Android Pay – What is it, how does it work and who supports it?

by: Krystal LoraMarch 9, 2016

Google Wallet never really took off, but that didn’t stop the search giant from participating in the mobile payment game. Wallet is still around, but it is used as a method of sending payments to friends, family and other parties – you could say it’s similar to PayPal.

But what happened to the mobile payments part of Google Wallet? It has been re-branded as Android Pay. So, how exactly does all of this work? I have been testing Android Pay and running all around town using it, so let’s dig right into the details.


How is Android Pay different from Samsung Pay and Apple Pay?

Mobile payments revolve around these three services, so it is only natural to wonder how they are different from each other. Going in depth would require a whole separate article, but we can easily tell you the noticeable differences as a consumer.

Samsung Pay is likely the most convenient out of the three, as it can be used with any POS system where you can swipe your card. On the other hand, Android Pay needs to work through an NFC chip and retailers need to partner up in order for the contactless purchase to work, much like Apple Pay.

Samsung-Pay-1See also: Samsung Pay: What is it, how does it work and how do I use it?34

How to set up Android Pay

Android Pay is very easy to set up and plenty of Android phones nowadays come with the application pre-installed. If it’s not, though, you can easily download it from the Google Play Store.

Download Android Pay from the Google Play Store

Once you have Android Pay installed, getting things ready is a breeze. Of course, that is if your bank is supported. If it is, you can simply open the app and hit the “+” sign to add a credit or debit card. Alternatively, one can also add gift cards or loyalty program details.

Android Pay AA

Let’s stick to adding a credit card for now. By the way, you may see that some cards are already added the first time you use Android Pay. These could be cards you have used to purchase things through Google, in the past. Not seeing the right one? Just take a picture of a card to add it.

As you can see in the video, my Chase card wasn’t supported. This is really a bummer, but I borrowed a card from a friend and was able to get Android Pay set up in seconds. Not the best first impression here, especially considering Chase is no small bank. But I suppose this is how it goes with newer technologies.


Any security concerns?

Dealing with money is a very delicate affair, after all, most intruders and thieves are looking to get it from you. Security and privacy are important, but so is convenience. Thankfully, you get both with Google. Not only is Android Pay easier than using a traditional card, but it is also a lot safer.

When your phone makes a payment via NFC, no credit card information is being transferred; Android Pay works with tokens. The only information being exchanged is a randomly generated 16-digit number. This means your credit card and personal info will be safe in the case of a breach into the store system or NFC reader.

Unlike Apple Pay’s randomly generated codes, which are created within the phone, Google’s are created in the cloud, making them difficult to retrieve. Google does make backup numbers in the case that you find yourself outside strong signal, though. Having limited or no Internet should not be an issue for making mobile payments with Android Pay.

Furthermore, a payment will only go through if your phone is unlocked, which means that as long as you have screen lock protection, your money should be going nowhere.

Also read:

Let’s take Android Pay out into the real world!

And so we hit the road and started our Android Pay adventure across the city. First stop? Walmart! It’s by far one of the biggest chain stores in the USA, so they have to accept Android Pay… right? Wrong. It didn’t work, and Walmart doesn’t accept mobile payments at all. I had to look silly and go with my archaic plastic card.

I moved on to Stop & Shop, where I was eager to purchase some veggie chorizo and mochi ice cream. Sadly, I noticed there seemed to be no NFC reader on that POS card reader. After asking an employee, we were informed that I was right. No luck here!
Krystal Dancing!

You know what’s worse than fumbling around for your card and going through your purse like a nut job? Trying to use your phone to pay, realizing it doesn’t work, looking like a fool in front of everyone and then having to look for your card to pay. Yep… that happened to me, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t look silly again and decided to ask if Android Pay was supported before trying anything.

No luck at Modell’s or Bed Bath & Beyond. This was getting really frustrating, guys! As a last resort, I decided to just go to Android Pay’s official website and simply check which stores accepted the service. After looking at Android Pay’s partners, I could see how new the platform was. Chances are you won’t be able to use Android Pay at a random store you walk into, but there are some options out there and the list continues to grow.


OK, so there was no going wrong after a bit of research. The next destination was Staples, where everything worked like a charm. It was super easy. I already had my phone unlocked and the payment was accepted right away. We also tried McDonald’s, where Android Pay also worked seamlessly. Sadly (or gladly), I don’t eat McDonald’s, but the birds had a great time eating them fries!

Next, we walked to Walgreen’s, a very popular pharmacy store here in the USA. They don’t only sell medication. There’s plenty to have here, and I found some toys I just had to have. Once again, Android Pay worked like a charm. I also loved the experience at Panera, Express and American Eagle Outfitters.

Android Pay Spectre premiereWe decided one of my favorite places on earth would be our last stop – TOYS”R”US. I found some gorgeous little trinkets. But, surprisingly, we came across some problems here too. Apparently the system wasn’t working well, so I had to use my card again… like a caveman.

My impressions

It turns out that even those who do their research may have no luck trying Android Pay, which is quite a bummer for early adopters. I didn’t expect to see so few stores being on board. I was also surprised to notice most people weren’t surprised when I did get it to work (save for the girl at American Eagle). The proliferation of services like Android Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay is really helping people get used to mobile payments.

If you can get it to work, Android Pay is super fast and much more convenient than using a card. But as of right now I would rather stick to my card and know it will always go through. After all, it might not actually work and I’ll just end up wasting more time. Not to mention that I will avoid looking silly in front of other people.

Of course, it will take some time for more retailers to adopt Android Pay. But somehow I feel like Samsung’s alternative is much more convenient and avoids confusions.

How do you feel about mobile payments? Have you had your chance to try it? Hit the comments and share your own experiences with us!

