New ways to pay
What is Android Pay?
By Chiara Cavaglieri
Article 3 of 4
What is Android Pay?
Use Google's Android Pay to make purchases with your smartphone – we explain how it works and where it's supported.
What is Android Pay?
Android Pay, the 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.
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.
The UK has had Apple Pay for the iPhone since July 2015, but the launch of Android Pay enables even more people to use their smartphones for contactless payments and in-app purchases.
It works on any 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.
Is Android Pay safe?
Like Apple Pay, Android Pay has introduced a number of measures to keep your personal and financial information safe:
- Each card is given a virtual account number so that the real details are never shared with retailers, which helps to protect against fraud.
- 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 instantly lock your device and even wipe it clean of your personal information using 'Android Device Manager' if your phone is lost or stolen.
How do I use Android Pay?
Once you've downloaded the Android Pay app from Google Play, add your debit, credit, loyalty and gift cards. You can save time by taking a picture of your card via the app.
Check that NFC is turned on (go to your phone's Settings app and then NFC & Payment and then Tap and pay). Now you're ready to use it in-store.
For transactions under £30, you simply hover your phone over any contactless payment terminal. If you’re spending more than this, you'll need to unlock your phone first.
You can even use Android Pay when you're busy with 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 Pay can perform transactions offline but you'll need to connect to the internet from time to time so that the app can sync with Google's servers.
Always ask for a receipt if there's a chance you'll want to return any item/s. The return can be processed by tapping your phone on the terminal but the cashier can still ask for a receipt as proof of purchase. You may also be asked to provide the last 4 digits of your virtual account number.
Find out more: How to buy the best Android smartphone – the Which? guide
Which shops accept Android Pay?
Most of the big retailers accept contactless payments, 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 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 card details and delivery address each time.
Which banks support Android Pay?
Android Pay works with MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, Isle of Man Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA, Metro Bank, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander TSB and Ulster Bank.
There's no support for American Express cards in the UK, despite working in the US. If you want to use one of these cards, an alternative 'Amex Pay' app works on iPhone 5 onwards and Android devices running KitKat 4.4 or above.
Barclays also supports contactless payments on Android devices within its own mobile banking app. To set this up, you need the latest version of the Barclays' app installed on your phone (compatible devices automatically show the 'Contactless Mobile' option within the app menu).
- Last updated: May 2017
- Updated by: Chiara Cavaglieri