Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay: What to Know

Instead of swiping or dipping, you can use your phone to make secure payments in stores, online or to other people. Here's how.

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Mobile wallets are in widespread use these days, as more people opt for contactless payment options rather than carrying around a load of plastic or wads of cash.

In fact, some top credit card issuers reward you for using mobile payments. And as more merchants offer cardless payment systems, major digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay can be your ticket to a more streamlined and secure shopping experience. Here’s how the top mobile wallet services work and how to use your credit cards with them.

In this article

Apple Pay

Apple Pay allows users to make contactless payments in stores, online, in-apps and more. The mobile wallet, with which you can use credit, debit, prepaid and select loyalty cards, is widely accepted across the U.S. While you can add multiple credit cards to one device, you must select a default card to use, which you can change manually.

How to use Apple Pay

Apple Pay can be used only on Apple devices. Here's how to get started:

  • Open the wallet app on your Apple device.

  • Tap the "+" sign at the top right of the app screen.

  • Tap to input your payment method (credit or debit card). You can either enter the number manually in the wallet app or you can scan a picture of your card. Keep in mind that some banks may ask that you verify your card before you can start using it.

Nerdy tip: Apple cardholders can earn 2% cash back on all purchases made with Apple Pay. Paying with the physical card earns you only 1% back, which is lower than the industry standard of 1.5%.

When you're checking out at a store that accepts Apple Pay (you can tell by the logo on the merchant’s point-of-sale system), log in to your iPhone using your passcode, Touch ID or Face ID. Then, just hold the phone close to the payment terminal to validate the purchase. No swiping required.

If you have an Apple Watch, you use it to pay by double-clicking the side button and then holding it near the payment reader.

You can also use Apple Pay online or within apps when you see an "Apple Pay" button.

Apple Pay isn't just for paying at the store; you can also use it to send and receive money by using the Apple Cash option. To set up Apple Cash, users can go to their Apple device settings and turn on Apple Cash in the wallet.

Money can be sent and requested through the messages app on your Apple device. There, you’ll need to tap the "Apple Pay" button, enter your desired amount, and then tap the "send" button.

When you're using Apple Cash to receive money, it will be added to your Apple Cash card in the wallet app. You can either use that cash to pay anywhere you would use Apple Pay, or you can transfer your Apple Cash to a linked bank account.

Apple Cash has the following payment limits when sending or receiving money:

If you have an individual account: $10,000 within a seven-day period.

If you’re a part of Apple Cash Family: $2,000 within a seven-day period. Apple Cash Family allows you to set up and share use of Apple Cash with members of your family.

Apple Pay can be used with cards from most banks and credit unions, including credit cards from major issuers like American Express, Bank of America®, Capital One, Chase and Citi.

You’ll earn the same credit card rewards when you use your card with Apple Pay, as long as the card is selected as the default and used when you make a purchase.

Google Pay

With Google Pay (a merging of what was previously Android Pay and Google Wallet), you can use debit, credit, gift and loyalty rewards cards to make contactless purchases in person, as well as transactions in-app and online.

The Google Pay mobile wallet service is accepted widely across restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, online merchants, and the like, anywhere you see the Google Pay logo or another symbol that indicates contactless payments are accepted.

Although you’ll be able to access Google Pay to send money via an iPhone or iPad that uses iOS 7 or higher, you can make contactless payments and pay online or in-app only with an Android device (that uses Lollipop 5.0 or higher).

How to use Google Pay

To use Google Pay, follow these steps:

  • Download the Google Pay app to your phone.

  • Log in to your Google account.

  • Enter your debit or credit card information. Users will be asked to provide their card number, expiration date, CVV and billing address, all of which will be verified by the issuing bank. You can add multiple cards to your account, but you’ll have to choose a default card, which you can change at any time.

  • Enable NFC (or near field communication) by opening your phone’s settings, typing "NFC" in the search bar and tapping to enable. If you can't find NFC, your phone cannot use Google Pay.

  • When making a physical transaction, unlock your phone and tap it on the card reader. You can also make payments with a smartwatch by holding it near a card reader until you hear a sound or feel a vibration.

Nerdy tip: Users can also opt in to receive Google Pay rewards in addition to rewards you might earn from your credit card. You can enroll in the rewards program by going to the app’s settings and enabling to “earn rewards on qualifying actions” under the "offers & rewards" tab.

Some Google Pay-capable phones do have fingerprint-scanning technology that can be used to unlock the phone, but you can also use a PIN, password, iris scan, face recognition or pattern, depending on the lock-screen security options on your device.

