instacart, and Etsy. Most recently, more companies have signed on with Google Pay at its launch, such as Airbnb, Postmates, Fandango, and Dice.

If you make purchases via a web browser — Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, or Microsoft Edge (coming soon) — on your phone, you’re in luck. Google is adding support for Google Pay for sites that choose to integrate its application programming interface, making the checkout process less of a hassle. It currently works with a handful of sites such as Groupon and 1-800-Flowers. The integration with Visa Checkout and Masterpass is sure to boost the number of sites that support Google Pay as well.

After finding the item you want to purchase, all you need to do is click “check out.” You’ll then be able to select the “Buy with Google Pay” button which will open the payments sheet. This will show you the available cards and shipping addresses associated with your Google account — if you happen to be logged into more than one account, you can toggle back and forth between them.

Once you choose which Google account you want to pay with, it will automatically fill in your credit card billing information, and shipping address. But if you want to ship it to a different location, you can also choose to edit it. Using the Google Maps API, Google can also show autofill suggestions if it’s an address you’ve visited before — making it easier to fill out the information.

Google Pay also remembers the last selected card and shipping address, to make your next purchase even easier. The next time you pull up the Google Payments sheet to make a payment, the last selected address you sent an item to will be the default — but you can always edit it if needed.

Google Pay support on Wear OS expands

Google Pay is expanding on Wear OS, previously known as Android Wear. Previously, only users in the U.S. and the U.K. were able to use Google Pay on their smartwatches, but now that functionality is expanding to Australia, Spain, and Canada. Users in Australia can also use their NFC-capable Wear OS devices with Opal to pay for single-ride tickets on some train and ferry lines.

We expect that Google Pay support for Wear OS will continue in the future.

Google merges Android Pay and Google Wallet

For those that have Android Pay and Google Wallet installed on their devices, the apps have now turned into Google Pay. Google Pay is the single app you need for all your contactless payments, peer-to-peer payments, as well as boarding pass and ticket storage.

With Google Pay, there aren’t any significant differences from the Android Pay app. You can add all supported debit or credit cards as well as make contact-less payments. The app offers one new feature that provides a list of supported retailers nearby, based specifically on your shopping patterns. You can still use Google Pay wherever Android Pay is accepted.

International release

Google Pay made its debut — as Android Pay — on the global stage when it launched in the U.K. in May 2016, and the service has slowly continued to expand since. Because the list of countries that support Google Pay grows constantly, this list is not conclusive. To find the most up to date list of Google Pay regions, head over to the Google Pay Help Page.

2017

  • WorldRemit, an international transfer service in 125, begins to use Google Pay. Users can transfer funds around the world for a small foreign exchange rate markup and processing fee.
  • London-based TransferWise also works with Google Pay. TransferWise works in more than 50 countries around the world and allows you to hold and manage money in 27 different currencies.
  • Google Pay is available in Canada. You can check out the full list of institutions on Google’s site.
  • Google Pay is now supported in Taiwan. Check out Google’s site for a list of participating institutions. A growing list of retailers are supporting Google Pay including Carrefour, A-Mart, RT-Mart, Pxmart, Taipei 101, Pacific Sogo Department Store, Starbucks, and Watsons.
  • If you live in the United Kingdom, you can now use Google Pay on your Android device. Here’s a list of banks that support Google Pay. Retailers that accept Google Pay payments include Costa Coffee and Starbucks, Boots, Waitrose, Aldi, Superdrug, and KFC. Various shopping apps such as Deliveroo, Fancy, Kickstarter, Zara, Takeaway.com, and Hotel Tonight offer Google Pay as a payment option. You can also use Google Pay for public transit payments.
  • Google Pay is now available in Russia. Check out the Google Pay blog for a full list of supporting financial institutions.
  • Google Pay has made its way to Belgium. According to a blog post from Google, the service is available in 85,000 banks and supports six major banks BNP, Fintro, Hello Bank, KBC, KBC Brussels, and CBC.

