Google Pay vs. Google Wallet: What’s different?

Editorial Team

6 min read
Mobile payment at a cafe


There wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare surrounding the 2011 launch of Google Wallet — a mobile payment technology that allowed users to shop in stores or send money to friends and family members.1

For starters, PayPal had already cornered the peer-to-peer (P2P) payment market, leaving little room for Google’s new service. And mobile payments were still a relatively untested technology throughout the retail industry. 

Google Wallet may have been a cool service, but there simply wasn’t a burning need for what the platform offered. 

Adoption of this virtual wallet was quite slow. Part of this stemmed from the complicated process involved when shopping in person:

  • Users had to download a dedicated app and upload their credit card credentials (in advance). 
  • At the checkout counter, users had to unlock their smartphones and enter a security PIN. 
  • They then had to tap or wave their devices across a reader to authorize payment. 

All of this assumed the merchant had a near field communication (NFC) terminal that could accept contactless payments from smart devices. In 2011, very few retailers did.2 

This changed when Apple introduced its own mobile payment technology — Apple Pay® — in 2014.3

The core features were essentially the same as Google Wallet, but Apple established merchant relationships before introducing its new service. By bringing more retailers on board, the company was able to pave the way for faster and wider consumer-side adoption. 

Better still, Apple Pay came pre-integrated with later versions of the iPhone® and iPad®. This prompted Google to respond with Android Pay™.4

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The rise of Android Pay – Google Pay’s predecessor

Android Pay wasn’t an innovative breakthrough in mobile payment technology, but this new service was able to ride on Apple’s coattails now that more vendors were set up for NFC payments. 

Plus, users didn’t have to download a dedicated app since Android Pay came automatically integrated with all later Android devices. 

But Google now had a branding problem: 

  • It offered Google Wallet — mostly for P2P payments.
  • It offered Android Pay — for online and retail shopping. 

Enough users were confused by these somewhat overlapping payment technologies that Google decided to bring both services under one unified platform. 

In 2018, the company launched Google Pay™.5 Eliminating the confusion surrounding Android Pay vs. Google Pay as well as Google Pay vs. Google Wallet has been one of the company’s primary concerns since the launch of the platform.

How is Google Pay different from Google Wallet and Android Pay?

Google Pay is being heralded as a cross-platform payment system that works on any device, browser and operating system: 

  • Users can send and receive money, just as they did with Google Wallet. 
  • They also can shop online or make in-store purchases via their mobile devices, just as they could with Android Pay.

Moreover, users can upload multiple credit, debit, and gift cards to their accounts, and they can manage all of this payment information through a single Google-tied login. 

In addition, Google Pay delivers some pretty useful features such as: 

  • Automatic credit card management. If your credit card is lost, stolen or expired, you don’t have to wait for a replacement card in the mail. Your bank will alert Google so the new account number, expiration date and CVV code are automatically updated.6 
  • Unified dashboard management. From a single interface, users can see their purchase history, reward points, shopping tips, gift cards, loyalty programs, and even nearby stores.

What’s in the Google Pay app?

Once users download the Google Pay app, they will find it divided into the “Home” and “Cards” tabs. The former is where they will find their recent payment histories as well as find nearby stores that feature Google Pay integration with their POS systems or online stores. The latter tab collects the user’s credit, debit, reward, and gift cards for use with NFC-enabled credit card readers. The key difference between Google Pay and Google Wallet is how Google Pay provides a unified platform for making payments to businesses as well as individuals.

The benefits of Google Pay solutions – for customers and merchants

The motivation behind this rebranding is clear: Google wanted to eliminate confusion. By bringing Google Wallet and Android Pay under one roof, the company has moved closer to a universal payment option that works across the board (except for with cash-based businesses). 

However, customers also benefit from this move: 

  • You might occasionally forget your keys or wallet, but very few shoppers forget their phones. This means getting stranded becomes less likely since you’ll always have “money” on you. 
  • NFC payments are often faster than those made with credit cards or even cash. This means shorter retail lines and fewer hassles. 

Merchants also benefit from these new Google Pay solutions. 

  • Offering a new payment option is a good way to attract new customers.
  • Shorter (and faster) lines can help you generate more sales per hour.

Getting started with Google Pay

If you’re already using Android Pay or Google Wallet as a consumer, very little will change about your day-to-day experience. Both services now exist under a single logo, and you can still: 

  • Pay at the cashier counter
  • Shop online or within apps
  • Send money to friends

How do you sign up for Google Pay as a merchant? If you already accept contactless payments at your brick-and-mortar store, you’re technically set up for Google Pay. If you operate an online store, Google makes integrating this payment technology very straightforward.

Understanding your options

Google Pay joins an increasing list of mobile and contactless payment platforms in the marketplace. In addition to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and other recognizable names, numerous other companies are jumping into the fray headfirst. No matter what type of business you’re in, it’s important for you to know the four types of mobile payment systems and what they can do for you and your customers.

To learn more about accepting Google Pay with your merchant account, contact a payments expert today.

1 “How many Google Wallet users are there? Google won’t say – but we can,” The Guardian, 25 September 2014
2 “Your mobile phone is becoming your wallet,” CNN Money, 19 January 2011
3 “Apple Announces Apple Pay,” Apple, 9 September 2014
4 “Google launches Android Pay to take over where Google Wallet failed,” The Guardian, 2 March 2015
5 “Google Launches Google Pay, Its Answer to Apple Pay,” Fortune, 20 February 2018
6 “5 ways Google Pay can save you time and money at checkout,” The Keyword, 2 May 2018