Google Pay started as a simple payment service, making it easy to pay at the grocery store cash register, shop online, and send money to friends and family digitally. But in November 2020, the service got a major overhaul, providing users with more ways to manage their money.
What Is Google Pay?
Google Pay is a mobile wallet and online payment service available for Android and iOS devices. The app allows users to connect their credit and debit cards, as well as bank accounts, to pay at checkout—both in-store and online—and send money to others.
Additionally, users can track their spending, get cash-back offers, and eventually open a new bank account through Google Pay.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can’t use the tap-to-pay feature for contactless payments. You can, however, pay in-store if the merchant provides a Google Pay QR code.
After the redesign, Google Pay has four main features: Pay, Explore, Insights, and soon-to-be-launched Google Plex.
This feature is Google Pay’s mobile wallet, which provides secure transactions by using a virtual account number when you make in-person contactless payments and online purchases. By using one-time virtual card numbers (also called “tokens”), the app protects your real account number. As you use the app, you’ll be able to view a history of your tap-to-pay purchases.
You can also use Google Pay to send money to friends and family and split bills with others, highlighting the people you transact with most often.
Finally, you can use Google Pay to order food at more than 100,000 restaurants, fuel up at more than 30,000 gas stations, and pay for parking in more than 400 cities.
Google partners with brands like Burger King, Etsy, REI, Target, and others to give you cash-back offers, discounts, and more. You can also connect your loyalty program accounts so you get savings when you check out.
Google’s Insights feature is what takes a basic mobile wallet and turns it into a financial management app. You can connect your bank and credit card accounts to track your balances and get insights into your spending habits. You’ll also be able to see how much money you have versus how much you’ve spent and search receipts you’ve taken a photo of or received via Gmail.
This year, Google will offer through 11 banks and credit unions its own banking account called “Google Plex.” The account will allow you to manage your money in the Google Pay app and includes no service or overdraft fees. As of January 2021, you can join the waitlist for an account with one of two lenders from the list of 11: Stanford Federal Credit Union and Citi.
How Do You Set Up Google Pay?
The process for signing up for Google Pay is the same for both Android and iOS users. You’ll start by downloading the app from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store.
Sign In and Connect
Then you’ll sign in using your Gmail account—you can create a new account if you don’t already have one. Next, you’ll enter your phone number, and Google will send you a code via text to confirm it. Once you’ve verified your information, the app will ask you to select various privacy settings, all of which you can change later if you’d like.
For example, you can opt-in to allow other app users to search for you in the app with your name or contact information, and you’ll be able to choose if you want to earn cash back and discounts.
Personalize Your Settings
Finally, you can decide to turn on the personalization feature, which keeps track of your activity to personalize your experience in the app for convenience. If you’re not sure about that, you can request a reminder in three months or simply leave it off.
Remember, your Google Pay account is tied to your Gmail account. So, if you’ve already added payment information to that account, it’ll show up in the Google Pay app. If not, you can add new payment methods by tapping the Insights tab, then, “Show all accounts.”
Overall, the process of setting up Google Pay takes just a few minutes and goes even faster if you already have a Gmail account with connected credit or debit cards.
How Do You Use Google Pay?
Once you’re in the app, take some time to explore the features and how to maximize the benefits it provides.
Paying In-Store and Online
Start by making sure near-field communication (NFC) is enabled on your device. Then, when you shop at a merchant that accepts contactless payments or Google Pay, simply unlock your phone and place it close to the card reader for a few seconds—there’s no need to open the Google Pay app.
If you’re shopping online or paying in a mobile app that accepts Google Pay, simply tap the Google Pay button during the checkout process. If you’re asked, choose your payment method and provide your shipping address, then confirm the transaction.
Send Money to Friends and Family
Tap “Send” at the bottom of your screen, then select send or request, and then “Find people to pay” at the top of the screen. You’ll need to invite someone to connect with you before you send or receive money. If you’ve allowed Google to access your contacts, you can find the payee there. You can also scan the recipient’s QR code or even start a group if you’re planning to split a bill.
Tap the Explore tab at the bottom left of your screen and enroll a credit or debit card in the program. Then scroll down to view the different offers and add them to your card. Then simply use that card—either the physical card or the electronic version online or via tap to pay—and you’ll get the reward.
To maximize the value of Google Pay rewards, turn on location sharing for the app, and you’ll see popular offers near you based on your location.
Manage Your Money
On the lower right of your screen, tap on the Insights tab. There you can add financial accounts and see a curated list of recent big purchases, upcoming bills, spending summaries, and other important financial data points. You’ll also be able to search transactions and receipts that you’ve uploaded or received via email.
Your Insights tab is where you can also sign up for the Plex account waitlist and manage your Plex account if you open one.
Pros and Cons of Google Pay
Easy to set up and use
Provides financial guidance
Available on Android and iOS devices
Not all functions are available to iOS users
Doesn’t offer buyer protections
- Easy to set up and use: The Google Pay app takes just a few minutes to set up, and once you’re in, it’s relatively easy to find what you need and use the app.
- Offers rewards: The addition of a rewards program encourages you to use the app more often but also adds value to your regular spending.
- Provides financial guidance: The Insights feature can help you better track your balances, income, and expenses since you can access all your bank accounts and credit cards from one app.
- Available on Android and iOS devices: Unlike Apple Pay with iOS, Google Pay isn’t restricted only to Android users. You can also download and use the app on Apple devices.
- Not all functions are available to iOS: Apple users can’t make NFC payments through Google Pay.
- Doesn’t offer buyer protections: You can dispute fraudulent transactions with Google Pay but you don’t get the level of buyer protection that PayPal offers. That said, you can add your PayPal account to your Google Pay wallet.
Alternatives to Google Pay
There are a lot of mobile wallets and digital payment services you can use to send and receive money and make purchases. Competitors include Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Cash App, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, and more.
For example, Venmo and Cash App are popular apps and may make it easier to send money to people who don’t have Google Pay. Both apps offer debit cards, too, which means you can make in-store purchases as well as online ones.
As for budgeting capabilities, Google Pay is relatively barebones compared to services like Mint or You Need a Budget. Although Google Pay lets you view transactions and get some insights, you can’t create a budget, which is an important element of financial planning.
Each of these services has both benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to compare options to find the best fit for you.
- Google Pay’s features have expanded over the past year.
- You can send and receive money, shop in-store and online, earn rewards, and keep track of your spending.
- You don’t need an Android phone to use the app; it’s also available on iOS devices.
- Setting up and using Google Pay is relatively straightforward.
- Make sure you compare other mobile wallets and digital payment services to make sure you choose the right one for you.