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Your complete guide to Google Pay

March 11, 2021
15 min read
In this photo illustration a Google Pay logo seen displayed
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For several years now, new payment methods have been cropping up that add convenience and security not only to online shopping, but also to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

While mobile payment services have been slower to catch on in the U.S. than in other countries like China and India, the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing have started to change that.

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After all, cash harbors germs – which most people are trying to avoid right now. Credit cards are somewhat better if they remain in your hands and aren’t handed over to the cashier, but just think about how many people pushed the buttons on the terminal or picked up that pen to sign the screen.

Related: Dirty money: Could ditching cash keep you healthier this season?

(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
(Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

What is Google Pay?

The merger of two online payment services in 2018 – Google Wallet and Android Pay – created Google Pay, which has become one of the larger digital payment services behind PayPal, Apple Pay and Venmo.

Mobile payment options like Google Pay enable you to use your phone to transmit a virtual account number, exclusive to each transaction, to the point-of-sale terminal via near-field communication. Because the contactless payment system uses a unique virtual account number, it’s not only more sanitary than using a credit card, but it’s also more secure.

All you have to do is download the Google Pay app, add your payment methods and then use the app to shop anywhere Google Pay is accepted.

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Which banks support Google Pay?

Google Pay works with virtually every bank and credit card provider in the U.S., as well as many of the larger credit unions. Banks that support Google Pay include:

Google Pay may not support certain cobranded credit cards issued by Citi, such as AAdvantage/American Airlines, Sears, Macy’s and Home Depot cards. It also may not support some commercial credit cards or ATM-only cards issued by other banks. For instance, it does not support commercial credit cards issued by HSBC. It also does not support Mastercard credit cards issued by Wells Fargo or commercial Visa cards issued by a bank.

EL CERRITO, CA - AUGUST 14: A sign is posted in front of a Home Depot store on August 14, 2018 in El Cerrito, California. Home Depot reported second quarter earnings that surpassed analyst expectations with net income of $3.5 billion, or $3.05 per share, compared to $2.7 billion, or $2.25 per share, one year ago. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Google Pay may not work with certain store-branded cards issued by Citi. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In all, Google Pay can connect with thousands of credit cards issued by thousands of banks and credit unions across the U.S. and the world. You can even connect your PayPal account to your Google Pay account, enabling you to use your PayPal balance or PayPal credit to make a purchase using Google Pay.

Where can I use Google Pay?

Just as the cards, banks and credit unions supported by Google Pay reach far and wide, so do the merchants where you can use the mobile payment platform. Google says you can use the platform at millions of locations worldwide.

To determine whether a specific retailer or restaurant uses Google Pay, look for the "G Pay" symbol or NFC payment icon on the point-of-sale terminal. You can also use your Google Pay app to find stores near you that accept the payment option.

Related: How to take your small business contactless

Doordash Inc. signage is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in an arranged photograph taken in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Wall Street is weighing reports that Grubhub Inc. is exploring strategic options in the midst of intense competition and steep discounts, giving fresh impetus to the idea that food-delivery companies have no choice but to merge or acquire. Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DoorDash is among the apps that accept Google Pay. (Photo by Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

You can also use Google Pay with apps such as Fandango, DoorDash, Kayak, Airbnb and Instacart. If you access Google Pay through Apple iOS (on an iPhone or iPad device) you won't be allowed to use it to pay in stores, but can still use it to send money to friends and family without fees. IOS users can also use Google Pay to access loyalty cards, gift cards and special offers; to pay via supported apps; and to pay for transportation, flights or event tickets through supported apps such as Kayak.

How many cards can I add to Google Play?

You can add up to two bank accounts and as many credit cards and loyalty rewards cards as you’d like to the payment platform.

Popular cards to use in Google Pay

Not surprisingly, some of the top-ranked rewards credit cards are also some of the more popular cards that people link to their Google Pay account.

Let’s look at a few of the top credit cards linked to Google Pay and how you can use these cards to earn rewards.

American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy)

It’s easy to use your American Express Gold Card with Google Pay and take advantage of multiplied rewards points through partners including Boxed and U.S. supermarkets that accept Amex and Google Pay.

Amex Gold offers:

  • 4x Membership Rewards points when you dine at restaurants
  • 4x points on purchases at U.S. supermarkets, up to $25,000 per calendar year (then 1x)
  • Up to $120 dining credit per calendar year ($10 monthly) when you use Amex Gold at participating restaurants and meal delivery services (enrollment required)
  • Up to $120 per calendar year in Uber Cash ($10 monthly) that you can use on U.S rides and Uber Eats purchases. Must add card to Uber account to receive benefit.

Plus, new members can now earn 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of card membership.

The Amex Gold card carries a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees), but a host of benefits and rewards offset it. With no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees), it’s easy and convenient to pair your Amex Gold with Google Pay for international travel for a secure, fee-free way to make purchases abroad.

Related: Who should get the Amex Gold card?

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

As the top-of-the-line rewards card offered by Chase, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is also a great card to link to your Google Pay account.

