Android Pay: What It Is And How to Use It

Mobile wallets are all the rage. Here's what you need to know Android Pay

Use Samsung Pay in stores and restaurants to pay on the go.

Android Pay is one of the top three mobile payment services in use today. Android users of the app can access their credit and debit cards, and even store rewards cards using their smartphone and Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) watches.

Android Pay works much like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, however, it is not tied to a specific brand of phone, instead working with any brand that’s Android-based, including Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

What is Android Pay?

Android Pay is a mobile payment app that allows you to pay for services and goods with your phone.

Android Pay is a widely accepted type of mobile payment capability that uses near field communications (NFC) to transmit payment data to credit card terminals. NFC is a communications protocol that allows devices to private transmit and receive data. It requires that communicating devices be in near-proximity. This mean to use Android Pay, the device it is installed on needs to be placed near the payment terminal. That’s why mobile payment apps like Android Pay are often called tap-and-pay apps.

Unlike some other types of mobile payment apps, Android Pay does not allow users to have access to magnetic stripe payment terminals, which means stores using older payment terminals might not be accessible to Android Pay users.  This website has a full list of the stores that accept Android Pay.

Android Pay is also accepted as an online form of payment at many e-tailers. However Android Pay users should be aware that not all banks and financial institutions are compatible with Android Pay. The Android Pay website maintains a current list of participating financial institutions. Make sure your bank or credit card company is on that list before installing or activating the Android Pay app.

Where to Get Android Pay

Download the Android Pay app from the Google Play store.

Like many brand-specific payment apps, Android Pay may come preinstalled on your phone. To find out if it does, review your installed apps by tapping the All Apps button on your phone.

Note: The location of this button my vary, depending on the exact model of the device you’re using, but it’s usually on the bottom left corner of the phone and can be a physical button or a virtual button on the phone screen.

If Android Pay is not pre-installed on your device, you can download it from the Google Play Store using your device. Tap the Google Play Store icon and search for Android Pay. Once you find the app, tap INSTALL to begin the installation.

Setting Up Android Pay

Set up Android Pay in a few simple steps.

Before you can use Android Pay to complete purchases in stores and online, you’ll need to set up the app. Begin by tapping the app icon to open it. If you use multiple Google accounts, the first time you open the app, you’ll be prompted to choose the account you want to use with the app. Select the appropriate account and the Get Started screen appears. Tap Get Started.

A prompt appears to Allow Android Pay to access this device’s location. Tap Allow and then you’re granted access to the app. If you get lost, a Getting Started guide is available on the front page.

To add a credit, debit, gift card, or reward card, tap the + button on the bottom right of the screen. In the list that appears, tap the type of card you would like to add. If you have allowed Google to store any of your credit card information online, you’ll be prompted to choose one of those cards. If you don’t want to choose an existing card or if you don’t have any credit card information stored with Google, tap Add a card or Add another card.

Android should open your camera and highlight a section of your screen. Above that section is a direction to Line up your card with the frame. Hold the camera above your card until it appears in the screen and Android Pay will capture an image of the card and import the card number and expiration date. Your address may auto-populate in the fields provided, but be sure to check that it is correct or enter the correct information. When you’re finished, read the Terms of Service and the tap Save.

When you add your first card to Android Pay, you’re prompted to set up a screen lock. To do that, on the Screen lock for Android Pay screen that appears, tap SET IT UP. Then in your Screen Unlock Settings select the type of lock you would like to create. You have three options:

  • Pattern: Unlock your screen by drawing a pattern.
  • Pin: Enter a pin number to unlock your screen.
  • Password: Considered the highest strength security, you’ll be prompted to create and use a password for unlocking your screen.

One thing that’s different with Android Pay is that for some cards, you’re required to verify you’ve connected your card to Android Pay and enter a code to acknowledge that verification before you can use it. How you’ll complete this verification process will depend on the bank you’re connecting to, however, it will mostly likely require a phone call. This step is to ensure you security and your card will remain inactive until you complete the verification.

How to Use Android Pay

Use Android Pay anywhere you see the Android Pay or NFC symbols.

Once you have it all set up, using the Android Pay app is simple. You can use the app anywhere you see the NFC or Android Pay symbols. During a transaction, unlock your phone and open the Android Pay app. Select the card you want to use, and then hold it near the payment terminal. The terminal will communicate with your device.

After a few seconds, a checkmark will appear above the card on your device’s screen. This means the communication is complete. Then the transaction will complete at the terminal. Be aware, you may still need to sign for the transaction.

You can also use any cards that are registered in your Android Pay app with Google Pay online. To access the card, just select Google Pay at checkout and then choose the desired card.

Using Android Pay on Your Android-based Watch

Use your Android-based smartwatch to pay for goods and services anywhere in town.

If you’re using an Android-based watch and don’t want to pull out your phone to make a purchase, you’re in luck if your gear has Wear OS 2.0 installed. To use the app on your smart watch, you first need to add the app to the device. Once that’s done, then tap the Android Pay app to open it.

Now, you have to walk through the same process to add a card to your watch as you did to your phone. This includes entering the card information as well as having the card verified by the bank. Again, this is for your protection, to keep someone from using your smartwatch to make purchases if you lose it or it’s stolen.

Once a card has been verified for use with the smartwatch, then you’re ready to use it to complete purchases. At any payment terminal marked with the NFC or Android Pay symbols, just open the Android Pay app from the face of your phone. Your card will appear on the screen with the instructions to Hold to terminal. Place the watch face near the terminal and it will communicate your payment information in the same way your mobile device does. Once the watch is finished communicating with the terminal, you’ll see a checkmark on the screen, and the watch may even vibrate to let you know it’s finished, depending on how you’ve set your preferences. You’ll still need to finish the transaction at the terminal, and you may need to sign your receipt.