8 Popular Mobile Payment Apps

Pay on the go, without fiddling with cash or checks

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

There are lots of options these days for mobile payment, and more solutions are coming out all the time, both from businesses you've heard of and others from startups. Either way, you can definitely find something that works best for you, whether you're looking for a secure person-to-person payment app or something that you can take with you to the store so you don't have to pull out your card when it's time to pay.

01
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Apple Pay

Screenshot of Apple Pay on an iPhone
What We Like
  • Anonymous single-use token system doesn't transmit credit card information.

  • 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 friends with 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 to tap-to-pay at millions of retail locations internationally.

Also included with Apple Pay is Apple Pay Cash, which is a way for you to store money on your phone in 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.

Works with: iOS (built-in)

02
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Google Pay

Screenshot of the Google Pay Send app on an iPhone
What We Like
  • Peer-to-peer payments.

  • Compatible with PayPal.

  • Supported at many retail websites, physical locations, and in 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.

There are two ways to pay for things with Google. Both of them are 100 percent free to use, but they're built for different reasons.

The first way to use Google to pay for something is with the Google Pay app (previously called Android Pay and Pay with Google) which can be used in stores, through apps, and online to buy things. It's tightly integrated with the Android ecosystem, so it's pretty easy to use anywhere you buy something from your Android.

The other Google Pay payment option is called Google Pay Send (the new Google Wallet) which is for sending and receiving money from other people. It can be set up to automatically to put incoming money into your bank or to have it stay in your Google account.

Google Pay works with: Android 

Google Pay Send works with: iOS and Android

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Samsung Pay

Screenshot of the Samsung Pay app on an Android
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.

Because Samsung Pay uses two wireless technologies at once, MST and NFC, the app will use whichever one is supported by the terminal when it's time to pay. This takes the guesswork out of it for you and eliminates any steps you'd have to take to turn one or the other radio on.

Works with: Samsung's line of Android devices (listed here)

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PayPal

Screenshot of the PayPal mobile app for iPhone
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.

Mobile payment with PayPal is easy and convenient, plus there are several security measures in place to prevent theft.

All you need to do to pay with PayPal is link your PayPal account with your phone, set up a PIN, and then complete checkout at a related payment terminal. 

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

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

Another neat feature about PayPal is that you can create what are called 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.

Works with: Android and iOS

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Cash App

Screenshot of the Cash app for the iPhone
What We Like
  • Extremely easy-to-use interface.

  • Proprietary $Cashtags protect user privacy.

  • Supports Bitcoin trading.

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

  • Only available in the U.S.

  • Low spending limits.

Cash App is a money-sending app from the company Square. It's very simple but also very reliable, secure, and easy to use. When money gets set 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 extremely 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.

Works with: iOS and Android

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Venmo

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

  • Easy to set up and use.

  • Social component solicits comments on transactions from friends and family.

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

  • Transaction descriptions are open to public or semipublic scrutiny.

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

This system puts 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 is a limit of 30 transactions per day. Payees get a text message about the amount they have been sent, and they will have to register themselves in order to retrieve the sent funds.

Works with: iOS and Android

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Starbucks

Screenshot of the Starbucks app
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 by most experts. The Starbucks app boasts more users in 2018 than Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay.

Use the Starbucks app to order online, but you can also connect a debit or credit card to your app and pay at the Starbucks register with the app. 

Works with: iOS and Android

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Zelle

Screenshot of the Zelle app on an iPhone
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
  • Banks of both the sender and the recipient must be partnered with Zelle for best service.

  • 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 the bank's native 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. This is definitely something some people prefer so that the money can be in the account, and totally usable, the same day the transfer takes place.

Setting up Zelle if your bank isn't supported yet, is as easy as entering your debit card number into the Zelle app and choosing to send or receive money from that bank.

Works with: iOS and Android