With a $550 annual fee ($75 for each authorized user), the card delivers:

  • A $300 annual travel credit that's great for booking travel through Kayak and other apps supported by Google Pay
  • 10x points on Lyft through March 2022
  • 3x points on travel and dining worldwide
  • 1x points on all other purchases

New Sapphire Reserve customers receive a complimentary DashPass subscription from DoorDash for a minimum of one year after activating a card by March 31, 2022. You can pay conveniently with your phone using Google Pay and earn your Chase rewards.

New Chase Sapphire cardholders also receive 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Keep in mind, the bonus offer only applies if you do not currently have a Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus for any Sapphire card in 48 months.

You’ll want to remember Chase’s 5/24 rule — you cannot have opened more than five credit cards across all banks within the past 24 months to be approved for a Chase card. Creditworthiness and other qualifications also apply.

Related: Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card review

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

If you’re looking for a top-tier Chase rewards card but the $550 annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve seems a bit steep, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. With a $95 annual fee, the card offers bonus rewards for many stores and services that accept Google Pay.

For instance, you can earn:

  • 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 2x points on all other travel
  • 1x point on all other purchases

New cardholders can earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel when you book through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

As with the Reserve card, new Sapphire Preferred cardholders also get a complimentary DashPass subscription for at least one year (if activated by March 31, 2022), making this a great card to pair with Google Pay.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card review

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Like Chase, Capital One also offers a great, top-tier travel rewards credit card you can use with Google Pay for added convenience when you shop. The Capital One Venture Rewards card has a simple points structure that delivers 2x miles on every purchase, every day. You’ll earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Related: Fixed redemption with airline and hotel partners: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

While not as robust as the other rewards cards on this list, the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa might be a good everyday card to load into your Google Pay virtual wallet. It offers 1.8% cash rewards on purchases made through Google Pay (or Apple Pay, for that matter) during the first 12 months of account opening.

With a simple, 1.5% cash rewards structure on every purchase, every day, the Cash Wise Visa is a great card for anyone just getting into the credit card rewards game, and one of several Wells Fargo rewards cards you shouldn't overlook. There is no annual fee and points never expire as long as you keep the card open. The information for the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Wells Fargo Signature Visa Rewards credit card review

Do I earn rewards with Google Pay?

In the past, Google Pay had advertised referral rewards for signing up new users. The app no longer has that feature. However, you will typically earn the credit card rewards you would get when you pay using a card through the app, just as if you’d used the physical card for payment.

You can also link your loyalty rewards cards to Google Pay with one click. Go to “Settings,” “General,” and toggle “on” the function called “Gmail Imports” to link any loyalty cards, event tickets and other offers sent to your Gmail inbox.

You can also input loyalty cards and gift cards manually by clicking "+Pass," and scanning the bar code using your phone. There’s no more forgetting your gift card at home when it’s easily stored in your phone via Google Pay.

How to set up Google Pay

Google Pay is easy to set up and use. It comes pre-loaded on most Android phones, so all you have to do is link a bank account or credit cards to the app.

Google Pay is also now available for iOS users (version 11 or later). You can download the app through the App Store.

Once you’ve opened the app, you’ll have the option to set up a Touch ID for added security. Then you’re ready to add payment methods. Add a card manually by entering the numbers, expiration date and security code, or click “Scan card” and line up your card’s account number with the frame on your phone’s screen.

Which countries support Google Pay?

You can use Google Pay to make point-of-sale purchases using NFC technology in 40 countries. They are:

  • Austria
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

You can pay for bus and train fare through supported transit systems using Google Pay in the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • India
  • Japan
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

You also can use Google Pay to send money to friends and family in the U.S. and India. It’s important to know that Google Pay for iOS is only available in the U.S. at this time.

Is Google Pay secure?

NFC technology and virtual wallets have been shown to be safer than many other forms of payment, including credit cards not enabled with EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) chip technology or used in places not equipped for EMV sales. Each time you make a purchase using Google Pay, the app creates a virtual account number used exclusively for that transaction.

Your information is stored securely in your mobile device, which can be protected through facial recognition or fingerprint technology. Further, you can set up Touch ID or a PIN to confirm every time you send money for an added security layer.

Is there a fee?

When you use Google Pay to transfer money to family or friends, or when you use a debit or credit card to make a purchase in a store or through a service, Google Pay charges no added fees.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Pay in a store, the credit card provider may consider it a card-present transaction and charge the merchant a fee of up to 4%.

If the merchant is passing those fees onto customers or offering a “cash discount” for those who don’t use a credit card, you could pay more than 6% (2.9% plus up to 4%) to use your credit card through Google Pay. It’s important to read signage around the store before you make a decision about how to pay, and keep a debit card or bank account linked to Google Pay so you can save on fees in those circumstances.

Bottom line

Google Pay is a safe, convenient and healthy way to pull your frequently used rewards credit cards and debit cards — as well as your customer loyalty cards — into one app. You can streamline that bulky physical wallet, reduce the risk of lost credit cards and ramp up your rewards with this easy- to-use payment system.

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold Card, please click here.

Additional reporting by Madison Blancaflor.

Featured image by SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.