For online or in-app transactions, you can automatically use the default card linked to your Google Pay account to make a payment whenever you see the Google Pay button.

Google Pay customers can also send and receive money with a bank account, debit card or Google Pay balance. Inside the app, you can search contacts by name, email, phone or QR code. Once found, you can tap the contact, enter the amount you want to pay them and then choose to enter a note describing what the payment is for.

Users will be able to send money to non-Google Pay customers by using a debit card or Google Pay balance, but recipients will have to follow instructions to claim their payments within seven days of receiving it or the transaction will expire.

Google Pay has the following payment limits when sending or receiving money:

If your identity is verified: $5,000 per rolling seven-day time frame.

If your identity isn't verified: $500.

You can verify your identity through the "insights" tab in the Google Pay app. You’ll be asked to verify your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.

A maximum of 30 withdrawals can be made per rolling seven-day period, for a minimum of $1.

Google Pay works with most major credit card issuing banks and credit unions, including American Express, Bank of America®, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citi and Discover. However, the digital wallet may not be compatible with some co-branded credit cards, business credit cards and commercial credit cards.

For example, co-branded credit cards issued by Citi, including the American Airlines, Sears and Home Depot cards, are not supported by Google Pay. Similarly, some Synchrony-issued private label and co-branded cards like those from Amazon, JCPenney and TJ Maxx will not work with Google Pay. Additionally, Wells Fargo-issued Mastercards, co-branded cards and Visa Commercial Credit are not supported by the digital service.

To confirm if your credit card is compatible with Google Pay, contact your issuer by calling the number on the back of your card.

You’ll earn credit card rewards as usual when you use your card with Google Pay.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay users can add up to 10 credit and debit payment cards to the digital wallet to make contactless payments in-store. You can also add membership or loyalty cards and gift cards to your account.

Like Google Pay and Apple Pay, Samsung Pay is widely accepted. However, Samsung Pay is more limited in terms of what compatible devices can be used with the service. The digital wallet will work only with select Samsung devices, and is not available on iOS devices.

Note that to use the service on a non-Samsung phone smartwatch, you’ll need to update to Android 6.0 or higher.

How to use Samsung Pay 

You can use Samsung pay in Samsung-owned apps, but you cannot use the mobile wallet to make direct purchases online or in other apps. Here's how to get set up with Samsung Pay on your compatible phone or watch:

  • Open the Samsung Pay app.

  • Register your fingerprint, iris scan (select models only) or set up a PIN.

  • Add your credit or debit card information.

To use Samsung Pay for in-store purchases, swipe up on your phone from the home screen to select the card you want to use, then authenticate your identity with a fingerprint scan or password before putting your phone next to the card reader to complete the transaction.

Another feature of the Samsung Pay app is the ability to send and receive money to and from contacts with an eligible and enabled Samsung Pay device. To use this feature, you’ll need to add Samsung Pay Cash through the app — click the "pay" tab at the bottom of the app and then swipe left to the Samsung Pay Cash card.

You’ll be prompted to enter a personal information form and agree to the terms before you can be approved to use Samsung Pay. Once completed and verified, you can add funds to your card and start using it immediately to send and receive money.

To send money, users can navigate to the "pay" tab in the app, and then tap "send." Funds can be sent manually by entering the recipient's phone number, or automatically to a contact on your phone.

Samsung Pay Cash has the following payment limits when sending or receiving money:

If you have a lite (basic) account: $500 total per month, up to 15 transactions. If you have a full account: $3,500 total per month, up to 40 transactions. You can upgrade your account by following the upgrade instructions in your app.

Samsung Pay is compatible with more than 1,000 banks and credit unions, including credit cards from major issuers like American Express, Bank of America®, Chase, Citi, Capital One and Navy Federal Credit Union.

Samsung notes that some specific co-branded cards may not be compatible with Samsung Pay. You can contact your credit card’s issuing bank to see if your card is supported.

You'll earn credit card rewards and benefits on purchases made through Samsung Pay, just as you would if you were swiping your card.

Are mobile wallets safe?

You may be skeptical about storing your credit or debit card information in your phone. But, by and large, mobile wallets are safe.

Whether you're using Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, your credit card information is never collected by the merchant you're paying. Instead, each of these services “tokenizes” account information. When you make a new transaction, your account is represented by a random transaction code, but your actual card numbers are never shared with the business. Tokenization helps prevent fraud and minimizes damage if the merchant undergoes a data breach.

For additional security, make sure your device’s lock screen is password-enabled with a PIN, alphanumeric phrase, pattern; or a fingerprint, facial or iris scan.

The information related to the Citi-issued American Airlines, Sears and Home Depot cards has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.