What is Android Pay?

You've probably barely noticed, but a clash of Titans is taking place at checkouts up and down the country. Two of the world's most successful companies ever are locked in battle. They don't want your money, but they do want your wallet! Your digital wallet that is.

First, there was Apple Pay. Now, hot on its heels, Android Pay logos are appearing at checkouts throughout the UK, and some of our most popular retailers will accept payment via your Android phone.

What is Android Pay?

Android phone with MBNA Android Pay

Android Pay is a contactless payment system for Android mobile phones, which works in a similar way to contactless credit cards. It launched in the USA in September 2015, almost one year after Apple Pay, and in the UK in May 2016. Android Pay is also available in Australia and Singapore, and there are plans to imminently launch in Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Hong Kong, Poland, South Korea and Spain.

What are the benefits of Android Pay?

The clearest benefit for all Mobile wallet systems is the convenience they offer their users, who no longer need to carry their payment cards physically. Cards are loaded into the phone's wallet, and can then be used wherever contactless payment is accepted.

Aside from this overarching benefit, Android Pay also features many unique benefits that mark it apart from other digital wallets.

Fingerprint-less Authentication

Only Apple phones with a fingerprint scanner directly support Apple Pay (iPhone 6 onwards). Although this adds to security, it means that most Apple users with older phones cannot yet benefit from Apple Pay. Given that most currently available Android phones don't include a fingerprint scanner, Google could not make this a prerequisite for Android Pay use. As a result, Android Pay can be used on many older mobile phone models with near field communication (NFC), as users simply authenticate using a keypad pattern, PIN number or password.

Dead-zone Support

Android Pay, like Apple Pay, uses a system of 'tokenisation' to protect user card details. In essence, the 16 digit card number is replaced by 16 randomly generated numbers for each transaction. With Android Pay, these tokens are pulled from the cloud when the phone is connected to the internet. However, a limited number of tokens, stored in the memory of the device, enable transactions in 'dead-zones', where the internet is unavailable.

Loyalty & Rewards

Android Pay offers users a single place to store all their discount coupons, loyalty and gift cards, so users don't have to carry pieces of paper and loyalty cards with them. In the USA, Android Pay also enables users to link their reward cards to their wallet, so that loyalty points can be gathered when payment is made. This isn’t yet available in the UK, but expect it soon!

How does Android Pay work?

Android Pay is available to all users of Android phones with an NFC chip (Near Field Communication) running the KitKat 4.4 operating system or subsequent version.

Android Pay enables users to store their payment cards and loyalty cards to their mobile phone's digital wallet, for use wherever they see the contactless, or Android Pay logo.

If you already have payment cards linked to your Google account, you can add them to Android Pay quickly by confirming a few details. If you don't have any cards linked to your account, you can add them manually within the app, or use your device's camera to photograph your card. Text recognition will automatically read the letters and numbers from your card; you simply confirm them and add any additional data not visible on your card.

Once you've added your payment cards, payment via Android Pay couldn't be easier. You just unlock your phone and tap it to the store's contactless reader to pay. Payment is taken directly from your nominated card. If you want to switch cards (perhaps between debit and credit card), you just open the app and toggle to your preferred card.

How secure is Android Pay?

Android Pay logo

Security is obviously a key consideration for adopters of Android Pay, and the system is indeed reassuringly secure.

Android Pay is more secure than a standard contactless payment card. A lost contactless card could be used by anyone who found it, whereas a lost mobile phone can only be used with a pattern, PIN number or password authentication.

Instore, Android Pay has additional benefits over standard contactless cards, because users never have to show their card - removing the risk that the details could be read during use. Also, a system of tokenisation means the card’s actual numbers are never transmitted, so they are not vulnerable to clandestine readers.

Unlike Apple Pay, Android Pay does not require fingerprint authentication. On that basis, it is not necessarily as secure as Apple Pay, but as more Android phones continue to support fingerprint readers, this will change.

Where can you get an Android credit card?

Unlike Apple Pay, which is widely supported by UK banks, Android users have a more limited choice. If you're an Android user, and you're keen to ensure your next credit card supports Android Pay; use our dedicated comparison table to compare the best Android Pay credit cards.


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