2016

  • Google Pay is now supported in Japan. In Japan, Google Pay is only supported by an eMoney service called Rakuten Edy and a prepaid card service called Nanaco. That said, Rakuten Edy is huge in Japan and accepted at thousands of retailers.
  • Ireland has joined the Google Pay club. The contactless payment system is available at thousands of retail locations across the country. For the most up to date list of participating retailers, check out Google’s support page.
  • Google Pay is now available in New Zealand. Many of Bank of New Zealand’s card support the service and you’ll find it in thousands of retailers across the country.
  • More than 400,000 retail locations in Poland now accept Google Pay. More than a dozen different banks currently support Google Pay; to see if your bank is one of them, check out the Google Pay support page.
  • Hong Kong officially has Google Pay. Thousands of retail locations including 7-Eleven, Circle K, Fortress, Mannings, Maxim’s Cakes, MX, McDonald’s, Pacific Coffee, ParknShop, SmarTone, Watsons, and Wellcome currently accept the contactless payment method. Check out the Hong Kong support page to see if your card is compatible with Google Pay.
  • Google Pay is now available Down Under. Australians can now use Google Pay at thousands of different retail locations. Right now only a few dozen banks support Google Pay, however we expect that number to grow.
  • Singapore is the third country to get Google Pay. The service is compatible with MasterCard and Visa from many of the country’s largest banks. To see if your bank supports Google Pay, head over to the Singapore page for details.

PayPal joins Google Pay

Google Pay is an excellent replacement for your credit or debit cards but what about your PayPal account? Well, Google Pay will let you link your PayPal account provided you’re running Android 4.4 Kit Kat or later. Previously, the only way to use the web-based payment platform for in-store purchases was with a PayPal debit card, or by inputting your phone number and PIN into one of the few compatible terminals in the wild.

To get started paying with PayPal from your Android device, tap the button at the bottom right like you normally would to add a card, then select “Add other payment methods.” PayPal may ask you to load funds to your account if you have not already.

Google Pay is currently only able to pull from your PayPal balance for transactions, but eventually, any cards you have saved on your PayPal account will also be supported.

Compatible devices and security

To use Google Pay, you’ll need an NFC-enabled smartphone running Android 4.4 KitKat and above. It will work at stores with NFC contactless payment terminals.

Like most NFC payment systems, Google Pay comes with all the necessary security, including a way to shut down devices that have been stolen so nobody can use your card. The system uses tokenization, which processes transactions via individual random account numbers, rather than your actual credit or debit card account number. In-app purchases are as safe as its NFC contactless counterpart.

Rewards and loyalty

As Google Pay is meant to replace your wallet, it’s expanding to include all those other cards you would typically have on you as well — gift and loyalty cards.

Google has been expanding its partnerships, and as such the company says Google Pay is the first mobile wallet to “deeply integrate” with Uber’s Payment Rewards program.

Walgreens says its Balance Rewards members can now apply their loyalty account via Google Pay at checkout. If you’re a member, all you need to do is add your Balance Rewards card to the Google Pay app. When you’re at the register, hold up your Android smartphone to the NFC terminal to apply your rewards information — when you’re ready to pay, hold the smartphone up again at the same place. You’ll have to add your credit or debit card beforehand to complete the purchase, of course.

Stores with NFC terminals support Google Pay

Like all other forms of NFC payment, Google Pay will be accepted in more than one million stores across the United States, including Toys “R” Us, GameStop, Subway, Whole Foods, and more.

Limited support for NFC payments is the main hurdle systems like Google Pay and Apple Pay face in the United States and elsewhere. However, Apple Pay has managed to increase the amount of interest in contactless payment, which in turn helps Google Pay to be accepted at all of these stores. Currently you’ll find contactless payment options like Google Pay in most major retailers.

Competitors

There are a lot of big players in mobile payments these days, the most iconic of which are Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Google Pay competes with both services, but it is quite similar to Apple Pay in its implementation and reliance on NFC technology.

In contrast, Samsung Pay uses a unique system that is capable of manipulating regular card registers. The MST technology, which Samsung acquired for $200 million, allows the payments service to be compatible in every store that supports credit cards with magstripes. As such, Samsung Pay has a much longer reach than Google Pay and Apple Pay, though it is limited to Samsung phones and the Gear S2 or Gear S3 smartwatch only.

Updated on September 25, 2018: Google may be bringing QR codes to Google Pay.