It’s not our grandparents’ checkbook-and-pen world anymore. The Google Pay app and others make it possible to run our financial lives from our phones, on the go. The Google app is really very comprehensive, capable of dealing with a wide variety of tasks and contactless payments at checkout. And Google doesn’t rest on its laurels. It’s been busy improving the app in 2019 and 2020.
What Is Google Pay?
Google Pay is, of course, the brainchild of Google. It started out as Google Wallet, then it morphed into Android Pay before it evolved into its current, multi-faceted app. Android Pay was set up to handle online and in-store payments, while Google Wallet covered person-to-person transfers. As of 2020, Google provides person-to-person, online and in-store apps all in one place – Google Pay.
Google Pay is accepted in more than a million stores, and it’s supported by Bank of America, Barclay’s, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, PNC, USAA and Wells Fargo, among hundreds of other banks, not to mention Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. It boasts more than 25 million regular users in 29 countries.
Google Pay Handles Your Purchases
Let's say you’re strolling the mall and you come across some item of merchandise that’s a must-have. But you’re just there to get in some walking exercise on a rainy day, so you don't have an old-fashioned wallet or cash on you.
Not a problem. You’ve got your phone. You can simply tap on Google Pay to make the purchases via “NFC” technology – near-field communication. Of course, you must have first entered your credit card, debit card, or PayPal account info into the app. You can pay using a contactless terminal, provided the store (or restaurant) has one – and it’s free. All you have to do is unlock your phone and aim it at the point of sale.
You’re not limited to in-person transactions. Google Pay works online, too.
Read More: Can Someone Take Their Money Back Through PayPal?
The App Offers Other Features, Too
Google Pay can also handle event tickets, boarding passes, transit cards, coupons, and loyalty and gift cards for you for use at many locations and stores. Taking a bus or train home from that mall is no problem, but you can use it to buy gas for your car, too.
Google is nicely and logically integrated with Gmail to handle person-to-person payments. You can send money to any email account, or request payment and receive payment from your Gmail account, or from the app.
And if you get to the end of the month and you’re wondering where all your money went, Google Pay can help out here, too. It offers a “spending insights” tool that scans your receipts if you ask it to. It keeps track of your transactions, and it can even remind you when you have a bill coming due for payment.
Google Pay can handle your banking needs for you beginning in 2021. It’s set to launch Plex, a mobile bank account that will be integrated into the app.
Google Pay Technical Requirements
Google Pay is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, as well as with your computer, tablet or smartwatch. You need a PIN to use it on your watch.
PCMag indicates that the iOS app is marginally superior to the Android app and more efficient. Google Pay automatically loads onto your device if you previously had Android Pay installed there. In fact, the old app won’t be usable any longer beginning in January 2021.
Restrictions and Limitations
Google Pay limited in a couple of ways. You can’t accept money from someone else unless you’ve entered a debit card into the app to take the funds, and your phone has to have a screen lock feature. Your Google Pay account information will be deleted if the screen lock is deactivated.
Read More: How Does a Debit Card Work?
Your ability to make in-store purchases depends on whether the retailer or restaurant is set up to take mobile payments, and many smaller stores aren’t. Google Pay is also limited to NFC terminals, not multiport service terminals or MSTs.
Accessibility of all these features can depend on where you’re located. You can only make person-to-person transfers in the United States and India, at least from your smartphone. You can also do so from the United Kingdom if you use your computer.
You can’t send money to someone via your credit card from anywhere – Google Pay just isn’t set up for that. You must use your debit card or enter your bank account information.
The boarding pass/transit card tool is limited to users in the U.S., the United Kingdom, India, Canada, Russia, Australia, Japan, Singapore and the Ukraine, and it’s only available in six U.S. cities
The ticket feature is limited to participating companies, including Ticketmaster, Singapore Airlines, Southwest, Eventbrite and Fortress GB.
Signing Up With Google Pay
Signing up with Google Pay is a simple process. Just download the app, create an account, sign in and set up payment methods with your credit and debit cards.
Is Google Pay Safe?
Having all your purchasing and payment needs all in one place sounds awesome, but is it without risk? It depends. Google has multiple safeguards and security features in place, but you’re still dealing with technology.
All information contained in the app is encrypted for security, and it doesn’t actually store your credit card numbers. They’re not visible on your phone or other device, and they don’t appear on terminals or websites. Your numbers are assigned “tokens” that facilitate financial transfers.
You won’t have to worry about your phone paying for the items being purchased by the guy at the next cash register because the app will only provide payment information if it’s within 4 centimeters from the terminal. That works out to a little more than an inch and a half. And your account won’t be charged multiple times if you’re distracted and you tap your phone or device twice. Each transaction is assigned its own code. You have to enter your PIN number if you want to make a purchase for more than $100, however.
Revoking access to your Google Pay account is also a simple matter. It shouldn’t be a problem if you lose your phone or it’s stolen, depending on how quickly you realize that it’s missing. You can immediately wipe the app clean or lock access from a remote location.
Of course, all this doesn’t mean that a dedicated and determined hacker won't ever find a workaround for these protections to gain access, or that you won’t fall victim to a scammer and Google Pay for something you’re never going to receive. Google Pay doesn’t offer buyer protection, even if your underlying credit card does, so you might want to stick to swiping your card for big ticket purchases.
- Digital Trends: What Is Google Pay, and How Do You Use It?
- Google: What Is Google Pay?
- Joy of Android: Google Pay Review – Everything You Need to Know
- Kim Komando: Google Pay – Is It Safe? Yes, and Here’s How to Use the Payment App
- Revolut: Is Google Pay Safe?
- PCMag: Google Pay Review
- Google. "Where Your Ads Can Appear." Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Google. "2 Million People Have Chosen AdSense, Here's Why." Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Alphabet Inc. "Alphabet Announces Third Quarter 2019 Results," Page 1. Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Google. "About Google My Business." Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Google. "Pricing That Scales to Fit Your Needs." Accessed may 15, 2020.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally for over 30 years. She is also a paralegal, specializing in areas of personal finance, bankruptcy and estate law. She writes as the tax expert for The Balance.