How Does Google Pay Stack Up Against Samsung Pay and Apple Pay?

The pros and cons of mobile payment apps

Close up father and daughter paying with smart phone contactless payment at plant shop counter
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Tap and pay apps, in which you can use your smartphone to make purchases at the store, are prevalent, and each one works a bit differently from the others. The three most well-known apps are Google Pay (formerly Android Pay), Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. The apps work with newer smartphones; Google Pay is for Androids, Apple Pay for iPhones, and Samsung Pay for Samsungs. All of them store your credit and debit cards, so you don't have to dig for your wallet; compatibility is the most significant difference between the three services. So how do they compare? Here's what you need to know.

Google Pay

You can use the Google Pay app to pay at retail locations that use Mastercard PayPass technology. (You can use any major credit card, not just a Mastercard.) At the register, you use your fingerprint reader to validate the transaction and place it near the contactless terminal. You can also use Google Pay to make purchases within other apps and store your loyalty cards. Finally, you can also use an app called Google Pay Send, which replaced Google Wallet, to send money to friends for shared expenses. You can also set reminders to request or send money, which automatically gets transferred to your connected bank account.

Samsung Pay

Samsung has developed a contactless payment app that works on their high-end Galaxy devices. It works similarly to Google Pay in that you can verify your identity using a fingerprint reader, and then pay by placing your phone near the terminal. You can also use it for in-app purchases. The big difference, though, is that Samsung Pay is also compatible with swipe-based credit card machines, meaning you can use it virtually anywhere that accepts credit cards. Samsung gained this functionality by acquiring LoopPay, a company that created patented technology that turns credit card swipe machines into contactless readers. For Samsung users, this is huge. Samsung pay uses Visa's PayWave technology, and users can make online payments using Visa Checkout, which stores your credit cards, so you don't have to retype the numbers and expiration date a million times.

Consumers can also sign up for Samsung Rewards, and earn points through purchases for gift cards, Samsung devices, and entries into sweepstakes to win vacations and other prizes. Anyone with a Samsung can sign up; Samsung Pay users get access to an exclusive catalog of rewards.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay, like Google Pay, uses PayPass technology, so it has similar retail compatibility and works in the same way; it also enables you to store loyalty cards. The app is pre-installed on all the latest iPhones (iPhone 6 and newer) and compatible with the Apple Watch and newer iPads. For obvious reasons, it's not available on Android devices, just as Google Pay isn't available on iPhones.

Which Mobile Payment App is the Best?

While Google, Samsung, and Apple are competitors in this space, once a consumer chooses a phone, that immediately knocks out the competition. Samsung has the edge here, due to its broad compatibility with credit card machines, but it works with fewer phones than the other two. Google Pay and Apple Pay are very similar, and there's no reason to switch operating systems for a mobile payment app. In short, the best mobile payment app of these three depends entirely on which smartphone you own.