Apple Pay vs. Google Wallet

Who deserves to handle your digital money?

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When Apple Pay debuted on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, a media frenzy erupted and many declared the wallet dead for good. That day, we swear we could hear tens of thousands of Android fans already using Google Wallet roll their eyes. Google was one of the first companies to enter the mobile payment space and Apple is one of the last.

As usual, Apple arrived fashionably late to the party when it deemed NFC technology “ready” to hit the mainstream. Indeed, Apple’s timing could not have been better. Thanks to Google Wallet, PayPal, and mobile payment companies like Square, the general public is very much aware that it’s possible to pay for things with your phone.

Apple streamlined the process to near perfection, thanks to partnerships with major credit cards and banks.

Additionally, a massive law change coming in 2015 will all but require retailers to update their payment terminals to support tap-to-pay with EMV (Chip and PIN) cards. Most merchants – unless they’re being blackmailed by QR-code scanning competitor CurrentC – will probably throw in NFC support when they update their terminals. Within less than a year, most U.S. retailers will support Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

By now, you’ve probably already formed clear opinions about which mobile wallet you prefer and in reality, your choice is predetermined by your operating system: iOS users get Apple Pay and Android users get Google Wallet. The good news is that both systems are very easy to use.

I used both mobile wallets in multiple stores in New York City for a few weeks to get a better idea of how each one works. Here’s a fully detailed comparison of the two services:

Setup is easy for both, but different

It’s surprisingly simple to set up both Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Apple streamlined the process to near perfection, thanks to partnerships with major credit cards and banks. Google’s setup is slightly more invasive and complex, but that’s not entirely Google’s fault. Back in 2011 when Google Wallet debuted, the infrastructure of mobile payment security was messier and Google had to make its own system from scratch.

Related: CurrentC-Backing Retailers Can’t Use Apple Pay, or Fines

To set up Google Wallet, you’ll have to enter a bunch of info that you don’t know off the top of your head, including your account and routing number. It’s a little more complicated than Apple Pay’s setup, but you only have to do it once.

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Open Wallet app
  • Create PIN
  • Verify ID
    1. Name
    2. Address
    3. DOB
    4. Last four digits of SSN
  • Link bank account
    1. Account number
    2. Routing number
    3. Name on card
  • Verify card by entering
    1. Bank website user ID and password
    2. OR a test deposit of $1, which takes 2-3 days
  • Set up tap to pay
    1. Agree to terms

It took me five to 10 minutes to set it up because I had to look up my account and routing number. It was a little disconcerting to type in all my details – especially my full social security number, but since Google had to create its own secure system to vault users’ credit cards, it’s unavoidable. Apple Pay’s partnerships with banks allow it to avoid storing all your personal data on its servers. Instead, the card number, account number, and all your other sensitive data stay safely vaulted with your bank and credit card provider.

Apple’s partnerships and delayed entrance into the mobile payments space gives its wallet a leg up on the competition.

One of the advantages of Google Wallet is that it works with some loyalty card programs and you can use any credit card on its system. With Apple Pay, you can only use cards from specific banks and corporate cards don’t work yet, even if they’re Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. Loyalty cards don’t work on Apple pay yet either, but Apple assures its users that it will add all these features soon.

Apple Pay’s setup process is incredibly simple. Even though there are just as many steps involved, Apple makes it very easy for you. Typically, you won’t even have to enter your card information, as the camera will scan it for you. The first time I did setup Apple Pay, it took me less than a minute to add my first card.

Here’s how to set up Apple Pay:

  • Open Passbook app
  • Click set up Apple Pay
  • Make sure Touch ID is set
  • A screen prompts you to either:
    1. Use card on file with iTunes
    2. Use a different debit or credit card
  • If you use the card already file, you simply verify the card with the security code on the back.
  • If you add a new card, you’ll be asked for the following info:
    1. Name
    2. Card Number
    3. Expiration date
    4. Security code
  • But you can just scan the card details with your camera by touching the blue camera icon next to card number section

Winner: Apple Pay 

At the end of the day, it’s easier to set up Apple Pay. Apple’s partnerships and delayed entrance into the mobile payments space gives its wallet a leg up on the competition. However, Google Wallet is by no means difficult to set up in comparison with other mobile payment apps. Softcard in particular has a hellish setup process and even worse limitations, but we won’t go into that here.

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