  • Marty

    AP is problematic at best. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And recently I couldn’t get my cards reestablished with it on any of my devices. I do factory resets from time to time and this involves reestablishing my cards with AP.

    Been using Samsung Pay. More reliable but supports far fewer cards.

  • mcttocs2

    It’s interesting how many people blame Android Pay and not retailers/banks for the lack of adoption. Google can’t make stores buy new credit card terminals anymore than Apple can. If AP doesn’t work, neither does Apple Pay and yet nobody mentions that issue here.

    • DDD

      But they can make AP attractive enough to get them on board. If big credit card companies don’t support it, there are going to be less people using it, so stores won’t care to adopt it when way more people have a credit or debit card. And vice versa; if stores aren’t using it banks won’t see much of a reason to. Google would have to be the one to jump in and say something. For example, they could go to both Walmart and Chase and have them sign up knowing that the other is joining in too. I’m no pro businessman or anything, but from a lay perspective, it seems sound, seeing as AP is a step up from the usual credit card.

      Oh and this is an Android site, so you’re not really going to hear much about them.

    • HybridHuman

      it’s Android’s responsibility to ensure banks have an interest to participate in it! It was stupid in the first place to launch a service with no major banks (or like 2) in it! They prematurely launched it, they should have waited until a large number of banks decided to adopt it. My business relationship is not with the banks, it’s with AndroidPay, it’s the app I’m using so YES, it is THEIR fault if none of my bank cards are accepted.

  • Dave

    Google doesn’t want me to use Android Pay, since I have a rooted device, and we all know how evil rooting is.

    • Beeker

      Google has stated the reason why rooted device does not work. It is a system compatibility issue and they do testing to ensure it meets the bank’s requirement for security. You have to remember there are different flavors of Androids, just like Linux is.

  • Moonshine

    I live in Canada and my bank simply added mobile payments to their app. I can use my phone in any place that accepts PayPass/Tap to pay. As cool as Android Pay sounds, I’m very happy with what my bank has done.

  • monkey god

    Mcdonalds and Walgreens has always worked flawlessly for me. Just make sure if you’ve never used your phone to pay before that you know where your NFC sensor is on your phone. It’s different on every phone. I found that out the hard way after I got my 6p and tried using it at Panera bread. Looked like a fool waving my phone at the console. Took me several tries. Also, another thing is make sure you have good signal for your data and that you’re not connected to some non-working WIFI network.

    • Beeker

      Actually, you can use your LTE on the phone to transmit payment credential to the POS. It takes only a few seconds.
      If you look at the POS terminal it will indicate where the NFC is. For Panera Bread, it is on the screen itself. For Best Buy, it is on the lower end to the right of the keypad. That’s just from my experience.

  • Edwin Santiago

    Do you guys think it would ever be possible for Android Pay to be able to use Samsungs MST on the existing samsung phone that already have it or is it to far fetched? I cant use samsung pay on my Note 5 but Android pay works. Just want to know if it’s possible.

  • i_say_uuhhh

    I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t really had a problem with Android Pay. For the most part it works flawlessly. I usually keep my finger on my fingerprint scanner when placing it near the terminal and it works pretty fast. However I did notice that some payment machines require the cashier to click debit and if I have my finger on the scanner it will go through before the cashier has time to press that button, not really a glitch but more of a human error. With that being said, I have not encountered the payment flat out not working, some payments are really fast and some are a little slow, but they have all been pretty amazing to watch, especially the cashier’s who didn’t know they had it installed, which is a lot actually.

  • Arman

    Great job Crystal :) I was curious to see how much its adopted in US since we don’t even have it in Canada yet.. Not feeling bad anymore lol

  • I’ve been able to use Android Pay a lot, actually, mostly at small businesses. A lot of small businesses use merchant systems nowadays that support contactless payments out of the box. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen the NFC logo, whipped out my phone, and had the transaction go through faster than the cashier could say “we don’t have Apple Pay” (of course everyone thinks every contactless payment is Apple Pay).

    Pay attention to debit card readers. Most of them do contactless payments, even if the main register/POS does not. You’ll see the NFC logo on the screen if they do.

  • Tom Z

    You brought of the C word… Luckily, I had Chase already in Google Wallet, so it was transferred over to Android Pay. Chase still sucks.

  • kappatau808

    i thought you were supposed to tap the phone on the reader

    • OlayTerry

      Wrong, you bang it hard against the terminal.

  • GeorgR

    So you did all this shopping with your friends credit card? I need new friends.:-)

  • I love Android Pay as a Nexus 6 owner. Once I figured out exactly where my sensor was, everything was grand. I’m hoping to see more adaption of this and would love to know how to help boost it along. Thank you for the article Krystal!!

  • AfrodanJ

    As a UK guy it’s pretty frustrating coz we have contactless readers everywhere but Android Pay isn’t available here. Watching iPhone users do it daily brings me to tears

  • Warren Skipper

    I use Android Pay whenever I can and haven’t had any problems. As Google is not good with marketing, I’m very glad that Apple is helping to push the adoption of NFC mobile payments. What would also help is more and more customers requesting it. As many, if not most, people are unaware of mobile payments, I’m grateful to see good and informative articles like this.

  • Animestar

    The first 3 stores did not accept Android Pay or Apple Pay. It sounded
    like you were blaming Google for that. Second, you said the card readers
    in Walmart and Stop & Shop were the same. There not. The card
    reader in Walmart is made by Ingenico and the reader in Stop & Shop
    is made by Verifone. You or someone editing the video should have caught

  • Ethan Campbell

    The only bad thing about Android pay is that it’s too easy to pay. It will unlock your inner spendaholic. Better to know the dangers of credit cards and read a finance book before you put your phone up to the cashier. Same thing can be said for Apple and Samsung. Nothing wrong with the software, but there are quite a few flaws in people spending money.