The days of only using your phone for making calls and sending text messages are long gone. Your device is capable of everything from controlling your smart home to streaming live television.
One of the most useful features that’s increasingly coming to the forefront is using your device to make payments.
The feature comes in two forms: contactless payments and apps which allow you to send money to friends, family, and businesses. Let’s look at some of the best Android apps of both types.
1. Google Pay
Given this is an Android article, it would be foolish to start the list with anything other than Google Pay. It’s the official Google app for making contactless payments.
Aside from the obvious ability to make payments, Google Pay offers some features that help it stand out from the pack. For example, you can see a list of nearby stores that accept the app and add loyalty/bonus cards so you can collect rewards as you shop.
Google Pay is also robust from a security standpoint. All your details are encrypted; stores never see your real card number. All four major banks in the United States—Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America—support Google Pay.
Download: Google Pay (Free)
Venmo has developed a well-deserved reputation for being the best way to send money to other people from your phone.
The app does not offer contactless payments, meaning it occupies a different market niche to Google Pay. It specializes as a social payment app. But what do we mean by “social”?
Well, you can use Venmo to divide bills in restaurants, split the cost of big-ticket purchases between flatmates, or collect money owed for concert tickets and sporting events. All money transfers are free of charge (learn how PayPal-owned Venmo makes money)
And even though contactless payments aren’t available, you can still use the app to pay businesses. Venmo works as a payment option on hundreds of mobile apps and in thousands of online stores.
Lastly, the app offers a wide selection of graphs and charts, thus giving you a way to easily stay abreast of who owes what to whom.
Download: Venmo (Free)
3. Cash App
Formerly known as Square Cash, Cash App is arguably Venmo’s most significant rival.
It’s not as trendy as Venmo, and it doesn’t have as many users, but people who’ve spent significant time using both apps mostly agree that it’s the easier to use of the two. Like Venmo, Cash App does not charge you to send and receive money.
Interestingly, the company will send you a Visa debit card within a week, meaning you can spend your balance without needing to waste time sending it to your bank first.
The one area where the app trails Venmo significantly is in the social aspect. You can only see a feed of your own transactions; it doesn’t have the community vibe that Venmo offers.
And lastly, the killer feature: Cash App lets you buy and sell Bitcoin with needing to use services or exchanges.
Download: Cash App (Free)
4. Square Point of Sale
So far, we’ve only looked at apps which fulfill a rather narrow interpretation of sending and receiving money. Square Point of Sale offers something a bit different: it takes the role of a point-of-sale terminal.
When you sign up for the app, Square will send you a free card reader. The reader plugs into your phone’s headphone jack and lets you accept payments from customers. It’s great for small businesses, fundraisers, student projects, and informal transactions between you and a buyer.
In recent times, Square has branched out further. You don’t even need the card reader now. Instead, customers can check in at a business using the wallet app and send the money to the owner. The owner just needs to confirm their identity, and the app will take care of the rest.
Download: Square (Free)
TabbedOut is mainly designed for visits to restaurants and bars.
We’ve all been there. You go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, and everyone’s having a lovely time. People suddenly start getting a bit silly with their orders and the tab spirals out of control.
By the time you need to pay, half your party has already left, Dave’s lost his wallet, and John’s too tired and emotional to make any sense. You’re left footing the bill without a hope of ever seeing the money again.
TabbedOut can help.
If you’re in an establishment that supports the app, you can see your tab in real time, split the bill on-the-go, and pay your share instantly when it’s time to leave.
The app also offers a reward system. If you’re a regular in a particular place, the establishment can thank you for your loyalty with vouchers and freebies.
Download: TabbedOut (Free)
6. Samsung Pay
Along with Google Pay and Apple Pay, Samsung Pay is the leading triumvirate of contactless payment apps. The three also offer some of the best security.
The app does have one significant restriction—it’s only available on Samsung devices. However, if you’re rocking a phone from the South Korean giant, you’ve got a difficult decision on your hands.
Like Google Pay, your phone needs to have an NFC chip for the app to work. The good news is that NFC chips have been a part of the company’s flagship models since 2015’s Galaxy S6.
Samsung Pay has one massive benefit over Google Pay. Namely, it uses a technology called Magnetic Secure Transmission.
It might not sound like much, but it means the phone can mimic a physical card swipe. As such, anywhere that can swipe credit cards can also accept Samsung Pay payments. The business does not need special hardware.
Download: Samsung Pay (Free)
The Growth of Mobile Payments
Make no mistake: the mobile payment industry is here to stay, and it’s only going to get bigger. What was a niche technology just a few short years ago has become mainstream. Plastic cards are on their last legs.
To give you some context, 74 percent of people in the United Kingdom use mobile payment apps. In Sweden, that jumps to 86 percent. And in Turkey, it goes up to a barely believable 91 percent.
If you’re ready to join the crowd, just make sure you understand the security risks associated with the technology and take steps to protect yourself from contactless payment scams.