What is Android Pay?

Banking security & new ways to pay

What is Android Pay?

By Chiara Cavaglieri

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What is Android Pay?

Some of the biggest companies in the world are competing to offer tap-and-go mobile payments. 

Android Pay, the new mobile payments system from Google, is the tech giant's latest gambit in its ongoing battle to compete with its great rival, Apple, which launched Apple Pay in September 2015.

What is Android Pay?

The UK has had Apple Pay for the iPhone since July 2015, but the launch of Android Pay will enable even more people to use their smartphones for contactless payments and in-app purchases.

By storing credit cards, debit cards and loyalty cards within a digital wallet, Android Pay lets you pay for goods simply by holding your mobile phone over a contactless reader.

Can I use Android Pay?

Yes, as long as you have an Android device that supports near-field communication (NFC) payments – wireless technology that enables one device to communicate with another when in close proximity – and runs the operating system KitKat 4.4 or above.

Find out more: How to buy the best Android smartphone – the Which? guide

Which banks are backing Android Pay?

Google has said that Android Pay will support MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society.

You can expect more banks to follow shortly, although Barclays has said it will support contactless payments on Android devices within its own mobile banking app. 

How does it work?

Simply download the Android Pay app from Google Play, add your debit or credit card (you can save time by taking a picture of your card via the app) and away you go.

For transactions under £30, you just need your screen on to tap-and-pay at any contactless payment terminal, but if you’re spending more than this, you will need to unlock your phone first.  

Most of the big retailers accept contactless, including Boots, Superdrug, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Lidl, McDonalds, Post Office and Pret a Manger.

At selected retailers, your loyalty points will be automatically applied at checkout.

Android Pay users can also enjoy special deals on the Tuesday before each month’s pay day as part of the 'Android Pay Day' reward scheme. Starbucks and Deliveroo were the first to sign up to offer discounts, and more have followed suit.

You can use Android Pay even when you are using other apps, without having to stop what you’re doing – once the payment confirmation screen appears, you’ll be returned back to where you were.

Android also supports payments within other apps (such as JD Sports, Deliveroo and YPlan), which means you can tap a button to checkout without having to enter your credit or debit card details and delivery address each time.

What about security?

Apple Pay and Android Pay both use 'tokenisation' to keep your personal and financial information out of merchants’ systems and help to protect against fraud. This replaces your card information with a ‘token’ number, so that payment devices and terminals don’t exchange the real credit or debit card number.  

Because your phone can be used to make payments when it's unlocked, Android Pay requires you to have a screen lock set up – depending on your phone, you can choose to enter a Pin, password, pattern or fingerprint.

Every time you make a purchase, you’ll see a payment confirmation showing where that transaction happened, along with the name of that retailer, making it easier to spot suspicious activity.

You can also instantly lock your device and even wipe it clean of your personal information using 'Android Device Manager' if your phone is lost or stolen.