8 Popular Mobile Payment Apps

Pay on the go, without fiddling with cash or checks

While cash, credit, and debit cards still dominate the payment landscape, the latest trend among retailers is the mobile payment app. A mobile payment app lets you send money from your phone to other people or to a payment terminal to buy something in a store.

We gathered eight of the most popular mobile payment apps to help you decide which are best for you.

01
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Apple Pay

Shopper using Apple Pay at Target

Apple Inc.

What We Like
  • Compatible with a range of major banks and credit cards.

  • No fees for use.

  • Friendly user interface.

What We Don't Like
  • Can be used only with recent iPhone and iPad models.

  • Doesn't support online shopping.

  • Peer-to-peer transfers only available for iOS devices.

Apple's iOS platform integrates with Apple Pay, a service that stores credit cards, debit cards, coupons, and online passes. Add a card to Apple Pay and tap-to-pay at millions of retail locations internationally.

Also included with Apple Pay is Apple Pay Cash, which is a way to store money on your phone on a virtual card. You can spend it through Apple Pay in stores or use it in the Messages app to pay or receive money through a text message.

The Apple Pay service is secured with a PIN or with Apple's TouchID or FaceID biometric systems.

02
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Google Pay

Google Pay list of contacts and payment transaction
What We Like
  • Peer-to-peer payments.

  • Compatible with PayPal.

  • Supported on many websites, physical stores, and other apps.

  • Works with Android and iOS devices.

What We Don't Like
  • User base is smaller than its competitors.

  • Receipt of sent money varies from seconds to days.

The Google Pay app can be used in stores, through apps, and online. It's also tightly integrated with the Android ecosystem, so it's easy to use with apps on your Android.

Google Pay is a digital wallet that lets you store your debit cards, credit cards, loyalty cards, coupons, gift cards, and tickets in one place. Use the Google Pay app anywhere you see the icon and order food, pay for gas, check out in stores, and more.

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03
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Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay

Lluis Gene / Getty Images

What We Like
  • Works at any location that accepts credit cards.

  • Has the largest user base of similar apps.

  • Scans and saves any card with a barcode.

  • Earn points on all purchases.

What We Don't Like
  • Uses older magnetic stripe technology.

  • Busy user interface.

  • Installed automatically on some Samsung phones.

Samsung Pay supports the enrollment of credit, debit, gift cards, and membership cards to facilitate in-person, in-app, or online payments. The app also features special promotions.

Any payment terminal that accepts credit cards should accept Samsung Pay because the app uses magnetic secure transmission (MST) technology, which mimics the magnetic strip on a credit card.

If you connect your PayPal account to Samsung Pay, you can also make purchases via PayPal.

04
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PayPal

PayPal app balance, features, and money-sending screens
What We Like
  • Familiar mobile payment option trusted by consumers.

  • Accepted by most online shopping sites.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Fees for some transactions.

  • Limited customer support.

To pay with PayPal, link your PayPal account with your phone, set up a PIN, and then checkout at a related payment terminal.

PayPal is also ideal for sending money to other users worldwide because it's one of the most popular payment services. So chances are, many people you know already use it.

There are minimal fees associated with some payments. Still, PayPal can be used free of charge to send or receive money in most cases.

Another neat feature about PayPal is that you can create "money pools" to set up a way for people to pitch in to send you money. The Pool page is public for anyone to see and contribute to.

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05
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Cash App

Cash App
What We Like
  • Easy-to-use interface.

  • Proprietary $Cashtags protect user privacy.

  • Allows stock and Bitcoin trading.

  • Easy to send and receive money.

What We Don't Like
  • Some transactions have fees.

  • Only available in the U.S.

  • Low spending limits.

Cash App is a money-sending app from the company Square. Cash App is user-friendly, reliable, and secure. When money is sent to you through Cash App, it can be stored in your account and transferred to your bank whenever you want, for free.

Cash App is also tied to a real debit card that you can get from the company for free. With it, you can spend money directly from your Cash account like any debit card.

Similar to PayPal's Money Pool, Cash App uses Cash.me pages that make it easy for people to pay you without needing your personal information. These are real web pages that anyone can visit to pay you; they're linked to your $Cashtag.

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06
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Venmo

Examples of the Venmo app
What We Like
  • Designed for use with people you trust.

  • Easy to set up and use.

  • Solicits comments from friends and family.

What We Don't Like
  • Recipients must install the app.

  • Transaction descriptions are open to the public.

Venmo is a pay-by-text service, which enables people to pay one another using its SMS-based approach.

This system sets a maximum payment limit of $299 per week until your identity is verified; then, the weekly limit rises to $2,999. Single transactions are limited to $2,000, and there's a limit of 30 transactions per day. Payees get a text message about the amount they received, and they must register to retrieve the funds.

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07
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Starbucks

Starbucks app on iPhone
What We Like
  • Earns Starbucks points for each $1 spent.

  • Free birthday award.

  • Free in-store refills on coffee and tea.

What We Don't Like
  • Useful only at Starbucks locations.

  • Points can't be redeemed on alcoholic beverages.

One of the most popular mobile payment apps is not considered a banking app. Although the Starbucks app previously boasted more users than Apple Pay, it's for buying Starbucks treats and collecting rewards for more goodies.

You can use the Starbucks app to order from the coffee chain, but you can also connect a debit or credit card to your account and pay at the register.

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08
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Zelle

Zelle Android app requesting money from another user
What We Like
  • Free, instant funds transfer.

  • Specializes in person-to-person micropayments.

  • Simple interface: Send, Request, Split.

  • Robust bill-splitting feature.

What We Don't Like
  • Sender and recipient banks must partner with Zelle.

  • No international payments.

  • Cannot use in retail stores or online.

Unlike other services that offer a dedicated mobile app, Zelle works best when paired directly with banks to support person-to-person micropayments. If your bank participates, you can use your bank's app to transfer money to friends and family using Zelle's infrastructure.

What makes Zelle unique is that money can be transferred from one bank to another in (usually) minutes.

To set up Zelle if your bank isn't supported yet, enter your debit card number into the app and choose to send or receive money from your bank.

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