Know Your Mobile Payment Apps | Consumerist

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You’ve seen the ads: “Apple Pay!”, “Android Pay!”, “Samsung Pay!” and have probably wondered–what is the difference between the various mobile payment systems? How do they work? Mobile wallets and payment apps are designed to make it easier to pay for things at the checkout, without the hassle of carrying around your wallet. They also are more secure than plastic cards, since the merchant never gets your actual card number and they are only accessible with a password, PIN, or thumbprint.

Adoption of mobile payments has been slow, but this year more merchants are likely to accept them. So what is the difference between the different mobile payment systems, how are they funded, how do they work and where can you use them? Consumerist has a great article that answers all these questions. Here is a summary of that article.

Android Pay

Who owns it? Google, the company behind the Android operating system.

How do I fund it? You add your credit or debit card from a participating bank, then make purchases using a virtual version of the cards.

How does it work? Android Pay uses near field communication, which not all Android phones have. You unlock your device with a PIN, password, or fingerprint, then hold your phone up against the NFC reader on a payment terminal. After a moment, you receive an indicator that the payment was successfully processed. A receipt for the transaction is sent later via email.

Where can I use it? Wide variety of stores and some vending machines. You can use it to pay for things within apps on your phone. And you can use it to pay for your AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon mobile phone service.


Apple Pay

Who owns it? Apple. It’s exclusive to the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch, though you can’t use iPads to make purchases in stores.

How do I fund it? Like Android Pay, you add your credit or debit card from a participating bank.

How does it work? Same way as Android Pay. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and newer can use Apple Pay, if you have an older iPhone you can use Apple Watch. Hold your phone up to the receiver, confirm with thumbprint or PIN, and you are good to go.

Where can I use it? A wide variety of national retailers accept it, or anywhere you see an Apple Pay or contactless payment logo on a payment terminal.



Who owns it? Merchant Customer Exchange, a coalition of retail chains that includes companies like 7-Eleven, Best Buy, CVS, Hobby Lobby, Gap family of stores, Lowe’s, Sears, Target, and Walmart.

How do I fund it? CurrentC allows gift cards and store charge cards, but they currently plan to only use ACH (direct debits from your checking account). This allows merchants to get around credit and debit card fees.

How does it work? By generating a QR barcode for payment on the cashier’s screen, which the customer scans using the CurrentC app. The app is secured with a passcode. This makes it available on older phones than NFC payment options, but less convenient to use.

Where can I use it? As of today, 2/2/16: Columbus, OH. That’s the beta test market.



Who owns it? Paypal.

How do I fund it? With your PayPal account, which can be funded using your checking account, credit or debit cards, or the balance from money other people or companies send you.

How does it work? The process in a real-life store is confusing and involves checking in using the app, which you can do while not physically inside the store.

Where can I use it? To make online payments, pay people you know, and in participating stores. See their website for participating stores.


Samsung Pay

Who owns it? Samsung, but it’s only available to users of some models of Galaxy S5 and S6 phones.

How do I fund it? Like Apple Pay and Android Pay, you add credit or debit cards to your Samsung mobile wallet. Check here for participating bank or credit unions.

How does it work? Similar to Android Pay and Apple Pay. However, one difference is you can use it on just about any modern credit card terminal. It emits a magnetic signal which the card reader can recognize the same as a card swipe. The app unlocks with a thumbprint.

Where can I use it? On pretty much any card reader that doesn’t require you to physically slide a card through, meaning that merchants don’t have to sign up or buy the equipment to accept NFC payments.


Walmart Pay

Who owns it? Walmart, which originally was a leader behind CurrentC.

How do I fund it? You add credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards, or Walmart gift cards to your wallet within the app.

How does it work? Like CurrentC, you scan a QR code at the register to start a payment session. The Pay module is part of the Walmart app.

Where can I use it? Walmart, of course.


For the full Consumerist article, click here.

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